Donald Trump has sparked a civil war within the NFL’s fanbase

Colin Kaepernick first knelt during the anthem in 2016

Donald Trump has sparked a civil war within the NFL’s fanbase

With more fans than any other collegiate or professional sport, the NFL boasts the highest league revenues as well as the most lucrative television deal in the world.

Yet in recent years, the NFL and its players have been bombarded with controversy, which has served to polarize the league’s fan base. Players choosing to kneel during the national anthem — and the assorted policy and procedural changes that the NFL adopted to address these player actions — continue to be an ongoing issue, even with the 2018 season kickoff.

Nike’s latest “Just Do It” ad campaign, featuring the leader and face of the movement, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, has only served to heighten the debate surrounding the issue.

Kaepernick first popularized the controversial act of kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to highlight racial injustice in the United States. In May 2018, NFL owners finally responded by voting in favour of requiring players to stand during the anthem and threatened to fine teams if players took a knee or weren’t on the field during the national anthem.

As Kaepernick’s social movement has gained momentum, notable individuals like US President Donald Trump have criticized it. Like most critics, Trump believes that kneeling during the anthem is unpatriotic and disrespectful to the men and women who serve in the military. Proponents continue to respond to this point of view by asserting that when athletes take a knee, they are simply practicing their right to free speech.

After the NFL Players Association filed a complaint, Adam Schefter, ESPN’s lead NFL correspondent, reported, “the new policy is going to be no policy,” later explaining that “too many people have stances too strong to figure out a compromise.”

In July, the NFL ultimately decided not to implement the new policy detailing player behaviour during the national anthem and teams sanctions.

By hitting the pause button on their policy, the NFL has recognized that the issue of kneeling during the national anthem is simply too contentious; therefore, the safest course of action is simply to do nothing.

The NFL’s inaction has resulted in a barrage of criticism from Trump. After the first week, the US President continued his social media barrage against the league, tweeting that television ratings for the first game were down from those of last year and “viewership has declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade.”

While Trump would like there to be a link between the NFL’s declining television ratings and players kneeling during the national anthem, the truth is that ratings have been declining for the past couple of years, which is consistent with broader viewership trends across the country. At the same time, the number of players that have decided to overtly protest has also declined, which further discounts Trump’s assertion that kneeling has resulted in lower television ratings.

And while Trump has been extremely vocal about his views regarding this topic, other public figures within the NFL have verbalized their support for the social movement. Detroit Lions principal owner Martha Ford openly challenged his assessment of the situation, saying that “players’ right to express views is part of what makes America great” and that “negative disrespectful comments suggesting otherwise are contrary to the founding principles of our country.”

Even though Kaepernick is no longer in the league, he continues to support players taking a knee to protest racial injustices in the United States and has found a new advocate in Nike. While not all consumers have responded positively to Nike’s new campaign and some have even taken to burning Nike products, the company has seen a 31 per cent increase in sales since the campaign’s launch.

Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, Kaepernick’s message has served to inspire not only NFL owners, players, and fans, but also positively impacted society as a whole.

Doug Ford, stop trying to be the Premier of Toronto

Ford’s first months in office culminate in an assault on Toronto city politics, reflecting a faux populism that threatens Ontario's most vulnerable

Doug Ford, stop trying to be the Premier of Toronto

Last September, Doug Ford announced that he would again run for Mayor of Toronto in 2018 — having lost the 2014 election to John Tory. Ford’s experience in City Hall, however, was never commensurate with his eagerness for the mayoralty. As a city councillor, Ford had one of the worst attendance and voting records among his colleagues, often spoke of his frustrations with the council as “dysfunctional,” and even spoke about “running away” from Toronto politics.

Ford first expressed interest in running for Premier of Ontario in 2013, and so he did successfully this past year. His platform was particularly focused on eliminating the “inefficiencies” in government. He also promised to represent Northern Ontario and everyday Ontarians, as opposed to the elites.

But instead of “running away” from Toronto politics, Ford dove right in. One of his most targeted “inefficiencies” seems to be the size of the Toronto City Council, which he tried to halve earlier this summer with the passing of Bill 5.

Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba recently struck down Bill 5 as unconstitutional, ruling that it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Belobaba’s ruling states that the cuts “undermine an otherwise fair election and substantially interfere with the candidates’ freedom of expression.” In response, Ford is attempting to invoke the notwithstanding clause of the Charter, which would enable him to override certain portions of the Charter and overwrite the judge’s decision.

The number of wards is being debated and contested in the middle of the campaign cycle, with the municipal elections just five weeks away. Opposition and protest against the council size cut has intensified. Former Chief City Planner, U of T instructor, and 2018 candidate for mayor Jennifer Keesmaat even expressed support for Toronto’s secession, though she later retracted this, saying that it was in “frustration.”

