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The myth of the post-racial society

Why Canada cannot afford to forget reality

The myth of the post-racial society

The myth

In a recent interview that set the internet ablaze, actor Liam Neeson recounted how, upon hearing that his friend had been sexually assaulted by a Black person, he proceeded to stalk the town with a weapon, hoping some “Black bastard” would provoke him so that he could kill them. Neil Price, Associate Dean at Humber College, wrote in The Globe and Mail that Neeson’s remarks destroyed the “poisonous and persistent idea that we live in a postracial society.” But what does Price mean by post-racial, and why is it so poisonous?

The esteemed civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote in a 2017 article, “Race to the Bottom,” that post-racialism could be defined as a “veritable orgy of self-congratulation” that uses markers of racial progress to place racism “decisively in the past.” An American herself, Crenshaw used the rhetoric around Barack Obama’s presidency to demonstrate her point. With the election of Obama, she says, liberals and conservatives alike touted the repeal of the “painful, violent legacy of white supremacy… in one miraculous fell swoop.” However, this claim was quickly and forcefully rebuked by the election of Donald Trump, whose policies targeting both racialized immigrants and American citizens have exposed Obama-era claims of racial harmony as a façade. In Canada’s case, we have never elected a prime minister who identifies as a person of colour and acts as the “photographic negative” of leaders like Trump. Yet Price is a Canadian writer writing for a Canadian outlet, suggesting that he believes that the fallacies of the post-racial society are applicable to this country too.

University of Toronto professor and postcolonial scholar Sherene H. Razack undoubtedly agrees. Dialing in on the Canadian identity, Razack argued in “Stealing the Pain of Others” that, through the consumption of media about Canada’s peacekeeping role in the Rwandan genocide, Canada reaffirmed itself as a humanitarian nation, a “compassionate middle power who is largely uninvolved in the brutalities of the world.” In this way, “the pain and suffering of Black people can become sources of moral authority and pleasure, obscuring in the process our own participation in the violence that is done to them.” For example, why does Canada’s support for the Catholic Church, which participated in and abetted the Rwandan genocide, go unquestioned by many Canadians?

While Razack used international examples to explain how Canada forms its mild-mannered identity, I believe her argument fits nicely within Canada’s domestic affairs as well, particularly with regard to the country’s relationship with Black history. Fitting, considering February is coming to a swift conclusion.

What we don’t talk about when we talk about Black history

Consider the narrative of the Underground Railroad. A remarkable feat to be sure  over 30,000 slaves from the American South fled to Upper Canada under the guidance of several leaders including Harriet Tubman in the mid-1800s. But what does it mean to understand this story as foundational to this country’s national history? Portrayed as the destination for fleeing slaves, Canada imagines itself as a safe haven for the persecuted and the enslaved. Not only are racism and slavery relegated to the past, they are conceptualized as geographically separate from Canadian borders.

More recently, consider the new Canadian $10 bill, featuring civil rights activist Viola Desmond. There’s nothing inherently problematic about celebrating Desmond; her act of protest in a Nova Scotian segregated movie theatre deserves to be recognized. However, the ways in which Desmond and her immortalization on the $10 bill are talked about are very characteristic of the “orgy of self-congratulation” that Crenshaw described.

At the new bill’s reveal, Minister of Finance Bill Morneau commented on the importance of Desmond’s pursuit of beauty school. Despite the apparently “hard to believe” fact that beauty schools did not admit Black students, considering this was already the ’30s and ’40s, Desmond shone in a time when “the deck was doubly stacked against Viola, because of both gender and the colour of her skin” — as if women of colour today do not face similar intersectional barriers. To his credit, Morneau acknowledged that “though we’ve come a long way… we do still have a ways to go in our country.”

In a speech marking the beginning of this year’s Black History Month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared similar sentiments, saying that “Canada is a country built on diversity… a place where everyone is equal,” even though “the struggle for equality continues.” In the same speech, Trudeau said that “Black Canadians face discrimination and systemic racism, and that’s not right,” asserting that his government is making sure that “every Canadian has an equal opportunity and equal chance at success.”

The Trudeau government’s treatment of Indigenous communities across the country makes it difficult to take this commitment to racial justice seriously. The most recent example that has reached media attention is the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s standoff against TransCanada, in which Indigenous people and supporters gathered in the Unist’ot’en camp to prevent employees of the pipeline company from accessing the road and bridge that runs through their territory. In December, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police entered the Nation’s Gidimt’en camp, arresting 14 people while enforcing a court injunction to stop the Wet’suwet’en from preventing workers from gaining access necessary for the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

The treatment of former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould further demonstrates the lack of consideration that the Trudeau government is putting into reconciliation efforts heading into the federal election this fall. An Indigenous member of the First Nations Summit task force in British Columbia criticized the federal government for this and much more. “The prime minister has said on numerous occasions that there was no relationship more important to him than that between himself and Indigenous peoples of his country,” she said. “There are so many things… that are giving rise to questions… as to whether those words ring hollow, whether his promises ring hollow, because that’s what it’s starting to look like.”

This notion can perhaps be best summed up in the following: Trudeau’s appeal to the dreams of Indigenous people and other racialized Canadians, embodied in his Indigenous raven tattoo, blissfully ignores the criticisms of Robert Davidson, the Haida artist who inspired this very tattoo. Following the Trudeau government’s approval of the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas terminal near Lelu Island, Davidson said that Trudeau “presents himself as an ally… with our ink on his body. We feel he’s stabbed us in the back.” The project threatened one of British Columbia’s largest salmon runs, and one of Haida’s most critical resources. The project has since been cancelled, citing untoward market conditions.

This dismissal of Indigenous rights and priorities is the exact same thing that the Liberal government should have been criticized for during its consultations for a new national anti-racism strategy last year. Rodriguez said that ‘systemic racism’ is “not a part” of his vocabulary, citing the fact that Canada “is not a racist society, wherever one lives.” Pressured by New Democratic Party MPs, Rodriguez eventually walked the statement back. Interestingly, multiculturalism critic Jenny Kwan said that the minister’s remarks were a “slap in the face of Indigenous peoples,” which is undoubtedly true.

