For Ward 13, I’m with Walied Khogali Ali

In a frightening political climate, the progressive, community-based and charismatic leadership of the UTM alum provides hope for Toronto

For Ward 13, I’m with Walied Khogali Ali

It’s a warm and sunny Sunday mid-afternoon. The soca is bumping and the scents of beef and masala patties fill the air. Friends both old and new acquaint themselves through hugs and handshakes as the bustling chatter grows louder. We’ve all gathered in eager anticipation of the guest of honour: Walied Khogali Ali.

When Khogali arrives at the scene — the backyard of his campaign office on Carlton Street near Regent Park — he grabs hold of a microphone to address his supporters. My eyes scan the scene before me, registering both the sight of an impassioned man delivering a gracious, heartfelt rallying cry, as well as the hopeful, inspired, and attentive expressions plastered upon the faces of audience members.

In what feels more like a block party than anything political, I realize that Khogali’s campaign is the product of an entire community, here to celebrate and support a young man they’ve seen grow before their eyes.

The UTM alum has been working hard on his bid for City Council in Ward 13 Toronto Centre. Between Khogali’s optimism, gratitude, charisma, and vision, it is difficult not to rally behind this man with a plan for Toronto.

A record of social justice

Khogali is originally from Sudan and has been a fixture in Regent Park ever since he and his family settled in the community in 2005. As one of seven kids, he never misses the opportunity to gush about his family. His mom often accompanies him to functions, ensuring that energetic, young volunteers never leave the office with empty stomachs.

Khogali evidently has strong familial and community ties, which have informed a decorated record of service and leadership all centred around critical social justice and human rights issues in our city. He’s fearless in fighting back for those he cares about.

For instance, he co-founded the Coalition Against White Supremacy and Islamophobia, a cohort of some 170 organizations dedicated to anti-racism work. He’s been a leader in environmental justice and student movements, serving as president of the Toronto Environmental Alliance and Executive Director of the UTM Students’ Union. He also co-founded TTCriders, a transit advocacy group. And he has held key positions in the Toronto and York Regional Labour Council and the city’s Labour Community Services, and worked to support underserved Toronto communities with United Way.

Impressively, though he is a young politician, he’s not one to rest on his laurels. I can think of no better figure than Khogali who symbolizes the strength, resilience, and perseverance that Toronto desperately needs to weather a stormy political climate.

The reality of racism in Toronto politics

Khogali is a Black Muslim immigrant, perched at the intersections of insidious anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia that lurk in the underbelly of Toronto’s government and people — even among self-congratulatory ‘progressives.’

Indeed, currently elected officials — including Mayor John Tory and councillor Giorgio Mammoliti — have made questionable comments about young Black men, labelling them as “sewer rats,” “cockroaches,” and “thugs” in discussions regarding violence citywide and social housing tenancy in Jane and Finch. Such hateful rhetoric often gets swept under the rug.

However, what is perhaps even more dangerous about all this is that it also emboldens other, more opportunistic politicians to capitalize on a narrative of violence, perpetuating their own hateful rhetoric while dressing it up as an innovative solution or ‘safety’ initiative.

For instance, Toronto’s most infamous mayoral candidate is a white nationalist whose campaign to “Make Toronto Safe Again” revolves around the view that refugees and Muslims are threats.

It is difficult to imagine how pushing out some of Toronto’s most vulnerable, marginalized communities that are fleeing conflict and persecution would make the city safer. I urge fellow students and all Torontonians to consider sensationalist figures like the aforementioned a serious threat. These kinds of candidates are not standalone; they are woven into the fabric of even the province at large.

After all, Premier Doug Ford had initially declined to address the photos he has posed for with the aforementioned white nationalist. Recall that it was Ford himself who was going to attempt to override the Charter, all to arbitrarily reduce the size of Toronto’s city council just weeks before the election. This has seriously compromised the ability of newcomer candidates from racialized communities to enter municipal politics.