Ford claims that he is standing up for the 2.3 million Ontarians who elected him, “because it is the people, not the judiciary, who should ultimately decide how we are governed.” Ford’s reasoning that he is entitled to push through legislation because he was elected, whereas the judge was appointed, is fundamentally flawed.

In an imperfect but functional liberal democracy, it is not sufficient to govern based on the will of the majority, as represented through the government. Rather, there are checks in place to protect individual and minority rights and freedoms. The independence of the judiciary reflects a separation of powers, which is intended to hold the government accountable if it tries to breach those rights and freedoms in the name of ‘democracy.’

It is vital to remember that judges are not elected because the insertion of politics into the judicial system would undermine the very impartiality needed to hold governments accountable. Ford’s disrespect for the judge’s decision undermines the very rule of law upon which our society functions, and sets a dangerous precedent to further invoke the notwithstanding clause whenever he sees fit.

His appeal to majoritarianism is also questionable. Only a plurality, not a majority, of Ontarians, voted for his government; he was handed a majority of seats in the legislature because of the first-past-the-post system. He should therefore be careful when trying to use majoritarian rhetoric, and should understand that his mandate is to govern Ontario, not Toronto.

Like US President Donald Trump, Ford is a faux populist. He claims to be challenging the elites, when in fact he is a millionaire businessman who is very much one of them. Thus far, his policies have not attempted to dismantle the elites, but rather have targeted democratic norms and Ontario’s most vulnerable communities.

His interference with Toronto’s election, for instance, happened without any consultation or electoral mandate — it was never a part of his campaign platform. Furthermore, the impact of the council size cut promises to be devastating. Fewer wards translates to more residents per ward; this means that each individual resident has less representation and voice in government.

This particularly worsens conditions for marginalized communities, who already lack voice when it comes to issues related to low-income and race. They would have benefitted from the 2016 decision to increase the number of wards from 44 to 47, as well as the emergence of newcomer candidates from those communities. Instead, they are left with less access to city democracy than ever.

Ford’s intervention, by adding confusion and uncertainty about the fate of the election, has also shifted public attention away from the actual content of the election. Issues like affordable housing and transit, which are key for students, have unfortunately taken a backseat.

Some argue that Ford’s obsession with Toronto is revenge for his mayoral loss to Tory four years ago. But this understates Ford’s ideological scope. Since the beginning of the summer, Ford’s pursuit of “efficiency” has meant cuts to social, educational, and environmental policies that would have benefitted marginalized communities. He scrapped the basic income project and made cuts to welfare increases; reversed the 2015 sex ed curriculum, which addressed LGBTQ+ issues; cancelled a curriculum update that would have included more Indigenous content; and is challenging the federal government over climate change on the carbon tax plan.

While making cuts, Ford has invested in disciplinary surveillance tactics that threaten marginalized communities. For instance, creating a ‘snitch line’ to report teachers committed to the 2015 sex ed curriculum; threatening universities into adopting ‘free speech’ policies at the risk of losing funding, which invariably targets critics of oppression; and investing millions into the Toronto Police Service in response to a violent summer, even though racialized communities have indicated the need for socioeconomic investment.

Ford’s assault on Toronto parallels his attack on universities, schools, and marginalized communities. All reflect an anti-democratic agenda, which exploits ‘for the people’ rhetoric, but in reality stands up for no one but the most privileged in society.

Democracies function by achieving a fine balance between the will of the majority and the protection of minorities. Ford does neither: he has failed to respect the will of Torontonians and engage in fair democratic processes, and through strongman politics he has made an aggressive assault on vulnerable communities in Ontario.

If Ford is truly committed to the people, he should stop making harmful cuts in the name of “efficiency” and spending time on unconstitutional power plays. He should stop trying to be the Premier of Toronto and undermining the city’s jurisdiction, and focus instead on improving the lives of all Ontarians.

Students’ political, social, and economic interests are at stake. We should be aware and ready to resist Ford if there is no end in sight to his faux populism.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

“He’s a different kind of idiot”: Michael Wolff talks Trump at Con Hall

Fire and Fury author speaks about journalism in the age of Donald Trump

“He’s a different kind of idiot”: Michael Wolff talks Trump at Con Hall

Michael Wolff, a journalist and author of the bestselling book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, spoke at U of T’s Convocation Hall on March 7 about the state of American politics and journalism.

The event was hosted by the School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG), and it featured a talk with SPPG Director Peter Loewen, followed by a panel discussion with Althia Raj, Ottawa Bureau Chief of HuffingtonPost Canada, and Joseph Heath, professor of philosophy, public policy, and ethics at U of T.

Wolff said that he pitched the idea of writing a story on the first 100 days of the presidency to Steve Bannon, the President’s former Chief Strategist. “I said to Trump, ‘I’d like to come into the White House as an observer,’ and Trump thought I was asking for a job — deputy assistant observer,” said Wolff. “Almost from the beginning, I was looking forward to the ending.”