His remarks were also a slap in the face to Black Canadians.

Black Canadians make up less than three per cent of the population but are overrepresented in the prison population at about nine per cent. Black students are also by and large being streamed into applied programs instead of academic ones in high school, and 42 per cent are suspended at least once by the time they finish high school, according to data from the Toronto District School Board. Despite the fact that the Black population of Toronto is just 8.3 per cent of the city’s, Black people accounted for 36.5 per cent of fatalities in encounters with Toronto police from 2000–2017.

On a broader level, the idea that Canada is immune to systemic racism is, of course, not true. A 2018 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found, unsurprisingly, that racialized workers are “significantly more likely to be concentrated in low-wage jobs and face persistent unemployment and earnings gaps compared to white employees” in Ontario. Additionally, racialized women were “25 per cent more likely to be working in occupations in the bottom half of the income distribution than white men.”

How are we doing?

So how is an institution like the University of Toronto dealing with such a reality?

To understand a bit about Black student experiences at U of T, I got in touch with Irene Duah-Kessie, a second-year graduate student in the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program and Communications Officer for the Black Graduate Students Association (BGSA). “I believe every program at UofT can do more to acknowledge and integrate Black history, issues, and scholars into its curriculum,” Duah-Kessie wrote when asked about whether U of T adequately integrates Black history into its academics. “In my first-year as a UofT graduate student, it was quite challenging for me to find a space or people to discuss Black history and some of the issues I was facing specific to the Black student experience.”

Explaining how the BGSA fills those gaps, she said that it plays an “integral role in fostering a stronger support system” for Black graduate students at U of T. “As one of the few Black graduate students in my program, finding out about BGSA was super exciting for me because there was finally a space where I [could] meet people that look like me and understand my struggles with academia and life in general.”

However, Duah-Kessie cautioned that the prevalent academic and social gaps for Black students cannot be filled by groups like the BGSA alone as students can only do so much, but that the group is “a step in the right direction.” She elaborated that “there is still a need for more Black staff, faculty, and support services that address the unique needs of Black students. For instance, I remember wanting to speak with a counsellor of colour after my first year, but unfortunately there was only one available and he was restricted to only servicing students that belonged to a specific program.”

The university, she continued, “should be working closely with its Black students and the community at large to create more services and capacity building opportunities that reflect our needs and experiences. I see UofT taking strides to fill some of these gaps with the Black Faculty Working Groups, Black Student Application Program and the Community of Support Program in the Medicine Department; however, we still have a long way to go to make other Black students, faculty, and staff feel at home at UofT.”

Her previous work with First Nations House opened her eyes to potential models for bettering resources and opportunities for Black students on campus. “It was a great experience as I got to meet with many Indigenous students and staff on campus, where I learned about the various resources, workshops and events they have available to us. I think what stood out to me was their library filled with knowledge from Indigenous scholars, and I thought to myself how cool would it be to access a space at UofT with a library of Black and African-Canadian scholars.”

On Black History Month, Duah-Kessie said that “in a society where people of colour, particularly Black people, still face the challenges of living in a White supremacist world, I personally think that it is important to celebrate Black History Month… I see it as a month where we are able to remind one another of the accomplishments Black people have made to society in the face of systemic barriers.”

While designating February as the special month could limit conversations celebrating Black history, Duah-Kessie wants to have year-round conversations. However, she believes February is an important springboard for broader discussions. “Although some people may argue that Black History Month in February poses barriers on talking about Black history for the rest of the year, I like to think otherwise. I see it is as a month where we can come together in celebration of what our society can begin to look like if we are open and willing to embrace the past, just as much as we embrace the future.”

The myth revisited

Experiences like Duah-Kessie’s demonstrate the need for increasingly inclusive curricula at all levels of education going forward. Initiatives like the Toronto District School Board’s Africentric Alternative School is a great example. The school, which just celebrated its 10-year anniversary, has a curriculum that focuses on “the perspectives, experiences and histories of people of African descent.” Children who attend the school say that their instructors “encourage us to love ourselves,” emphasizing the confidence they gain from attending the school.

U of T can learn a lot from these positive and diverse learning environments. While restructuring the entire institution’s approach to curriculum would be an incredible undertaking, declaring a renewed focus on diversifying the academic voices we learn from, both in person and on paper, would be a huge step in the right direction.

Diversifying the curricula can also help rid us of the persistent post-racial mindset. As Crenshaw said, “The brutal fashion in which Trump’s rise repealed virtually every plank of post-racialist self-congratulation underlines how flimsy and premature the celebrations of Obama’s top-of-the-ticket symbolic breakthrough were.” Post-racial thinking isn’t just delusional, it’s dangerous. We cannot say to ourselves that the mission is accomplished, when it is clearly far from so, especially in Canada where white nationalist Faith Goldy placed third in last fall’s Toronto municipal election.

We, as students and as Canadians, must make a committed effort to creating diverse curricula that exposes us to the multitude of ways in which Canadians experience this country. That, I think, is one of the lasting messages of Black History Month, and one that will help the country grow in constructive ways, hopefully leading to more inclusive environments in institutions and communities that can truly claim to embrace difference.

Cracking the illusion of Canadian progressiveness

Canada as a nation of liberal politics is an empty idea in the face of recent political turns toward conservatism

Cracking the illusion of Canadian progressiveness

The election of Donald Trump as US president was notable for revealing common ideas about Canada, especially in relation to the US. Americans frequently joked about emigrating to Canada, while Canadians pridefully boasted about our country’s alleged progressiveness in relation to a politically regressive America. 

This is the image of Canada perpetuated from both within and without: a nation of unrivalled tolerance and liberalism. It is, however, an image without substance, mostly grounded in a mythology written and spoken by those on both sides of the political spectrum.

Justin Trudeau’s political career is an important contemporary piece of this mythology.  His person has been heralded and denigrated as an icon of tolerant, liberal, Canadian values. The fervor surrounding his figure somehow instituted a nationwide amnesia about his famously conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, who won three consecutive elections.

Trudeau was transformed from just another centrist politician following a plethora of centrist and conservative politicians to a figure agreeable with and representative of the stereotype of Canadian progressiveness. This effectively silenced discussions of Trudeau’s failures to actually embody a progressive politics, such as his retraction of promises related to Indigenous rights and sovereignty.