Investing in youth

It is clear that the politics around us is steeped in racism. Despite such a negative political climate in Toronto, I still hold out hope for a brighter future because of leaders like Khogali who symbolize resistance. I believe that he can keep these regressive politicians in check.

He has already publicly confronted Ford about the possible restoration of Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy — a “racist police division,” which was ineffective and known for its use of carding, the stopping and questioning of individuals when no particular offence is being investigated — at a Somali-Canadian forum earlier this year. Khogali shared that the program actually “traumatized” many racialized youth with whom he had spoken. Many other concerned audience members applauded the response.

Indeed, Khogali’s work as a mentor and role model for racialized, newcomer, and other marginalized youth from his own community are what all leaders should aspire to become. It provides an opportunity to challenge the dynamics in the status quo.

After all, the youth of this city have so many challenges to overcome. Between the threats of violence, the impossibility of home ownership in a skyrocketing real estate market, and questionable government cuts to essential programs, we need young leaders who are focused on making our youth confident in their futures and proud to call Toronto home.

We can see proof in the solutions that Khogali has proposed for issues that affect racialized youth. Rather than cut essential programs and beef up the police, as Ford desires, Khogali is focused on investment.

He wants to ensure that youth have options for postsecondary education, access to programs in which they can develop leadership skills and civic engagement, and opportunities for recreational programs to build life skills, like swimming. These positive changes would represent the first step toward a safer and more productive Toronto.

The stride to match the swagger

Khogali’s commitment to anti-racism, among many other reasons, is why he is the perfect choice for the council selection in Ward 13. The ward — including Regent Park, Cabbagetown, and St. James Town — has 19 candidates who are all vying to represent a population of around 100,000.

Unlike some others, though, Khogali is not a career politician — he’s a grassroots activist and organizer, who has tirelessly dedicated years of his life to community-led initiatives meant to affect change. He has no money to spend on YouTube ads, hundreds of lawn signs, or cash incentives for prospective voters. His campaign has been fuelled by the generous support of his community, which has come together to stand and fight alongside him.

Khogali stands out because of his progressive platform, which includes affordable housing and transit, commitment to poverty eradication through familial support and job creation, and inclusive and hate-free community building.

It is not built on empty promises. From implementing the province’s first U-Pass program in his UTM days to organizing a national day of action in February 2017 in response to Trump’s Muslim ban, he has a history of fighting for important causes.

For the youth, for the marginalized, and for the future — I’m with Walied Khogali Ali.

Jaime McLaughlin is a third-year History and Political Science student at University College.

Introducing comment reports

Introducing comment reports

This year, contributors are encouraged to make the best of both news reporting and opinion writing through the new subsection of comment reports. These are full-page, opinion feature pieces that provide an in-depth investigation into issues that matter for the U of T community. Not only can contributors cover original stories and conduct interviews, as reporters are expected to do, but they will offer a layer of analysis and slant that makes their bias clear to the reader. This year, you might see comment reports in a variety of forms, such as profiles of public figures, a breakdown of highly salient controversies, or a deep dive into a question that’s on everyone’s mind.

In this week’s section, you will see two comment report profiles on candidates in the Toronto municipal elections. While they are both young U of T alumni, their political trajectories could not be further: one is a progressive committed to anti-racism, who hopes to be a city councillor; the other is a fringe white nationalist candidate, who is running for mayor. Perhaps this is a stark reminder that, despite the formative years that we share at U of T together, the characters that we become may be radically divergent, to say the least.

The Faith Goldy effect

Uncovering the manipulative politics of the U of T alum who became the far-right, white nationalist Toronto mayoral candidate

The Faith Goldy effect

Faith Goldy is not your average U of T alum. In 2012, she received the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, which recognizes “graduating students for making outstanding contributions to improving the world around them and inspiring others to do the same.”

In March, a petition calling for her award to be rescinded was signed by scores of fellow recipients, claiming that her views are not representative of the university. This request was surprisingly denied by the U of T Alumni Association.