With the departures of many senior staff members, such as Bannon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Wolff decided to write on the “first act” of the Trump White House.

Wolff said that his philosophy going into the White House was not to ask questions and to keep a low profile. Eventually, he said, he gained the trust of political staffers and became a “black hole where people just began to narrate their experience.”

Wolff claimed that Sam Nunberg, a former aide on Trump’s presidential campaign, said Trump was “an idiot.” Wolff added that “he’s a different kind of idiot because he’s the President of the United States.”

Wolff compared many of Trump’s actions to his time on reality television. “The nature of reality television is conflict. You have to manufacture and produce and sustain conflict in every show… Essentially, that’s the way he’s run this presidency. Every tweet is designed to produce conflict.”

In the end, Wolff believes that Trump’s presidency will not survive. “I think it’s a failed presidency,” said Wolff, adding that his book was designed to open the discussion about the nature of Trump’s failure in the White House. “I asked [Trump], ‘What’s your goal here?’ He said, in a very straightforward way, ‘To be the most famous man on Earth.’”

Following Wolff’s talk, the event moved into a short panel discussion that focused on modern political journalism. Raj made the case that reporters need to be increasingly focused on fact-checking in an era when readers consume news very quickly on digital platforms and increasingly demand well-researched stories.

Wolff refocused the discussion on Trump, asking, “How do you report on this guy? He runs contrary — if you’re a political journalist — to everything you believe about being a political journalist.”

When Raj asked Wolff about scenes in his book that were allegedly recreated, he said that many parts were either something he witnessed or something a trusted source observed. The problem, Wolff said, was that his sources have remained anonymous.

David Frum talks Trump at U of T

George W. Bush’s former speechwriter offers insight on political consequences of current White House

David Frum talks Trump at U of T

David Frum, author and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, spoke at an event held by the Rotman School of Management on January 24.

The event served as a promotion of Frum’s new book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic, which provides an analysis of the effects the Trump administration has had on democratic institutions in the United States.

The event featured a discussion with Frum and Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic magazine, and it was moderated by Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books & Music, Inc.

Before getting into discussions based on the content of the book, Reisman asked Frum about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 US federal election. Frum said that, with what we already know about the Russian investigation, this is “one of the biggest scandals in American history.”

He explained that while there still remains a lot of unanswered questions in the investigation, “to sit down” and to “take a meeting with a foreign intelligence agency” with the specific purpose of collaborating on defeating another political candidate is enough of a scandal, without even beginning to answer the questions currently being investigated: “to what degree did the Trump people coordinate [and] how much did they share back with the Russians?”

His book attempts to address the current Trump administration’s impact on the US political landscape. The two speakers offered their insights and perspectives on the current status of democracy in the US the role of immigration in the country’s political polarization.

Frum argued that democracy is on the decline, citing a widespread survey from his book that posed the question, “Is it essential to you to live in a democracy?” Among Americans over the age of 70, over 80 per cent of the responses said yes, while with the people under the age of 30, only about 25 per cent said yes.

Frum said that this is due to the fact that, for younger generations, wars fought on the basis of democracy are too far in the past to have the same impact they had on older generations.

Goldberg added that, from World War II, the Nazis “were so heinously awful that one could make a shortcut mentally to say, ‘Well obviously [democracy] is enormously useful because look at what we defeated,’ but people don’t have these memories anymore.”

Frum argued that immigration will always be a “source of stress,” using the 2016 election in the US and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom as examples of the right-wing backlash to immigration.

Goldberg said he does not view the United States’ current political turmoil as a consequence of immigration but as a backlash to the US electing its first African American president.

Barack Obama was more than just a president, he said, but rather a “symbol that a country is changing, that the colour of a country is changing.”

Moving forward, both Frum and Goldberg said it is difficult to predict what kind of long-term impact this administration will have on the United States.

Goldberg said that he has two theories that he alternates between, depending on “the day of the week.” On the one hand, he said that America has resilience “built into the system,” and that one day Americans will “wake up” and “snap back to some behaviour” that he considers to be more reasonable. However, he also acknowledged the fact that “all empires decline.”

Frum said that the long-term implications of the Trump administration depend on how long Trump remains in office. With the current economic growth and the “higher spending power” of after-tax income due to the Republican tax bill, he added that the odds could potentially be in the Republican party’s favour for the 2018 midterm elections.

U of T’s biggest stories of 2017

The Varsity looks back at the defining headlines of last year

U of T’s biggest stories of 2017

JENNA MOON/THE VARSITY

Toronto and U of T organized against Trump after his inauguration

Following Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, protests broke out in Toronto and around the world in opposition.