Much of this illusion might have had to do with his relatively young age and — according to some — attractive appearance. A part of it might have also been wish fulfillment on the part of Canadians, who seemed to desire a leader who could remain staunchly centrist in his politics while appearing progressive.

This somewhat farcical image of Trudeau as a vision of liberality is adopted and mobilized by those on the right of the political spectrum. Propaganda that positions Trudeau as a communist or as attempting to institute sharia law abounds in right-wing media, rendering Canadians more sympathetic to right-wing ideologies. This propaganda is found in fringe conspiratorial media like Toronto’s Your Ward News, but also makes its way into more widely consumed media like The Toronto Sun.

Perhaps these images do render Canadians more susceptible to right-wing ideologies. On the other hand, perhaps the images work to obscure the reality that these ideologies have always been present, that conservatism historically and presently plays a major role in shaping Canada’s political field. Either way, the presence of conservatism is at this point undeniable: provincial elections this year in Québec and Ontario both resulted in the appointment of controversial right-wing politicians to office.

Much has already been said about our new premier, Doug Ford, and his eccentric notions of democracy. But earlier this month, our neighbours a bit further east elected François Legault and his right-wing party, Coalition Avenir Québec, to a majority government. Legault and his party are known for their desires to restrict immigration and for their disdain for public symbols of Islamic and Jewish faith.

Legault reaffirmed his politics immediately before being elected by proclaiming his desire to use the notwithstanding clause to bar public officials from wearing religious garments such as the hijab or the kippah.

The election of both Ford and Legault is made possible by the same mechanism that garnered large amounts of support for contrarian celebrities like U of T’s Jordan Peterson or Faith Goldy. When working within this mythological framework of Canada as a radically progressive nation-state, a state that will bend backward to sustain its trans, Muslim, and minority citizens, rhetoric that targets minorities is reframed as anti-government dissent.

Challenging the presence of immigrants or denigrating minority religious communities becomes a form of subversive rebellion in which those who perpetuate these discourses are heralded as underdogs who ‘stand up for’ the disenfranchised against what is reconstructed as abusive hegemony. This is an ideological consequence of our excited sponsorship of the illusion of Canada’s progressiveness. The illusion is adopted, exaggerated, and weaponized, and it actively works to undo any sort of social liberality we have obtained.

This is not to say that these conservative figures and trends are aberrations in a tradition of political progressiveness. There have been some victories for social progress that were made by the Liberal Party in past years, but framing the party as an icon for progressiveness plays into the mythology even more. The truth is that any major party is going to be constantly negotiating between conservative and progressive policies, and oversimplifying this process renders resistance to elements of conservatism impossible.

Especially with the current sweep of conservative victories, we need to ensure that we do not romanticize the period when the Ontario Liberal Party had control of the province. We should criticize Ford’s government while remaining aware that it was Wynne’s government that privatized Hydro One and consistently sided with the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party to disparage the New Democratic Party  (NDP) during elections.

While the current sweep of conservative victories isn’t necessarily a stark deviation from Canadian political trends, it is still jarring and needs to be resisted. As university students, we should be particularly concerned with these political trends, if for no other reason than because they are detrimental to the width of our wallets. Though Ontario’s Liberals have been economically conservative on other issues, their education policies have granted students a number of concessions, including significant increases in Ontario Student Assistance Program grants in 2017.

During the Ontario provincial election, while the NDP’s Andrea Horwath pledged to replace government loans with non-repayable grants and to cancel interest on current student loans, Ford remained suspiciously silent on the issue of tuition. In fact, Ford’s government has been silent on any issues related to postsecondary education, other than that of free speech. However, having a staunchly conservative government usually means cuts to social programs, and Ford has been resolute in his insistence that his government will cut taxes for Ontarians.

The future that is being shaped by current trends is dangerous and uncertain. Space is being made for people like Goldy, who has clear white nationalist and alt-right ties, to compete in mayoral elections. Space is being made for people like Maxime Bernier, who decries multiculturalism as a central problem in Canada, to have a legitimate shot at being elected prime minister. What is certain in all this is that there is no longer space for us to don our blinders and continue sponsoring the illusion that Canada is a safe haven of progressive politics.

Meera Ulysses is a second-year Equity Studies and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations student at New College. She is The Varsity’s Current Affairs Columnist.

Yemeni community stages protest against Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia

Protesters in front of Chrystia Freeland’s office call for end to $15 billion deal

Yemeni community stages protest against Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia

Yemeni protesters and allies gathered on September 8 in front of Chrystia Freeland’s constituency office at Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street West to protest Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Canadian-made combat vehicles have reportedly been used by Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen. The conflict was labelled by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian crisis of 2018, with at least 16,700 casaulties since it began in 2015, though the count could be much higher. Over two million people have been displaced by the conflict.

The protest comes in the wake of growing Canada-Saudi tensions after Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, called for the release of two human rights activists in Saudi Arabia on Twitter. As part of its response to Freeland’s message, Saudi Arabia announced that Saudi students studying at Canadian universities had to leave the country.

Protesters gathered at around 2:45 pm, holding signs calling for Freeland to take action and immediately stop the arms deal.

The group of roughly 50 were affiliated with groups such as the Yemeni Community in Canada, the Canadian Defenders for Human Rights, and the Canadian Peace Coalition.

Protesters held signs depicting the victims of war crimes as young as nine years old.

Firas Al Najim, a member of the Canadian Defenders for Human Rights and one of the participants in the protest, criticized the Canadian government’s decision to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, saying that it makes the country “an accomplice to war crimes” and adding that “the government should speak up for human rights in the war-torn Yemen.”

The deal, initiated by the Harper government in 2014, is for $15 billion in armoured vehicles, and aims to create 3,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector — mainly in London, Ontario.

The protest comes after an August 9 airstrike on a school bus which killed 51 people, including 40 children. Some 79 people were injured, 56 of whom were children. The Saudi-led coalition airstrike has been condemned by Human Rights Watch, which called it an “apparent war crime.”