After all, in the six years since receiving the award, Goldy emerged as a white nationalist and online media personality. Today, she’s using that image to run for mayor of Toronto. It’s difficult to imagine how the views of a potential Mayor Goldy would honour the award’s call to “improve the world.”

Against all odds

Goldy’s core public views are unambiguously hateful. She promotes protecting the white majority, ending a so-called “white genocide,” and closing Canada’s borders. She has also uttered the Fourteen Words, a white supremacist creed about protecting the white majority.

Her views are so extreme that even the controversial Rebel Media, for which she worked as a correspondent, let her go following her attendance at the violent Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and her subsequent interview on a neo-Nazi affiliated podcast.

The passion that fuels Goldy’s mayoral campaign has mobilized Toronto’s far right. Indeed, her fanbase has grown during her campaign, particularly in the online world, with thousands of devoted admirers retweeting and regurgitating her messages. However, she is overwhelmingly dismissed as a fringe candidate by mainstream Toronto media and politicians, polling very weakly throughout the campaign. It’s plausible that much of her support online comes from people living outside of Toronto. Whatever the case, this contradiction puzzled me, and I set out to explore it.

The person and the persona

Having researched her online extensively, I reached out to Goldy directly for an interview. I was nervous to meet her. When she finally arrived at our decided location, Robarts Library, she drew stares. She shook my hand and her face was engulfed with a bright smile. Her energy was infectious, and I could immediately feel myself being pulled in.

She spoke of how her grandfather was a carpenter who worked on the steps of Robarts and about the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. We chatted about its history, and she complimented my knowledge. She has charisma and charm, and she expertly dodged every question that addressed her more extreme views. She was polite, engaged, and moderate in all her responses.

Following the meeting, I felt very conflicted — feeling that I had been bamboozled in some way. I returned to her online feed and scrolled through her Reddit Ask Me Anything to discover her new Islamophobic messages. Other journalists have experienced this very same chicanery from Goldy and other far-right figures.

Her online presence leads down a dark rabbit hole. From seemingly harmless videos about conservative values to tweets about an ethnic genocide of white people, Goldy’s messages are filled with coded language that appeals to loyal, more integrated members of the far-right and white nationalist community.

The contradiction between the considerate person at Robarts and the racist, online persona who spews messages implying that nothing is stronger than ethnic bonds seemed like two different identities. It became clearer that the growing popularity of figures like Goldy relies on a charisma that makes hatred palatable.

Normalizing extremeness

Goldy claimed that her interactions with the public are mostly very positive. She campaigns at subway stops and shares her message by pounding the pavement and knocking on doors. Goldy knows her audience. On one hand, she presents common sense ideas like fixing Toronto’s roads, working toward affordable housing, and creating new architectural standards for city buildings.

On the other hand, she makes the sensationalist call to evacuate all “illegal immigrants” to Justin Trudeau’s official residence. She proposes to reinstate the controversial Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, which allows police to investigate anyone whom they feel is suspicious and which has a history of targeting racialized youth. She also wields Islamophobia as a powerful tool, calling for a “Special Research Desk on Islamic Extremism” to “monitor finances in and out of Toronto Islamic centres.” These policies target marginalized communities and not individuals guilty of a crime.

This is strategic. Goldy’s target audience is the ‘Joe Six-pack,’ the average blue-collar white male in Toronto, and she works to make them believe that they are disadvantaged in this city — which they are not. Her use of fear is a consistent tactic throughout her campaign, using “make Toronto safe again” to evoke a sense of purpose and paranoia in her fanbase. She wants voters to think that she is the only candidate with the will to protect them. Thus, she needs to present enemies to protect them from.

While she knows when to stoke the flames, she also knows when to veil her views as non-threateningly conservative. Goldy’s slogan, “Tough on Crime, Easy on Taxpayers,” could appeal to any Torontonian. She argues that everyone in the city wants money back in their pocket. By mixing legitimate policies into her platform, she aims to normalize her candidacy and, by extension, her extremist, racist rhetoric.