Trump’s actions have had a direct effect on members of the U of T community. One of his first major acts was an executive order on immigration, which limited the country’s intake of refugees, as well as visitors and immigrants from certain majority-Muslim countries.

Joudy Sarraj, last year’s Trinity College Female Head of Non-Resident Affairs, told The Varsity that she would have been impacted had she not had dual Canadian-Syrian citizenship. In the wake of this executive order, a protest took place on University Avenue in front of the US Consulate, attended by a number of U of T students.

Eliminating staff positions at the UTSU was a promise the Demand Better slate ran on. TOM YUN/THE VARSITY

UTSU: Demand Better dominated, two staff members laid off, Hudson lawsuit settled

The Demand Better slate, led by Mathias Memmel, won the majority of executive positions and board seats in the March 2017 UTSU elections. The slate ran on a platform focused on fixing the union after years of mismanagement. Within the fall 2017 semester, two executives, Vice-President University Affairs Carina Zhang and Vice-President Campus Life Stuart Norton, resigned for personal reasons, and they have since been replaced.

Demand Better executives also fulfilled their campaign promise of cutting back salary expenses, laying off two full-time staff members who oversaw clubs and health plans. This stirred controversy in the student body; opponents claimed that clubs and student services would be negatively affected, though the UTSU argued that they would not be.

The UTSU also settled a two-year lawsuit with Sandra Hudson, the union’s former Executive Director, who they alleged committed civil fraud. The UTSU was seeking $277,726.40, which was initially given to Hudson as part of a compensation package when her contract was terminated, and an additional $200,000 in damages.

Details of the settlement are undisclosed but have drawn the ire of several board members and Vice-President External Anne Boucher.

Trinity students have clashed with their college administration over two alleged assaults and a ban on alcohol-licensed events. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Trinity student alleged assault, TCM vote of no confidence against administrators

In September, Trinity College student Bardia Monavari, Co-Head of College, alleged that he was verbally and physically assaulted by Campus Police following a residence party. Monavari placed the blame on college administrators Adam Hogan and Christine Cerullo, who he said refused to intervene when they saw the alleged assault.

Soon after, the Trinity College Meeting, Trinity’s direct democracy student government, passed a near-unanimous vote of no confidence in the Office of the Dean of Students. The motion signalled the disappointment of students in Trinity’s response to Monavari’s alleged assault, as well as the alleged mishandling of Tamsyn Riddle’s sexual assault case. Riddle filed a human rights application against both Trinity College and U of T. Since the vote, Provost Mayo Moran has banned alcohol at college events, and the Office of the Dean of Students and the college heads have been using an external facilitator in mediation meetings.

Thousands of college students in Ontario were out of school during the five-week faculty strike. PHOTO BY CONNOR MALBEUF, COURTESY OF THE GAZETTE

College strike affected U of T’s partner schools, campus unions secured strike mandates

Faculty at colleges in Ontario went on strike for close to a month, following failed negotiations with the College Employer Council over job security and academic freedom in classrooms. This affected UTSC and UTM students enrolled in joint programs with Centennial College and Sheridan College, respectively. After faculty rejected a tentative agreement, the strike ended when the provincial government enacted back-to-work legislation. This forced faculty to return and for any other unresolved issues to be decided in binding arbitration.

Meanwhile, labour unions at U of T began preparing for negotiations as their tentative agreements with the university expire. Sessional lecturers, under CUPE Local 3902 Unit 3, voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike mandate. The main topics included wage increases and improvements in benefits, but talks stalled on the issue of job security. The union reached an agreement shortly after, which was later ratified. Unit 1, which represents teaching assistants, also voted overwhelmingly for a strike mandate. Their main point is increasing wage rates, but no statements have been released yet about the ongoing status of negotiations.

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Jordan Peterson remained a source of controversy

U of T psychology professor Jordan Peterson gained international attention in September 2016 after publishing his YouTube series criticizing political correctness. The news gave way to many rallies, both in support and in opposition of the controversial professor and the right to free speech.

Throughout 2017, Peterson remained a source of controversy. In February, a right-leaning conference where Peterson and Ezra Levant, founder of The Rebel Media, were scheduled to speak was interrupted by protesters and resulted in crowd control police taking to the campus.

Later in the year, Peterson had his funding request denied for the first time by a federal agency, proposed creating an online university to counter traditional institutions, and doxxed two student activists.

In November, Peterson proposed creating a website targeting “postmodern, neo-Marxist” professors, which he eventually abandoned. Later in the same month, hundreds of individuals and organizations across Canada signed an open letter to U of T calling for Peterson’s termination.

From hindsight to insight: 2017 in review

Contributors reflect on politics, law, and human rights on campus and in the community at large

From hindsight to insight: 2017 in review

 As far as years go, 2017 was a kicker. World politics is a dumpster fire, and a deeply distracting one at that. Within this generally turbulent international political climate, everything can appear devastating, and the doom and gloom of international headlines can feel incredibly disempowering.