The fighting in Yemen has been going on for more than three years, and involves Saudi Arabia, allied Sunni Muslims, and the Houthi rebels who control much of northern Yemen and the capital, Sana’a. The rebels drove Yemen’s government into exile in 2014.

“Many innocent people will be victims of these weapons. I totally understand that these weapons are creating job opportunities in Canada, but it is coming in the interest of Yemeni innocent blood,” said Hamza Shaiban, President of the Yemeni Community in Canada.

Councillor Joe Cressy proposes amendments to enforce conformity with zoning laws

Reflecting on Saudi-Canada crossroads

The Saudi withdrawal of students from Canada demonstrates an urgent need to re-evaluate how we advance human rights in global politics

Reflecting on Saudi-Canada crossroads

In early August, Saudi Arabia called for the withdrawal of all Saudi students from Canadian postsecondary institutions, including the University of Toronto, by the end of the month, amidst a series of sanctions against Canada. This was in response to criticism tweeted by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland regarding the crackdown on dissidents in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh viewed Freeland’s human rights advocacy as “interference” in its domestic affairs.

Currently, many Saudi students are scrambling for asylum in Canada in order to continue their education. Some asylum seekers fear harassment, as the deadline to return has already passed; others fear imprisonment due to their links to Saudi dissident activists.

The Saudi call for withdrawal is gravely concerning. International studies are a key means of development for all parties involved. University education is not just important for employment; it enables scholars from a variety of backgrounds to share, challenge, and develop ideas and, ultimately, affect change in society.

International students, like the Saudis in Canada, contribute to the academic community and, in turn, gain knowledge, experience, and skills to benefit their own countries. With the withdrawal of these students, we not only lose the opportunity to learn a sliver of what exists beyond us, but we lose our ability to influence the ideas of those abroad, which may be essential in creating global change. Both Saudi Arabia and Canada stand to lose from the withdrawal. Saudi Arabia should reconsider this decision.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that Saudi Arabia is justified to defend its sovereignty. Defendants of Saudi Arabia’s decision have claimed that the harsh attitude toward dissidents is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s slow, but effective, plan to produce real reform through Vision 2030. Critical commentary from foreign governments only serves to complicate Prince Salman’s ability to realize these reforms.

Furthermore, while Saudi Arabia is notorious for inflicting violence and terror unto its opponents, the fact remains that human rights violations are not unique to Saudi Arabia. For Canada to single out Saudi Arabia reflects a selective foreign policy. Furthermore, Freeland’s comments contradict the fact that Canada enables Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations — after all, the very same Trudeau government recently backed a massive arms deal with the Saudis.

Perhaps Canada should re-evaluate its expectations of Saudi Arabia and other countries it criticizes for human rights violations. What we define as human rights is largely based on Western ideals and histories, and to impose our distinct experience onto other cultures is problematic.

We have spent decades, if not centuries, structuring and improving a culture of rights and freedoms. It is not fair, then, to expect the same reforms in countries like Saudi Arabia to occur immediately. In fact, we should not pretend that Canada is morally superior, as it continues to commit its own human rights violations, namely against Indigenous peoples.

While we should not condone what is morally reprehensible in Saudi Arabia, we need to restructure the ways in which we frame our interests and goals, and how we work with international bodies to address human rights concerns. Human rights law tends to be incredibly ambiguous, requiring the consent of states to function.

Indeed, we need a global, legal infrastructure that ensures accountability and outlines specific expectations. It is necessary for other countries and powers to speak out against Saudi Arabia’s tirades, and for our criticisms to include specific alternatives and practices that can take place, while at the same time acknowledging the vast differences in the cultural climates of such nations. At the very least, where the goal is to advance human rights abroad, we should recognize that Twitter diplomacy can be disrespectful and gravely counterproductive.

The advancement of our national interests and goals in the realm of international relations requires a combination of utopian ideals and pragmatism. It is unfortunate that Saudi students have fallen victim to the complexities of global politics and diplomacy. The Canadian government and universities should do their utmost to resolve the dispute, so as to ensure that Saudi students can resume their education.

Rehana Mushtaq is a third-year English and Religion student at University College.

Saudi Arabia to withdraw students from Canadian universities

293 U of T students could be affected

Saudi Arabia to withdraw students from Canadian universities

In the latest move in the ongoing Canada–Saudi Arabia dispute over human rights, media reports are circulating that the Saudi government will withdraw all of its more than 15,000 students from Canadian postsecondary institutions, including the University of Toronto.

The diplomatic spat stems from a tweet last Thursday from Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, which slammed the arrest of Saudi women’s rights activist Samar Badawi.

“Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,” tweeted Freeland. “Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”

Since Freeland’s statement, Saudi Arabia has expelled the Canadian ambassador, recalled its own envoy, frozen new trade and investment initiatives, and reportedly stopped state-sponsored flights between Saudi Arabia and Toronto.

And now, students are in the line of fire, with less than a month before classes are supposed to begin.

According to Al-Arabiya, a Saudi-owned media outlet, “training, scholarships and fellowships to Canada” have been suspended as of Monday, and the government will be taking steps to transfer those students to other universities abroad.

Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, told the Toronto Star that most Saudi students in Canada are in the country through the King Abdullah scholarship, a government program that covers tuition, flights, accommodations, and a stipend for living expenses.

A spokesperson for the University of Toronto told The Varsity that out of 19,000 international students attending the school for the 2018–2019 academic year, 77 are from Saudi Arabia. Of that number, 30 are undergraduates and the rest are graduates.

“In addition, there are 216 medical residents and fellows from Saudi Arabia who are being trained in hospitals affiliated with U of T under a longstanding program,” said the spokesperson in an email. They are also affected by the government’s decision.

In total, 293 students at U of T could be affected.

“We are working to support our students who may be affected,” said Joseph Wong, Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost of International Student Experience, in a statement released by U of T.

“This is a very stressful time for these students. Their studies have been interrupted, and we want to help them to continue their education,” continued Wong. “We will be working with them, our colleagues at other universities and with government officials, as the situation continues to evolve.”

According to the enrolment numbers for the 2017–2018 school year, 240 Saudi nationals attend U of T. They constitute the seventh largest group of international students, ahead of Nigeria with 200 students and behind Taiwan with 277.