This ostensibly makes it possible to explain away being her supporter without being discredited as a white nationalist. Goldy’s auxiliary promises to fix roads and host tailgating parties are her Trojan horse, allowing her to wheel into the minds of moderates without setting off major alarms. This is not very original: far-right movements elsewhere, such as US President Donald Trump’s, have succeeded by this very careful mix of legitimate and extreme policies.

Resorting to the ‘free speech’ argument

When far-right figures like Goldy face criticism, opposition, and de-platforming because of their oppressive views, they are quick to deflect the conversation from the content of their speech to the freedom of their speech. The discussion changes from the underlying racism of their views — a debate they would not be able to win — to one about an abstract right to speak their mind.

Consider the blackout of Goldy’s campaign by mainstream politics. She has not been invited to the mayoral debates; Mayor John Tory has refused to debate her; and, following deserved pressure from the opposition at Queen’s Park, but after posing in a photo with her, Premier Doug Ford condemned Goldy’s views.

Goldy, like many other far-right figures, is a master of self-victimization. When she is shut down and excluded from the news cycle, she portrays herself as a martyr of political correctness — and her followers agree. She tweeted recently that three of her top Twitter supporters had their accounts suspended by the platform. According to Goldy, the evil ‘alt-left’ are the real oppressors and authoritarians, not her. This effectively confuses oppressor and victim.

She even stormed the stage of an arts debate, flashing a petition with 5,000 signatures calling to let her debate. She later berated the moderator, calling her a “leprechaun troll.” She was reportedly not invited because she did not meet the qualifications, which required her to fill out the candidate’s survey and provide an arts policy. Yet she still filed this experience away in her long narrative of perceived censorship.

Goldy is also turning the rejection of her radio ads by Bell Media into a courtroom circus, arguing that her rights are being infringed upon — taking the onus off of the content of her character and instead villainizing her opponents.

I understand why mainstream politicians and media are refusing to engage with Goldy. However, as her self-victimization comes from a place of privilege and her continued ‘censorship’ only invigorates her fan base, silencing the far right has never felt like more of a bandaid tactic.

A forbidden message has power and allure. She has said, “The more they try to silence us, the more people are starting to pay attention.” For once, I have to say that I agree with her. Silencing Goldy only empowers and reassures her followers that there truly is an assault on free speech in this country.

Her supporters band together across her social media, calling for the downfall of the mainstream media and “fellowship” among Toronto’s “political elite.” This anti-establishment rhetoric is becoming more and more familiar with the infusion of unabashed far-right figures clawing their way into the mainstream consciousness.

Confronting the far-right on campus

U of T has a comprehensive free speech policy, acknowledging that debate and freedom of speech are key in the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge. The university also explains that “every member should be able to work, live, teach and learn in a University free from discrimination.” It is within these seemingly contrasting principles that we are left to find the balance.

When Goldy was invited to speak at Wilfrid Laurier University, a student activist pulled the fire alarm. No professors from the university had agreed to debate her. Despite Goldy’s talk ending before it began, she has not been deterred whatsoever. During our interview, she expressed her plans to return to Laurier and finally give her presentation.

I understand why students would want to preserve safe spaces and protect each other from hateful rhetoric. However, by silencing Goldy, we seem to be pumping her campaign with fuel.

The way to challenge far-right figures like Goldy is not to provide them with free rein to deliver long speeches and present their views as fact, which almost occurred at Laurier. Rather, they must be challenged and debated in controlled forums with fact-checking and knowledgeable opponents — ideally professors. This would not only easily reveal the baselessness of their arguments, but also revoke their ability to brand themselves as martyrs and their experience as censorship.

On October 22, Toronto will have its say at the polling stations, and I am confident that Goldy has no chance of victory. However, by silencing figures like Goldy or pretending like they don’t exist, we allow them to continue to assemble underground — unchallenged. I fear that in time, they will only become more united and, as we’ve seen south of the border, real political contenders.

Anastasia Pitcher is a second-year Biodiversity and Conservation Biology and Genome Biology student at New College.