What is happening in the world might cause us to lose sight of the subtle but pernicious ways in which university affairs have impacted life at the University of Toronto as well. We might also forget that, as students at the largest university in Canada, we have vital bargaining power, and we shouldn’t shy away from trying to make a difference in our immediate community. While stepping into the ring with political moguls might seem like a pipe dream, students retain the power to affect change locally, at the very least.

The start of 2018 provides us with ample opportunity for reflection and analysis. I asked six Comment contributors to write about key events and phenomena that forged 2017’s trajectory, both at the university and in the world at large. Going forward, let’s remain vigilant about macro-level political affairs — but let’s also keep local issues situated in our sightline.

Happy new year. Stay political.

 

Teodora Pasca

Comment Editor

ON CAMPUS

Students voted down a motion to merge two executive positions during the UTSU AGM. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

UTSU AGM REMINDED US WHERE POWER LIES IN STUDENT GOVERNMENT

Instead of preparing their Halloween costumes, over 90 U of T students spent the evening of October 30 hotly debating motions at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the University of Torotno Students’ Union (UTSU). Taking centre stage was a motion to combine the executive positions of Vice-President External and Vice-President University Affairs into the proposed new role of Vice-President Advocacy. The motion had been passed by the UTSU Board of Directors, but it needed to be approved at the AGM to take effect for the next election cycle. While other motions in the same position passed easily, members decisively voted this one down — an important reminder of the power students can wield when they disagree with student politicians.

Those who take on roles in student government often do not seek power or pay — there are arguably easier ways to obtain both — but rather seek to contribute to their communities. Leaving aside questions about the merits of this motion, the events of the AGM showcase an idea fundamental to student government: it exists not for student politicians, but for their constituents, meaning by consequence that decision-making authority ultimately rests with the student body at large.

While true for the UTSU, this can also be said of student governments at this university that receive much less attention, from course unions to divisional student societies. A brief survey of the Canadian Studies Students’ Union, the Association of Political Science Students and the University College Literary and Athletic Society shows that their constitutions explicitly reserve for students the power to set direction and change structures by amending bylaws. While their 2017 general meetings were less controversial than that of the UTSU, the meetings still give students the opportunity to wield their power in student government.

What happened at the 2017 UTSU AGM should remind student governments, no matter their size, that they should seek to involve students as much as possible in their services and governance — or else they risk watching students vote down the fruit of their labour. Conversely, in 2018, students must seize the opportunity to use their power and engage with their representatives, demanding that their governments serve them better.

Andrew Kidd is a fourth-year student studying Engineering Physics. He is the Speaker of the Engineering Society.

Governing Council’s mandatory leave policy has faced serious criticism from students. ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

MANDATORY LEAVE POLICY REFLECTED STATE OF MENTAL HEALTH AT THE UNIVERSITY

It was announced in 2017 that Governing Council was considering a mandatory leave policy, which would allow the university to issue a non-punitive yet compulsory leave of absence on students “whose mental health issues posed a physical threat to themselves or others, or impacted their academics negatively.” The topic of the policy proceeded to occupy much campus discourse over the course of the fall semester, and it was met with a great deal of protest from mental health and student advocacy groups. Criticisms included its vague wording and the potential effects it would have on students in situations where their enrolment would affect their financial, housing, or immigration status.

The policy is an unsurprising move from a university that has been so utterly ineffective at helping students with mental illness, often failing to provide them with badly needed support. In my own experience with the Health and Wellness Centre, the waiting list for individual therapy can be anywhere from a month to much longer. Numerous complaints have been raised by students who feel they have had their mental health concerns dismissed by the university or who have otherwise been unable to access vital services.

The policy wouldn’t apply to students with a treatment plan who are able to attend classes — yet given the state of mental health services at U of T, students cannot always expect to have access to treatment. The impact of the policy could therefore be to punish students who seek help for mental illness, preventing them from asking for help in the first place out of fear of being removed, worsening an already difficult situation. As Governing Council prepares to vote on the mandatory leave policy in 2018, I can only hope that instead of seeking to remove students whose mental health prevents them from staying in university, they will take measures to improve existing support frameworks.

Adina Heisler is a third-year student at University College studying Women and Gender Studies and English. She is The Varsity’s Student Life Columnist.

The BSA organized a town hall in November as a response to racist incidents. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

CAMPUS DEMONSTRATIONS SHOWCASED IMPORTANCE OF THE STUDENT VOICE

Many of us in 2017 bore witness to student action and involvement in campus politics and issues regarding equity and racism. Examples of such action were demonstrated throughout the year, serving as positive encouragement for students to actively voice their concerns on the issues that matter to them — personally, campus-wide, and internationally.