In response to Saudi Arabia’s actions, University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) President Anne Boucher told The Varsity that the UTSU is “deeply distraught and saddened… To see students being used for political leverage, being used to make a point.”

“These students are a part of the U of T community. These are our friends and classmates,” added Boucher. “They should not be punished for exchanges between political leaders.”

The Varsity has reached out to the Saudi Students’ Association and the Middle Eastern Students’ Association for comment.

This story is developing. More to come.

Canada’s reconciliation: unwilling, unready, undeserving

Examining the pitfalls of reconciliation in light of the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine

Canada’s reconciliation: unwilling, unready, undeserving

In 2015, the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) provided Canadians with documentation of the cultural genocide endured by Indigenous youth through residential schools. The purpose of the TRC was to lay the groundwork for ‘reconciliation’ where settler Canadians would work to close social, economic, and political gaps with Indigenous peoples created by centuries of colonialism.

Yet in February 2018 — less than three years later — the consecutive acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier for the deaths of 22-year-old Colten Boushie of the Red Pheasant First Nation and 15-year-old Tina Fontaine of the Sagkeeng First Nation have blown away any remaining mystique of ‘reconciliation.’ Settler Canada, by reproducing the injustices it pledged to address, is not committed to reconciliation.

The ongoing failure of the Canadian criminal justice system for Indigenous youth is only part of the problem. The problem is how systems intersect to make Indigenous deaths possible. The problem is how, even after death, settlers continue to twist narratives and portray death as a normal, expected, and deserved outcome for the colonized.

Stanley’s trial revolved around the purported malfunctioning of the gun that killed Colten Boushie on a Saskatchewan farm. Yet much settler deliberation focused on Stanley’s ‘right’ to protect his property and family from ‘trespassers’ — a deeply ironic ‘right’ given that his farm sits on Treaty 6 land. The Indigenous peoples who signed the treaty, with the Crown in 1876 were unable to fully understand its meaning due to it being written in English; they were told that settlers were borrowing the land, when in fact it was being purchased from them.   

What do we make of the escalatory and disproportionate use of force, including guns, that is frequently justified against minoritized communities? Or of the fact that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s (RCMP) investigation of Bouchie’s death negligently destroyed evidence and treated his family as if they were suspect? Instead, Stanley was acquitted, received over $200,000 in GoFundMe support, and is currently pursuing publishers to write a book and explain his ‘side’ of the story.

Tina Fontaine, on the other hand, engaged with the police, hospital, and child and family services, which had placed her in a hotel prior to her disappearance. Her body was later recovered from Red River in Manitoba. Yet The Globe and Mail headlined a story, “Tina Fontaine had drugs, alcohol in system when she was killed: toxicologist.” Indigenous responses later caused the paper to change the title.

Invoking stereotypes of the ‘drunken Indian’ and suggesting that Fontaine’s death was her own fault rather than that of the killer who threw her body into a river, or that of institutions that abandoned their responsibility to protect her is how many absolve the Canadian state and settlers of any culpability. From Boushie to Fontaine, we — the criminal justice system, the police, the child welfare system, the media, and the settler Canadian public — have been shown to protect settlers and defame dead Indigenous youth. Settler Canada is unwilling, unready, and undeserving of reconciliation.

The criminal injustice system

The legal system is central to the pro-death policy imposed upon Indigenous communities — especially when it comes to the nature of juries. Battleford, Saskatchewan — where Stanley was acquitted — was also the site of the 1885 hangings following the Riel Rebellion, the largest mass execution in Canadian history. Eight Indigenous men were hanged and buried after an all-white jury trial, a judge, and Prime Minister John A. MacDonald all expressed antipathies toward them as “Indian rebels.” In 1971, an all-white jury wrongfully convicted Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaq man, of murder. These historical examples of all-white juries are part of a trajectory that has led to an overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the justice system; they constitute 25 per cent of inmates despite being approximately four per cent of the population.

Tina Fontaine’s case, meanwhile, is paralleled by the 1971 murder of Helen Betty Osborne, among countless other missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. Although Indigenous peoples constituted 30 per cent of Osborne’s community, the defence used peremptory challenges — the right to reject a prospective juror without providing any reason — to keep all prospective Indigenous jurors off the jury. An all-white jury subsequently convicted only one of four accused men of her murder.

In light of this history of legal injustice, part of Indigenous resistance efforts is the reclamation of the law as a space for Indigenous youth. The University of Toronto Indigenous Law Students’ Association (ILSA) is one such organization; it “provides a social network for Aboriginal law students and is committed to furthering awareness of Aboriginal legal issues.” On March 1, the ILSA held a panel discussion about the Colten Boushie verdict.

Kent Roach, Professor of Law at the University of Toronto, discussed the various aspects of the trial that contributed to the acquittal of Stanley. First was the issue of Indigenous underrepresentation on juries. According to s. 629 of the Criminal Code of Canada, the jury panel can only be challenged on the basis of “partiality, fraud or wilful misconduct.” This does not account for proportional representation on a jury roll or the actual jury. In Stanley’s trial, the jury was entirely white with no Indigenous representation. Roach advocates for the ability of the accused or prosecutor to challenge jury panels if they fail to be representative based on a fair sample of the community at hand.

A recent Toronto Star-Ryerson School of Journalism investigation confirmed this representation problem. It reveals how, based on an analysis of 52 criminal trials in Toronto and Brampton, 71 per cent of all jurors were white, even though people of colour constitute the majority of the cities’ demographics. Evidently, juries across Canada do not reflect the diversity of the community in which trials are situated. Roach advocates for outreach and support for Indigenous and Black communities to ensure they have easier access to serving on juries.

The second panelist, Mi’kmaq lawyer Shannon McDunnough, further spoke of the importance of the jury pool of prospective jurors — especially because they are overwhelmingly white, middle-class, and middle-aged. Many lower-income, and minoritized people cannot afford to miss precarious work for jury duty, as opposed to those who have well-paid contracts. Indigenous peoples often are excluded because of barriers related to transportation, child care, and elder care. The final jury pool thus ends up with a socioeconomic and racial skew. This comes at the cost of alternative worldviews that, in the case of Indigenous peoples involved in trials, can other help other jurors understand what it means to be and live as an Indigenous person. McDunnough stated that jurors are doing a public service, and as such, should be accomodated financially so lower-income and minoritized communities can serve on juries.