Waging war

Ford’s drive to repeal Bill 148 is an assault on fair pay and work practices for Ontario workers, including students

Waging war

On October 2, Premier Doug Ford took to the floor of Queen’s Park to make an announcement: “We’re going to make sure we tell the world Ontario is open for business,” and in order to make the province “competitive around the world,” it is time to get rid of Bill 148. This decision is a massive coup by greedy employers and a blow to the rights of Ontario’s workers, including students.

Bill 148, also known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, was passed in November 2017 by the recently ousted Liberal government. Notably, it increased the minimum wage in Ontario to $14 per hour — with a further increase to $15 per hour set for January 2019.

The act established an ‘equal pay for equal work’ clause, by which part-time employees performing the same tasks as full-time employees would be paid the same wage. It also standardized the potential of a full 10 days of leave a year, whereas previously, some workplaces had no obligation to give their employees any leave. Finally, it gave workers the right to refuse last-minute shift changes without the risk of being fired.

The law is summarized on the Ontario government’s website: “Many workers struggle to support their families on part-time, contract or minimum-wage work, and many more don’t have access to time off due to illness.” It is specifically geared toward punishing predatory employers who exploit gaps in existing legislation and changes in the job market.

Students often take up part-time employment during the semester to pay their bills. Those who work in industries like retail and services — as a customer sales representative or barista, for example — stand to lose the most from the act being repealed.

Chris Buckley, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, explained that Bill 148 addressed “shamefully outdated labour and employment laws.” For example, before the introduction of Bill 148, workplaces with under 50 employees were able to refuse giving sick leave. They could also label some part-time employees as ‘independent contractors,’ exempting them from being paid as much as full-time employees.

The push for repeal has been led in part by the Retail Council of Canada (RCC). In a letter dated September 24, it argued that Bill 148 had directly led to the loss of over 46,000 jobs in Ontario’s retail and wholesale sector, with the biggest factor being the increase in the minimum wage from $11.40 to $14, forcing layoffs and increasing prices of goods.

The RCC has grossly mischaracterized this loss. The Ontario labour market has gained almost 83,000 jobs in the public sector since September 2017, despite a sharp decline in January this year. The retail industry lost only 14,500 jobs, of which over 5,000 came from the shuttering of retail giant Sears.

The RCC also said that the use of the two new days of paid leave is disproportionately higher than unpaid leave and thus shows that employees are misusing them. Its position is that, rather than amending the bill to address their concerns, the province should just start over with a repeal.

According to the RCC, worker’s rights were implemented too quickly, and the minimum wage was raised too fast for businesses to cope — a convenient stance that would let employers continue underpaying workers while stonewalling any meaningful replacement legislation.

It’s not just retail; the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released a statement on August 30 with a quote from its president and CEO, Rocco Rossi: “Premier Ford pledged to make Ontario ‘Open for Business’… this begins with the reversal of Bill 148.” The OCC released its statement within a day of the Ford government’s meeting with top Canadian banks.

This was no coincidence. By opening himself up to the advice of ‘experts,’ Ford was inviting big business interests and lobbying. While the Ford government has yet to introduce legislation to repeal Bill 148, it seems that the move to repeal it is almost a foregone conclusion.

The arguments for repealing this act are misleading. Part-time employment takes a natural dip in the summer. Before the implementation of two paid sick days with Bill 148, sick leave was rarely taken because employees could not afford to miss work, even for the benefit of their own health. The province is labelling this as a victory for Ontario’s economy, when it disenfranchises workers who were already being treated cynically by service and retail industries.

Ford’s eagerness to accept lobbyists into Queen’s Park betrays how willing he is to deal with moneyed interests in even the early stages of his premiership. Furthermore, aiming to repeal Bill 148 shows his disregard for poverty-stricken and student workers and how the province is clueless, or at least willfully ignorant, about the state of Toronto’s job market.

The introduction of Bill 148 was a step toward fairer work practices in a province lagging behind in terms of workers’ rights. If Ford repeals the bill, the employees of Ontario will know that he does not have all of their best interests in mind.