One of the most significant examples of this happened during the fall of last year. A group of students walked on stage at Isabel Bader Theatre in protest of the annual Keith Davey Forum due to its lack of diversity in the speaker panel and the irresponsible way in which the discussion question — asking if social inequality was “a real problem” — was posed. This protest led to the organizers admitting there were problems with the event, going as far as to say that another forum would be held with the issues at hand resolved.

More recently, after students came forward with evidence of racist remarks made on an engineering chat forum, the Black Students’Association organized a town hall on November 28 to discuss racism and to allow students to share their experiences of racial discrimination.

These events are a testament to the impact of the student voice and how it can positively influence events and programs on campus. Demonstrations and forums revolving around campus and international affairs are a vital example of the political involvement of students at U of T, and 2017 was no exception. An active and aware student body is a testament to an environment in which students are not afraid to voice their opinions and can ultimately become a source of social change.

Abdul Ali is a first-year student at St. Michael’s College studying International Relations.

WORLD

Bill C-6 is among the most significant federal laws passed in 2017, writes Maia Harris. DAVID RUSSO/CC FLICKR

BILL C-6 SOLIDIFIED FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY

The Liberals’ Bill C-6 received Royal Assent on June 19, 2017, a clear sign of the Canadian government’s favourable stance toward immigration. Bill C-6 issues a series of legislative amendments that facilitate easier access to Canadian citizenship, a position that stands in contrast to the political atmospheres and anti-immigration policies that characterized other countries in 2017.

Bill C-6 came into effect amidst a year of wealthy, influential nations peddling policies that make it significantly more difficult for people to immigrate to their countries. The second tier of the United Kingdom’s statement of change tightening their immigration policy was released in 2017, while the American government’s travel ban was upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional. The timing of Bill C-6 sets the stage for Canada to counter global political tides and lead as an open-door nation in 2018.

The bill repeals many of the previous Conservative government’s citizenship policies, including those implemented through Bill C-24, which allowed for increased liberty to revoke dual citizenship. Among the changes is a provision that greatly benefits international students seeking Canadian citizenship post-graduation: an applicant must only be physically present in Canada for three out of five years preceding their citizenship, which is more favourable than the previous terms mandating four out of six years of presence. Additionally, the revamped calculation method entails that time spent in Canada on a study permit will count toward the residency requirement. A temporary resident is now able to include one day present for every two days spent in Canada toward their requirement, up to a maximum of 365 days.

Bill C-6 stands among the most significant Canadian laws passed in 2017, and its effects will certainly be felt going forward. Potential outcomes include increased immigration rates as well as a possible boost of international students in Canadian schools. Overall, Bill C-6 sets Canada apart from the closed-door international agenda, and it lays the groundwork for an even more diverse nation.

Maia Harris is a first-year student at St. Michael’s College studying English and Political Science.

PM Trudeau with Catherine Porter (left) and Peter Baker (right) JACOB LORINC/THE VARSITY

WORLD POLITICS VEERED OFF THE LIBERAL-DEMOCRATIC TRACK

Last year saw the continuation of a struggle over the future of the international liberal-democratic order. Relatively uncontested until recently, this system was put into place following the Cold War, consisting of principles such as democratic values, economic liberalism, and interdependence guided by powerful supranational institutions. It was this establishment that Francis Fukuyama infamously called “the end of history” — yet in light of the events of this past year, such a thesis seems increasingly false.

US President Donald Trump, a candidate elected on an ‘America first’ platform of economic protectionism and xenophobia, was inaugurated early in the year. Some of the Trump administration’s actions in 2017 included various attempts at implementing travel bans for those coming from Muslim-majority countries, a war on “fake news,” withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and the beginning of renegotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Outside of Washington, events such as the Charlottesville rally reveal apparently anti-liberal movements on both the right and the left. On one hand, the ‘alt-right’ disavows diversity in favour of an American white ethno-state; on the other hand, leftist Antifa groups have engaged in violence and property damage at protests.

In contrast, Canada seems to be one of the states not moving in this direction. Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s suggestion that immigrants be screened for “Canadian values” was resoundingly defeated, for example. Justin Trudeau has pursued liberal policies and has been presented as a worthy opponent to Trump in the international political context.

Outside of the US, far-right parties continue to influence European politics with protectionism, xenophobia, and anti-EU positions; in 2017, this was demonstrated through several key elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, the latter of which saw the introduction of a far-right party to the German Bundestag for the first time since World War II. In light of Germany’s post-war fear of Nazism, this is particularly significant, and it foreshadows a global trend away from the liberal status quo towards new directions — a trend that Canada will need to respond to.

Sam Routley is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Political Science, History, and Philosophy.