In conjunction with more representative juries, Roach advocated for the abolition of peremptory challenges Stanley’s lawyer used them to exclude visibly Indigenous peoples from the jury. Furthermore, he spoke of the need to expand challenges for cause. Prospective jurors were not questioned as to whether the racial dynamics of the case would affect their ability to impartially decide the case. Prospective jurors should be vetted for subconscious racism and challenged for cause if they are deemed partial, especially when the victim in question is Indigenous.

A jury is ideally representative of the wider community and must deliberate and come to a unanimous decision. Yet if a jury is misrepresentative and impartial to racially loaded cases, the biases in the decision-making process favour accused killers like Stanley at the cost of Indigenous victims, and they disadvantage Indigenous individuals when they are the accused. This only serves to further alienate Indigenous communities that are already disabused of the criminal justice system, which has continually failed them.

The ILSA, in solidarity with other Canadian law schools raising awareness about the Boushie and Fontaine cases, backed up its panel with a teach-in on March 14. Law students and faculty alike walked out of class and sat together at the Jackman Law Building atrium for discussion. The purpose was to educate people on how institutions   such as the police, jury selection, and child welfare systems collude through and with the legal system to create results such as the acquittals. Speakers mentioned the need for more Indigenous perspectives and legal traditions in the study of law and the need to keep conversation alive about the Boushie and Fontaine cases outside the classroom.

One step in the direction of legal pluralism and equity is taking place at the University of Victoria, which recently announced that it will offer the world’s first Indigenous law degree. Students in the program, expected to initiate in September of 2018, will earn two professional degrees in Canadian common law and Indigenous legal orders. This initiative is a response to the TRC’s 50th call to action, which calls for the development of Indigenous law institutes. According to Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law John Burrows, “Indigenous law looks to nature and to the land to provide principles of law and order and ways of creating peace between peoples; whereas the common law looks to old cases in libraries to decide how to act in the future.”

The law and the criminal justice system has historically been a colonial operation that favours settlers at the expense of Indigenous peoples. For some, it is a site in which serious reform is required to build equity; for others, legal pluralism and Indigenous traditions are the way forward. The work of ILSA suggests that, in light of the Boushie and Fontaine cases, Indigenous youth are at the forefront of reclaiming and re-imagining the space of law to create a justice system that serves Indigenous peoples.


“Stolen children on stolen land”

The death and life of Fontaine also illustrates how the criminal injustice system interlocks with a wider network of colonial infrastructure to facilitate the exploitation and degradation of Indigenous lives.

In Manitoba, where Fontaine grew up, in the province’s Child and Family Services there are 11,000 children who have been removed from their families and are currently in the child welfare system. Of those children, 10,000 are Indigenous — a staggering 91 per cent. The First Nations Child & Family Caring Society estimates “ there are three times the number of First Nation children in foster care than there were at the height of the residential schools system.” When the present-day child welfare system is tearing families apart even more rapaciously than under residential schools, it amounts to an escalation of colonial warfare against Indigeneity. While we, as settlers, may have the impression that Canada ended its genocidal practices in the last century, numbers show that the destruction of Indigenous communities is ramping up, not winding down.

At Toronto’s “Justice for Tina Fontaine” rally on March 3, speakers called out the system for what it is: a child welfare industrial complex. One mother whose son was put into the care of the state at a psychiatric hospital decried the many actors who profit from Indigenous children being taken from their homes: “Native women did not have children to be meal tickets for lawyers, psychiatrists, judges, child welfare employees, directors, executive directors, and managers.”

Others benefit from the industry as well: the hotels paid to house foster children; private foster care agencies contracted by the government; non-Indigenous foster parents who earn allowances; and not least, sexual predators and human traffickers.

Another speaker at ILSA’s event, an Inuvialuit woman named Crystal Lee, lamented that Fontaine’s death was a deliberate outcome: “Canada failed Tina long before she was murdered.”

One of the most common reasons given for apprehending Indigenous children is caregiver poverty and substandard housing. These conditions are, unsurprisingly, the product of the Canadian government, which has repeatedly been found liable of discriminating against Indigenous children by starving them of equal funding compared to non-Indigenous children. A sinister formula thus emerges: make reserves unfit for living, seize the children, profit from the children, continue decimating Indigenous presence, repeat. This is the colonial pipeline that whisked Fontaine from her family and ultimately discharged her body into the Red River. This is why the TRC zeroed in on child welfare as its first call to action. How can Canada possibly pursue reconciliation when there will be no intact future generations with whom to reconcile?  

Resistance efforts

Although they are in the crosshairs of these colonial systems, Indigenous youth are surging to the front lines to push back. The rally for Fontaine at Nathan Phillips Square was organized by Madyson Arscott, a grade 10 Ojibwe student only a year older than Fontaine was when she died.

Later on the afternoon of the protest, other young activists established the Soaring Eagle’s Camp on the front lawn of the Old City Hall courthouse. Inspired by sister camps in Winnipeg and Calgary, the occupation commemorates Boushie and Fontaine and highlights the “continuation of Canada’s colonial violence towards Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island,” according to their pamphlet. The site of the month-old camp is intentional, explained Gein Wong, who has been present since day one: “There’s a lot of Native folks, or Indigenous folks, who are charged in the city with whatever charges. They actually go into here and have to go to court in this building. And so, for that reason, it’s important to have a presence here because this is where the justice system is, where it is actively operating.”

The Soaring Eagle’s Camp draws on the legacy of other direct actions in the city. Last July, the alarming suicide rate among Indigenous youth, particularly in Pikangikum First Nation, led to the formation of the Ground Zero camp in front of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Toronto office last summer. This camp was in fact a re-occupation of INAC; the camp’s first incarnation took place in April 2016 following the Attawapiskat suicide crisis. The second Ground Zero camp lasted 157 days to create public awareness about the loss of Indigenous youth and demand the federal government to increase funding for First Nations communities. The camp ended only due to the harsh late December weather.