William Cuddy is a fifth-year Political Science and History student at Victoria College.

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

Young voters are least likely to vote but have the highest stake in our political future

On October 22, let’s change the millennial voter turnout

As millennials have demographically surpassed the baby boomers, young people have the most political power of any other voting bloc for the first time. And according to Elections Canada, their participation is improving. About 57.1 per cent of those eligible to vote aged 18 to 24 took the time to do so for the 2015 general election, up from 38.8 per cent in 2011.

However, compare that to the 78.8 per cent of voters aged 65 to 74 who came out to the polls in 2015, and Canada’s youngest voters appear to be the least interested in engaging in the democratic process. Young people’s interests are effectively underrepresented in the dominant political discourse. This is most clearly reflected in the direction that current provincial policy is taking.

According to the Canadian Millennials Report conducted by Abacus Data, young people are more comfortable with interventionist government action, believing that corporations should pay more taxes and that the government should be more responsible for redistributing wealth. In general, they prioritize spending over balancing the budget in order to alleviate systemic issues like income inequality, and are skeptical of free market fundamentalism.

When asked to choose, 54 per cent suggest that Canada would benefit from a more socialist system. These views are quite inconsistent with the fiscal conservatism touted by the current provincial government.

Perhaps youth voter turnout is relatively low because millennials feel like they have less of a stake in today’s society. Today, people get married, have children, and buy homes much later on in their lives, if they choose to at all.

According to the 2016 Census, millennials aged 20 to 34 are less likely to be homeowners and more likely to still live with their parents, compared to baby boomers in 1981. By comparison, older homeowners and parents may be more concerned with political affairs because of policies that directly affect them, such as property taxes and child care.

Additionally, the transient lifestyles of some millennials may also lead to lower voter turnout, as proof of their current residential address is required to vote. Since people are settling down later on in life, a growing number of people have relatively temporary addresses.

For example, when I was living in residence during my first year at U of T, I assumed that I would not be able to vote in my first election because I did not have any mail to use as my proof of current address. I could have voted in my parent’s ward, where my mail was sent, but that was far away and inconvenient.

I later discovered that if you do not have a permanent residential address, your building administrator can fill out a form called a Certificate of Identity and Residence that will suffice in getting you a ballot, in lieu of mailed documents.  On quite short notice, I was happy to vote in my first ever election after a quick visit to my registrar. Now, the myvote.toronto.ca website makes it simpler to find out what ward you live in, who is running in your ward, and what identification is needed to cast a ballot.

The municipal elections are taking place on October 22, and millennials deserve to have their voices heard and more of a say in the policies shaping our incredible and unique city. An uptick in voter turnout during the last general election shows that young adults are starting to pay more attention to politics.

This may be because stakes are perceived to be higher in today’s political climate. With a culture war quietly raging in the south and populism trickling into Canadian politics, the climate crisis becoming ever more apparent with increasingly intense extreme weather events, and the economy being never too far away from a recession, young people may become more motivated to participate in the democratic process. And so they should be.

We are the ones that will have to deal with the increasingly concerning impacts of climate change, globalization, and neoliberalism. We are the ones that will be affected for decades to come by the short-sighted and unsustainable decisions of antiquated policymakers today. We are the least likely to vote. But the ones that need to vote the most are us.

Madeleine Kelly is a fifth-year Ethics, Society, and Law and Environmental Studies student at New College.

Opinion: How Ontario can overcome its expected weed shortage

Rigid rules, lagging licensing may hinder legal Toronto toking

Opinion: How Ontario can overcome its expected weed shortage

With cannabis legalization set for October 17, Ontarians over the age of 19 will soon be able to purchase cannabis online for recreational use through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS). However, you’ll want to submit your order early, because industry leaders and researchers alike are predicting that a product shortage will occur within the first year following legalization. 

Health Canada’s most recent estimations place demand for recreational cannabis at upward of 900,000 kilograms, but according to a recent report co-authored by the University of Waterloo and the CD Howe Institute, supply will only total 210,000 kilograms — 23 per cent of demand. 