NATIONALISM BLED OVER THE BORDER, THREATENED HUMAN RIGHTS AT HOME

We might like to think that society has progressed in terms of civil and human rights during the 21st century, yet looking back on 2017, this seems doubtful. Women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and migrant rights have taken a hit in the US this year. Among oppressive policies, President Donald Trump said he would eliminate the diversity lottery for foreigners seeking US visas. Racism in political discourse has also been prominent — for instance, Republican state Senator John Bennett refused to apologize for his statement that American Muslims are a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.”

What is important to remember, however, is that racism and oppression are hardly unique to the US. On Canada Day, a white nationalist group called the Proud Boys disrupted an Indigenous ceremony in Halifax. As Indigenous folks engaged in ceremony protesting Halifax’s founder, Edward Cornwallis — infamous for collecting bounty on Indigenous scalps — the group disrupted the ceremony and approached the gathering singing “God Save the Queen.” The Québec City mosque shooting occurred on January 29, when six worshippers were killed and 19 others were injured. Both of these acts of racism can arguably be linked to the influence of the US: the headquarters of the Proud Boys is located in New York City, while the Québec City shooter was allegedly a Trump supporter.

The development of civil and human rights has rightfully come a long way since slavery and women’s suffrage. However, as incidents of racism continue, it feels as though this progress is not as steady as we might hope. As 2017 has come to a close, we as Canadians should remember that, no matter the actions of the US, we do not have to follow their example. In 2018, we should focus on confronting hatred coming from abroad while also working to address it at home.

Areej Rodrigo is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying English and Theatre and Performance Studies.

Daniel Dale talks truth in the Trumpian age on Canadaland

And what it's like to be blocked by the President on Twitter

Daniel Dale talks truth in the Trumpian age on <em>Canadaland</em>

Daniel Dale is blocked on Twitter by the world’s most powerful man: the wealthy real estate developer-turned reality TV star-turned President of the United States, Donald Trump. Dale is a soft-spoken but astute journalist covering a politician with a diametrically opposed personality. As the Toronto Star’s only reporter in Washington, he has the responsibility of being the sole deliverer of DC news to Canada’s largest daily — his task is weighty, but it’s one that he says is “awesome as a reporter, because you get to pick and choose what story to jump on.”

The Thornhill native made the trip back to the city for a taping of Jesse Brown’s hit media criticism podcast Canadaland, recorded live as part of the Hot Docs Podcast Festival. Before taping, Dale took some time to sit down for an interview with The Varsity.

Tackling Trump via Twitter

As soon as he wakes up in Washington DC — even before he puts his glasses on — Dale checks Twitter. “I wake up at seven something, and he’s usually tweeted by seven, and it’s like, ‘Has he already made a new claim? Am I already behind waking up at like 7:15 in the morning?’” he says. “Which is ridiculous.”

Twitter as a medium has, in a way, become a hallmark of Dale’s journalism and earned him a bit of a cult following, mostly due to his long-running, occasionally droll fact-checking of Trump. Pointing out inaccuracies ranging from incorrect tax rates to utter lies — like the time Trump lied about getting a congratulatory call from the leaders of the Boy Scouts — Dale’s feed is one I would recommend following.

And now it’s gotten him in hot water: blocked by the President of the United States. “I think it’s hilarious,” Dale says. “My editors and people I know were kind of outraged by it — and, in principle, I think it is troubling that a powerful politician would try and deny information to a journalist in even the most minor way.” Dale calls the block a “hilarious inconvenience,” though also revealing: “It tells us something about this man, this president, that even someone pointing out his inaccuracies on Twitter is enough that he doesn’t want to look at it.”

Twitter has become what many believe to be an invaluable tool in the journalist’s toolkit. But, as Dale warns, “Twitter is awful in an awful number of ways.” He says it can be bad for a journalist’s mental health, and that “it can wear you down if you spend too much time in your mentions.”

From Ford to… this?                                                           

Dale covered City Hall in the Rob Ford years — no easy task, and one that he barely escaped unscathed. Once, the former mayor chased and cornered him in a park near the mayor’s house with a raised fist. The wake of this incident would lead Dale to serve the mayor a libel notice.

The reporter says that there are “a lot of similarities” between Trump and Ford, including “the way that they have harnessed anti-elite sentiment” despite both characters’ elite status, and being “loudly, angrily anti-media in ways that their respective institutions hadn’t previously seen.”

He points out an interesting nuance in the difference between the Ford and Trump populisms: in some ways, Ford “sought to include members of diverse communities and minorities, whereas Trump is solely focused on white people.”

Dale is quick to note, though, that the “frequency and the needlessness of the dishonesty” from Trump has surpassed the level of outrageousness from Ford.

Given that he’s covered two brash, anti-media politicians, I asked Dale whether he thinks that the relationship between journalists and politicians should be mutually antagonistic. Not quite, he says. “It’s sort of one step calmer than that. It necessarily has to be a skeptical relationship: you’re not there to be their friends, but that doesn’t mean you’re there to be their enemies, either.”