Yet the members of Soaring Eagle’s Camp share the view that their camp is distinct from previous actions. According to Wong, “What’s notable this time around is that it’s all young, new generations that’s actually stepping up and organizing, with the guidance and the support of the folks who have done it before, and the elders. That is powerful to … have new generations step in.

This ethic of youth solidarity rippled through conversations with other members of the camp, who emphasized the importance of young Indigenous people showing up for other Indigenous youth. When Arscott addressed the crowd at the Fontaine rally, she concluded her speech with a request: “I want each and every one of you to say something with me for the Indigenous youth in the crowd. Ready? You are worth the effort. You are worth the effort. You are worth the effort.”


Reconciling reconciliation

For reconciliation with Indigenous peoples to occur, the meaning of reconciliation itself must be reconciled by settler Canadians. Is reconciliation just performative rhetoric, or is it substantive action that requires us to recreate our workplaces, classrooms, and institutions in the image of Indigenous worldviews, knowledges, and governance structures? What are settlers willing to give up so that justice socioeconomically, legally, and politically for centuries of colonialism may be served?  

Kennes Lin, a Youth Leader for Canadian Roots Exchange (CRE) an organization dedicated to developing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, and a student at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, shared her perception of reconciliation, prior to the verdicts, as a non-Indigenous person. “As a first-generation immigrant settler, I viewed ‘reconciliation’ as a responsibility to learn about the truth and unbiased history of the land I am living on, and to be self-aware of how my role as an immigrant meant I have been implicated as a settler colonizer in the project of colonization. I viewed ‘reconciliation’ as a need for me to understand my positioning first, and then to reach out and bridge the gaps in relationships with Indigenous folks.”

Following the verdicts, Lin said she is more critical of what ‘bridging the gap’ means. “With the verdicts as blatant evidence of overt and covert racism, ‘Truth before reconciliation’ to me now means being more targeted in addressing racism. While reconstructing is needed, I don’t view it as in my place to be doing it it needs to be from First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities themselves. What I can do is to target institutional racism, as a way create space for decolonizing reconstruction work to happen.”

As for the role of non-Indigenous youth, Lin notes, “what you can do always depends on what you know yourself to have the capacity to do if rallies are for you, go to them. If writing policy is more you, that works too. There’s a lot of work to do in all areas of deconstructing and reconstructing.”

Max FineDay, member of Sweetgrass First Nation and Co-Executive Director of CRE, defines reconciliation as the process of restoring the original relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. As with any process, there are failures; the two verdicts, while deeply disappointing, are not entirely surprising for FineDay. “Time and time again, the justice system shows that it fails, just like education, like health. The systems upon which Canada was founded do not serve Indigenous peoples.”

FineDay also speaks of the high suicide rate among Indigenous youth compared to non-Indigenous youth. “Canada is not the great country of justice and human rights and equality that we like to think we are. We are coming to a crossroads. Indigenous youth are the fastest growing demographic in the country. We have Indigenous youth now who are in 20 years going to be professionals in the workforce. Or if we don’t go down the path of reconciliation we’ll build more prisons, there will be more suicide, we’ll lose more people to violence. Youth are critical because we have an opportunity to stop the cyclical violence that has been happening for centuries.”

FineDay added that Canadians in Toronto or Ontario should not be smug and view anti-Indigenous racism as exclusive to prairie provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba; rather, it exists and must be addressed everywhere. In Toronto, more than four in five Indigenous families live in poverty.

“When I went back to my community and knowledge keepers [following the verdicts], they told me, Âhkamêyimo which means ‘persevere.’ This work is hard but it’s valuable. It’s incumbent upon all of us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to work for those who have come before us, who have worked towards reconciliation long before it was trendy, to ensure that Indigenous peoples can see justice,” he reflected.

In the context of Tkaranto the Mohawk origin of ‘Toronto’ the restoration of the original settler-Indigenous relations is governed by two treaties: the Two Row Wampum and the Dish With One Spoon. The Two Row Wampum is an agreement reached in 1613 between the Haudenosaunee and Dutch settlers to co-exist in peace, friendship, and respect: the two rows of purple wampum beads symbolise two vessels, a birchbark canoe, and a European ship travelling down the same river in parallel, never interfering in the other’s path. The Dish with One Spoon is a covenant among the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas, and Haudenosaunee to share and protect the territories around the Great Lakes and St Lawrence, as represented by the ‘dish.’ According to this treaty, we take from the land only what we need, we leave enough for everyone else, and care for the land and one another without resorting to violence.

If Canada is to reconcile with Indigenous peoples, Canada must first resolve what reconciliation means for itself. The Boushie and Fontaine verdicts this year indicate that Canada’s current reconciliation process does not work for Indigenous peoples. Canada can either continue a performative reconciliation that inflicts systemic colonial violence onto Indigenous youth or commit to a process of justice and restoration as imagined by Indigenous youth. Unless the latter occurs, colonization will continue to be the defining relationship between settlers and Indigenous peoples.

Why hasn’t Canada responded to anti-gay violence in Chechnya?

If the Liberals are true allies to LGBTQ people, they must provide assistance to persecuted groups in Chechnya

Why hasn’t Canada responded to anti-gay violence in Chechnya?

Reports of extreme government-sanctioned violence against gay men in Chechnya have quickly spread around the world. Over 100 men have reportedly been detained in concentration camp-style prisons and subjected to brutal torture methods. Three men have reportedly been killed.

Although some gay men have successfully escaped Chechnya thanks to help from the Russian LGBT Network, gay men continue to find themselves in a position of danger within the country. And despite seeing itself as a compassionate country that takes its moral obligations to its LGBTQ people seriously, Canada has done nothing to assist Chechens in crisis.

This is hypocritical and concerning on a number of fronts. While LGBTQ people face danger and violence all over the world, gay men in Chechnya are facing authorities who have urged families to kill their own gay children, and a leader who has set out to kill the entire LGBTQ community before the start of Ramadan. This crisis is time-sensitive and could result in further tragedy, making it all the more prudent that the Canadian government prioritize its cases.

Canada has developed a rather noteworthy reputation for stepping in during humanitarian crises like this one. Yet if we as a country truly believe ourselves to be a beacon of tolerance and acceptance, why aren’t we doing the tolerant thing, like offering refuge?