Based on the total annual production capacity of the 13 cannabis cultivator companies listed on the Canadian Marijuana Index, that amount is closer to 230,000 kilograms, and that’s assuming each company will yield their maximum estimated outputs. The discrepancy between these output projections is negligible, and, regardless, comes far short of the predicted demand. However, each company has considerable expansion plans that should greatly increase its production capacities over the next couple of years, and the government expects supply to eventually overtake demand. 

To remedy the expected shortage, the average consumer is then expected to continue procuring recreational cannabis on the black market, meaning that the government will have objectively failed its mission of snuffing out illegal producers and distributors with legalization. However, there are a few ways in which the province could curtail the severity of the shortage.

In order to help meet the demand, industry leaders argue that Health Canada should streamline the process of licensing producers. The current application process is complicated and arduous — over half of all applications for medical cannabis licences have been returned as incomplete — and its slow rate of licensing producers has been identified as the main culprit behind the supply shortage. 

Health Canada should also approve the sale and regulation of edibles and cannabis derivatives. The province has heretofore stalled the regulation of these forms of cannabis post-legalization, citing a lack of data regarding how cannabis impacts human health when ingested. Critics including MP Don Davies have said that no more meaningful data is expected to arise in the next year, and it’s commonly understood that edibles likely have less of a negative health impact than cannabis smoke. Expediting the approval of edibles and derivatives would effectively help fill the demand, as they are estimated to account for 50 per cent of the total dollar value of pot sales once legalized. 

Another option is amending the Cannabis Act, which bans the import of cannabis for recreational purposes, but not for medicinal purposes. Theoretically, to circumvent a shortage, the sector could devote all domestic cannabis production to recreational products, while exclusively importing all cannabis products and derivatives that are intended for medicinal purposes. This would require a massive systemic shift that may not be feasible on short notice.

Alternatively, the province could move forward with implementing a private retail model and allow the import of cannabis products that are produced by Canadian companies in other countries. While importing recreational cannabis products is banned under the Cannabis Act, licensed Canadian producers could argue that they are simply outsourcing the production of cannabis, as opposed to engaging in trade with international companies. 

However, this raises the question of how a larger industry trend toward outsourcing may affect the economic integrity of smaller domestic producers, and whether or not it defeats the purpose of the domestic production clause. 

The news of a forthcoming legal cannabis shortage may not be too concerning for the average Torontonian toker, as the prevalence of privately-owned dispensaries has made recreational cannabis relatively accessible. Last month, legislation was tabled to move forward with a private retail model by April 1, 2019, but what will happen to your friendly local dispensary in the meantime? Toronto has a robust community of cannabis dispensaries, most of which presumably intend to continue operating business-as-usual post-legalization, so the average Toronto consumer won’t immediately feel the effects of a legal shortage. 

Legalization definitively signifies the illegality of existing dispensaries, which have thus far arguably operated within a legal grey area. With the Toronto Police Department’s documented vendetta against local cannabis dispensaries, legalization may herald the beginning of a string of police raids, reminiscent of Project Claudia in the wake of Prime Minister Trudeau’s election. 

We won’t know how the market will play out for another year. Until then, consumers shouldn’t concern themselves over a potential pot-pocalypse and can continue to support small cannabis businesses while the government sorts itself out. 

To improve campus culture, let’s consider cannabis education

Marijuana legalization provides an opportunity for U of T to address substance abuse, racism, and sexual violence

To improve campus culture, let’s consider cannabis education

The upcoming legalization of cannabis is not only a concern for government and law. It is also an important cultural opportunity for universities to destigmatize drug use, provide drug education across campuses, and address the broken parts of campus culture.

Heather Kelly, U of T’s Senior Director of Student Success, has said that while the university plans to apply existing rules for alcohol and tobacco to cannabis, “we want [students] to know what to do if they find themselves or a friend in trouble” and “how to recognize signs that somebody may need assistance.” Educating students on safer substance use is vital, but where and how this education will take place remains unclear.