It’s hard to escape covering Trump in today’s America. Dale was down in DC for the end of the Obama years, “covering America more broadly.” He thinks that if Hillary Clinton had won, his job “would be super different.”

“My job is almost exclusively covering Trump,” Dale says. “He’s all anyone wants to read about right now.”

On Canadaland

Dale’s appearance on Canadaland was characteristic of the deconstructive, conversational, and occasionally quirky show that fans know and love. The Hot Docs theatre was packed as the bass-fuelled intro played and Dale joined Brown on the stage.

I won’t ruin the podcast for those of you who are listeners, but suffice it to say that Brown and Dale covered similar material to what Dale and I discussed, from fact-checking to fun with the Ford family. The show also included a few curveballs from Brown, who dug up some bylines and free-speech activism work from Dale’s days at the Guelph Mercury — may it rest in peace — and at York University.

Canadaland, in the midst of a fundraising push, had a new venture being showcased at the live show: a beer called Canadaland Sour. Audience members who Tweeted #canadalandsour were promised a free beer after the show on the sidewalk outside the cinema.

“This is legal, I’m told,” Brown said, half-joking.

Unfortunately, the line outside the cinema was more than the coolers were equipped for and I didn’t get my Canadaland Sour — but that didn’t sour the experience in the slightest.

The root of all evil?

Cashing in on the alleged threat of campaign financing

The root of all evil?

For quite some time Donald Trump has been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to the US presidency. After hitting a brief setback in Iowa, Trump won in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and then Nevada. Heading into ‘Super Tuesday,’ he is favoured by 12.9 per cent nationally compared to Ted Cruz, and by 16.5 per cent over Marco Rubio.

Conventional wisdom would have it that Trump, the billionaire real estate magnate, would surely outspend the Republican field, to the detriment of democratic politicians. After all, we’re told that money buys politics, especially in the US.

The reality is that in eight months of campaigning Trump and his allied political action committees (known as PACs) have raised $27.3 million. This is tied with the relatively unknown John Kasich for the least amount of financial contributions to candidates in either party. To put this in perspective, consider that Cruz, Rubio, and their respective PACs have raised a combined $188.8 million, yet are in all likelihood just a few weeks away from losing the nomination to the controversial political amateur, Trump.

Furthermore, the Trump campaign and pro-Trump PACs have spent $25.5 million, which is the second least among the remaining candidates.

In Canada, we have also been told that money taints elections; however, election results have not shown this to be the case. In the 2015 federal election, the Conservatives had a fundraising advantage, and yet the Liberals won a majority.

If campaign financing is not the corruptor of all things democratic, how, then, should we understand its role in politics?

Campaign financing is a neutral and legitimate form of political expression, just like any other.

When it comes to advertising, there is merely a difference in degree, not in kind when comparing the running of a 30 second television commercial and, say, speaking into a microphone at an event. The only thing money decides is how many people hear the speaker.

Additionally, there is more than enough cash to go around so that no single candidate, party, or political ideology has an insurmountable advantage. For every Koch brother, there’s a George Soros. Small but enthusiastic donors can still prove formidable, as Bernie Sanders’ unlikely success has shown. His campaign has raised $96.3 million thus far, without the aid of a PAC.

Campaign spending is not a determinant to voter turnout either; in 2012, Mitt Romney outspent President Obama and won the white vote by 20 per cent, but Obama scored decisive victories among the black, Hispanic, and Asian votes, who together made up almost 28 per cent of the electorate, their largest share ever.

Finally, thanks to traditional grassroots activism and social media, those with limited funds can achieve national recognition without ever having to buy a billboard or television spot. Donald Trump has more followers and fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram than any of his competitors, and other than Bernie Sanders, he is the only candidate whose rallies can fill professional sports arenas.

The power of social media and on-the-ground organizing has also been demonstrated by the activist movement Black Lives Matter.

An election, after all, is a competition of ideas, and consequently we should ensure that more of them are shared.

Through sustained social media campaigns as well as protests, Black Lives Matter has managed to drive the conversation around criminal justice reform for over two years, with no signs of slowing down.

This is not to naïvely say that politics is free of corruption, or that money has no influence on our leaders. But if we want to clean up politics, perhaps we should look deeper into what happens after elections. This includes staying vigilant and redirecting our attention to when foreign interests make donations to a cabinet secretary’s private charity, when a justice minister’s husband works as a lobbyist, or when the banking industry and its federal regulator share a revolving door.

That is the kind of money in politics we should be vigilant of: the money that trades hands during governance, not during campaign season. A campaign, no matter how loud, ugly, or chaotic it gets, is still the heart of democracy. An election, after all, is a competition of ideas, and consequently we should ensure that more of them are shared.

Emmett Choi is a fifth-year student at Victoria College studying philosophy and American Studies. His column appears every three weeks.