It’s not impossible to imagine speeding up the resettlement process via the creation of special visas, or a program similar to the one used to bring Syrian refugees to Canada. Such proposals should be given serious consideration in light of the situation’s urgency.

Still, the Canadian government doesn’t show any sign of doing so. In a statement to The Globe and Mail, a spokesman for the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said that these men do not qualify for refugee status, and did not mention the possibility of giving them special visas to allow them to come here. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen also did not promise any specific action to help them.

As individuals facing extreme violence and persecution, it might seem like gay men in Chechnya are in a position analogous to some refugee cases. Yet the Canadian government has labeled them as unqualified for resettlement, because — given that Chechnya is a semi-autonomous republic of Russia — they have not left their country of origin, making them internally displaced people (IDPs), not refugees.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that IDPs are not necessarily in any less danger than refugees. As explained on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ website, IDPs “have not crossed a border to find safety. Unlike refugees, they are on the run at home.” This means that “IDPs stay within their own country and remain under the protection of its government, even if that government is the reason for their displacement. As a result, these people are among the most vulnerable in the world.”

In this particular case, Chechen individuals certainly face danger in Russia, which is known for its hostile attitude toward LGBTQ people. A 2013 Pew Research Centre study found that 84 per cent of Russians do not believe that society should accept homosexuality.

In the past, the Liberals have posted highly publicized photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudea marching in the Toronto Pride Parade and raising the rainbow flag on Parliament Hill in June 2016. On the latter occasion, Trudeau stated that “Canada is united in its defence of rights and in standing up for LGBTQ rights.” Knowing this, it’s surprising that the Liberal government is ignoring the crisis that gay Chechens face when the party has made such a show of their support for the LGBTQ community.

Canadians should be wary of politicians who present themselves as allies to the LGBTQ community yet fail to take action that would actually help the LGBTQ community.

In this case, action means accepting Chechen gay men who need to leave Russia as refugees, and doing so quickly. Students can put pressure on the federal government to take action by getting involved with political organizing and lobbying Members of Parliament. In turn, how the government chooses to navigate those regulatory waters is up to its discretion — but something needs to be done, and soon.


Adina Heisler is an incoming third-year student at University College, studying Women and Gender Studies and English.

Growing up with The Tragically Hip

A personal reflection on Canada’s iconic band

Growing up with The Tragically Hip

Unlike most music I listen to, I couldn’t possibly say where or when I first heard The Tragically Hip. Which is odd, because I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard Arcade Fire (my backyard; the eighth grade; trying to skateboard even though I have notoriously poor balance), The Arkells (an overnight summer camp; the ninth grade; eating a very culturally appropriated Chinese stir fry), and pretty much any other musical ensemble that I would eventually label a favourite.

Most Canadians appear to share this problem. Many of us grew up with The Tragically Hip, but few can point to a time when we first acknowledged the band’s presence. The Hip were always around, whether we intended to hear them or not — on CBC radio, in our parents’ CD collection, or in local concert venues. They recorded prolifically and toured regularly. I didn’t go to see them the times they performed in Toronto; they were here so often I would always think, ‘I can go next year, when they inevitably return.’

The winter was peak Hip season for me. As a teenager I spent the colder days in Toronto playing pick-up hockey at the local rinks in my neighbourhood, and I would often listen to the band on the way to and from the makeshift arenas. Skates and stick in hand, I would listen to “New Orleans Is Sinking” and then “Three Pistols”—two songs expertly crafted to act as pre-game pump-ups. Then I would listen to “50 Mission Cap,” the Hip’s hockey song—a song about Bill Barilko, a former defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs who died on a fishing trip shortly after winning the Stanley Cup.

It was no coincidence that my interest in Canadian history peaked around this age, either. The Hip were meticulous chronicler’s of Canadian history. Early education failed to instill in me the excitement of our home-and-native-land’s vibrant past, but a rock band whose eccentric lead singer sang about the Group of Seven and Quebec separatism certainly did.

Playing in a few bands throughout high school, Downie quickly became an inspiration to me and to many of my fellow bandmates. His poetry was far better than ours, but inspired us to see the value in our immediate surroundings as potential musical subjects. We didn’t have to sing about California; Orillia would work just fine.

He found value in the crevices of Canadian lore where others failed to look. Few may have known the small town of Bobcaygeon before Downie deemed it worthy of a song, and few may have remembered the wrongful rape and murder conviction of David Milgaard before the story was archived in “Wheat Kings.” But Downie did, and we’re better for it.

During The Hip’s early years, Downie developed a cult following of sorts. Prairie kids would flock to Hip shows donning their team jerseys as coats of arms. Something about Downie, perhaps his upbringing in Kingston or his fondness for the pseudo-national sport, must have struck a chord amongst them. He never seemed anything like these people, though. Nothing about his lyrics appeared to purposely tap into their culture, and rarely would he address the youthful masses that attended the shows. Instead, he would lose himself in the songs —twitching, dad dancing, and spewing stream-of-consciousness nonsense like the victim of an exorcism gone wrong.

For many Canadians, Downie is a familiar — if not comforting — presence. When it appeared as though all Canadian rockstars were the poor man’s Bruce Springsteen or a wannabe Tom Petty, Downie was unabashedly himself, ranting about Killer Whale tanks and double suicides in the shadow of a hit-churning mega-industry down south. He and the band gave Canadians something to be proud of — something to point to when the calibre of our artistic product came into question.

That’s why the late-May announcement of Downie’s diagnosis and the subsequent implication of The Hip’s numbered days felt like an irremediable stab wound in the collective solar plexus. Downie has brain cancer —glioblastoma, to be exact — and there’s no known cure. Ninety per cent of victims live for less than five years upon diagnosis and, in the meantime, are subject to early onset dementia and countless other side-effects.

For the band, it’s an end when there shouldn’t have been an end in sight. For Downie, we can only hope that modern medicine prevails, and that he’ll have the good fortune of surviving despite the odds. It’s a daunting assignment, but as we’ve seen throughout the past few months, it’s one that he’ll undoubtedly approach with will and determination.

And grace, too.