Acknowledging student drug use at U of T is long overdue. Even before legalization, 28 per cent of U of T students reported using marijuana last year. Now that it is no longer an illegal substance, it is imperative that we distinguish use from abuse.

For instance, students may turn to cannabis to self-medicate their mental health issues instead of seeking professional help. A 2017 study found that teenagers across Canada are using cannabis to self-medicate for stress and anxiety. As cannabis becomes more readily accessible, the university administration needs to educate students on how to maintain a healthy relationship with the substance.

Cannabis education requires confronting a university culture that normalizes binge-drinking and unhealthy substance use. However, university administrations should not attempt to counteract this culture with zero-tolerance policies. Instead, they should accept that their students drink and use drugs and focus on helping students stay safe.

Canadian Public Health Association Executive Director Ian Culbert said that “experimentation is a natural part of growing up” and that university administrations and student associations should therefore adopt “a very proactive approach at getting education materials out to all of the students.”

Yet it is necessary to acknowledge that not everyone has been allowed to experiment without repercussions. Although research demonstrates that the rate of cannabis use is similar across different racial groups, a 2017 Toronto Star investigation found that in Toronto, Black people with no criminal record were three times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people who also have no record.

A subsequent investigation found that across Canada, Black and Indigenous peoples were disproportionately arrested for possession. Cannabis legalization may help put an end to this injustice going forward, but many argue that Canada should go further and pardon all Canadians with records of cannabis possession.

U of T assistant sociology professor and Director of Research at Cannabis Amnesty Akwasi Owusu-Bempah is among those calling on the federal government to instate a blanket pardon. Owusu-Bempah told the CBC that, because cannabis prohibition has disproportionately impacted marginalized communities, “amnesty is important to level the playing field.”

Just as amnesty should accompany cannabis legalization, an anti-racism approach is central to meaningful cannabis education. Historically, governments have justified the criminalization of drug use through associations with racialized communities. Destigmatization is therefore not only about challenging misconceptions surrounding the actual use of drugs, but also the racial underpinnings that have long justified those misconceptions.

Furthermore, cannabis education must involve discussions of consent. U of T can use this opportunity to challenge the idea that women are to blame for sexual violence. Discussions of safe alcohol consumption often place the onus on women to protect themselves from sexual assault by refraining from consuming alcohol. A new dialogue around substance use and consent is necessary, because simply telling women not to drink or do drugs will not stop sexual violence.

As a Vice article points out, the relationship between cannabis use and sexual consent is a topic that is largely ignored. Where it is discussed, it is often oversimplified. A Psychology Today article notes that while “the combination of sex and alcohol greatly increases women’s risk of sexual assault… marijuana has never been shown to increase” this risk.

Statements like these are typical of society’s tendency to blame sexual violence on substances over perpetrators. Confronting this through consent education can help reduce sexual violence on campus and create a culture where perpetrators are actually held accountable.

Students and administration can work together to make this education a reality. The Sheffield Students’ Union in the UK provides its students with information on safer practices when using illegal drugs, providing a model for U of T or the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) to follow.

Student networks like the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy work to empower students with information on safer drug use, and a chapter of the organization exists at U of T. The university administration could also implement an online training module on safer substance use, like the current module on sexual education and violence prevention.

The administration and the UTSU should use their platforms to provide students with information on safe practices when it comes to the use of cannabis and other drugs and training on how these substances can affect a person’s ability to consent. The university community should also acknowledge the uneven damages left by the criminalization of cannabis on students, and reflect on how to repair these damages moving forward, including supporting calls for cannabis amnesty.

Cannabis legalization marks an important cultural shift as drug use is increasingly seen as a matter of public health rather than a moral or criminal issue. However, this shift is only possible if powerful institutions, including universities, choose education over stigmatization.

Amelia Eaton is a second-year Political Science and Ethics, Society and Law student at Woodsworth College. She is The Varsity’s Student Life Columnist.

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.