Monday, December 15, 2008

Decembuary Issue On Stands in T-23h

For everyone on campus who is fed up with exams, the December/January issue of the RFP will be on stands tomorrow afternoon! That's right, you'll be able to bring it home for the holidays and read every page of our 40-page monster issue.

If you're interested in contributing, there will be a writers meeting in the new year. Or, contact

Happy reading!!

Monday, December 8, 2008

“Don’t worry, be happy” decrees Lakehead student union president

Lakehead student union president Richard Longtin, defied reason recently with his decree that clubs and campaigns “must be positive in nature.”

His decree reads:

“Campaigns must be positive in nature and cannot slander the opposing stance of the campaign.”
“All club publications shall not have content that may be deemed as offensive or in bad taste to any identifiable group.”
“Members of the club are not allowed to impose belief(s) or practice(s) of the club to anyone who does not give them consent to outside of the club’s meetings.”
In addition, the National Post reports that Longtin interprets the motion as going further, believing that it should prevent students from approaching others with information or campaign material.

As reported in the National Post, Longtin justified the move like this: “For example, he said the campus NDP club could put literature about why the NDP is the best political party without disparaging the Liberals or Conservatives. There is no point, he said, for one party to attack another.”

Given the current call for unity among the NDP and Liberals, it’s unlikely that they’ll be attacking each other. On the other hand, as a known campus Conservative himself, Longtin may be trying to use his role as president to quell concerns about the Conservative’s move to suspend Parliament in order to avoid a confidence vote that they were poised to lose.

Whatever the motivation, his attempts to lull the campus into a Prozac state of positivity undermines the basic mandate of post-secondary education.

A solution to undoing this may be to show that Longtin’s decree is out of order by testing it against some of LUSU’s pre-existing “negative” bylaws, like presidential impeachment.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Will you be a lousy scab/Or will you be a man?" This past semester: a semester of strikes

The academic year of 2008-09 could very well turn out to be the ‘Year of the Strike.” At the University of Windsor, the faculty association was on strike for the first few weeks of the school year. Over the last several weeks, contract staff at York have been on strike, which has effectively shut down the university, with the exception of the Law school and the Business school which have recently reopened.

Labour issues for the year will probably not stop here. Labour unions at Carleton, the University of Toronto and Guelph are all calling for reasonable improvements: fair wages, job security and for some, a common expiry date of collective agreements. Each of these situations could result in strike.

At York, rather than hearing out the union’s representatives, the administration immediately called for binding arbitration. This is approach is not only expensive, but is usually reserved to be a last resort after negotiations break down.

And, rather than support the striking workers, many of whom are students, the local student newspaper the Excalibur has decided to take aim at the local student representatives and the union. Instead of focusing on students’ reaction to the strike, the Excalibur uses the strike as a back-drop to attack York Federation of Students President Hamid Osman.

While going after progressive student union representatives might make for a juicier story, the Excalibur is effectively siding with the administration. In this game, it’s students and staff who suffer. Why waste time trying to sew divisions among the student body? Instead the Excalibur should be calling for the administration to negotiate a fair contract and the strike can end.

It is a disservice of the Excalibur to ignore the core issues. The chronic underfunding of colleges and universities has lead to the labour strife across the sector. But somehow media generally has left this untouched. Nowhere is there any analysis or even mention of these problems. It’s no wonder that CUPE Ontario has been steadily working toward coordinated bargaining.

Not only has the student media let students down, but so too have so-called student “leaders” like Trevor Mayoh from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (which represents none of the students’ unions at York, or anywhere near York). Recently he declared that CUPE’s goal of coordinating the expiration of collective agreements across the sector would give staff too much power, so much that he told Elizabeth Church at the Globe and Mail that he wouldn’t feel comfortable.

University administrators pretty much have a monopoly on power at our colleges and universities. To think that giving some of that power to any other stakeholder at an institution would be somehow dangerous is absurd.

The media and regressive student 'leaders' need to take a step back and re-evaluate what this struggle is really about.

Students and workers would do much better to have a greater say in the affairs of their institution. They would also have a much better chance of being heard if all contract staff at every institution could threaten to shut down the sector if their demands are ignored.

Contract staff spend time in classrooms with students. Administrators do not. Contract staff often have no guarantee of employment, are paid menial wages, and fulfill the mandate of an institution on a very basic level. Most administrators are paid well-over $100,000 a year, have great contracts and, even if fired, have a severance packages that would make the average person drool.

People who choose to teach and who choose to not climb an administrative ladder are important and special to the students they teach. All students, all elected student officials AND the campus press need to step back and see the real battle here. The Ryerson Free Press knows which side it’s on, which side are you on?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

RSU: Three Ring Circus

The on-going divisiveness of a slim majority of RSU directors is leading to some of the most outrageous times ever experienced by the RSU. Once a proud and strong student advocate and service provider, recent antics of directors is enough to lose faith of the average student and the RSU is dangerously close to alienating the students it represents.

Some examples:

First, the annual budget process was stalled by four months. Eventually, a budget was rammed through, but it failed to reflect the RSU’s actual financial location. For example, the new budget cut the Anti-War campaign line item to zero. However, at that point, the RSU had already used financial resources on anti-war campaigns as per its back-up budget, (last year’s budget).

The list of problems with the budget continues, despite being moved by a business faculty director (Chandan Sharma) and supported by other business faculty directors. It should certainly be the hope that this isn’t the kind of fiscal prudence being taught at the Ryerson business school. Indeed, the problem is likely acute, resting with the bull-headed Ryevolutionaires at the board.

A second example is the debacle at the Senate meeting, which has already been written about. You can find it here.

Third, Abdul Snobar served a motion this week to sign a year-long contract with Gallivan and Associates (G&A), the broker for the RSU’s health and dental plan. G&A is most notable for having sued the RSU a few years back, and hiking its rates by almost $100 in only four years. G&A has steered RSU’s plan to be the most expensive in Toronto. Rather taking the financially prudent approach tendering the plan, Snobar’s motion sought to skip right to re-signing with G&A before taking other bids. Stopping the tendering process for an insurance plan makes about as much sense as buying the first used car that you’re offered at the first lot you find.

The most recent evidence of the RSU's decent into the absurd happened on Wednesday night. Ryvolutionary board members moved to install a new chair—Snobar’s brother, former business student and failed RSU presidential candidate Abe. Somehow, the Snobars thought they could side-step Abe Snobar’s defeat during last year’s elections and sneak him in the back door as board chair.

Moreover, any attempt to appear impartial—as a chair must be during a decision-making meeting—was thrown out the window when Abe was caught overtly organizing with his brother and other Ryevolution directors to get himself installed. The motion to install the senior Snobar as Chair failed, so as per the bylaws, the job fell to his election adversary, current RSU President Muhammad Ali Jabbar.

After all this excitement, what's next for the RSU board of directors? Surely exams and less frustrating activities must be taking over aspects of board members' lives.

The Ryerson Free Press’ November edition will be on the stands next week. You'll be able to read about all of the above in more detail among the pages of the paper. Until then, if you're a concerned student, you should email the board of directors ( and tell them to stop this fraternal block from confusing and stalling the business of the RSU any further.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Judge Harry LaForme resigns from Truth and Reconciliation Commission

It was reported today that Justice Harry LaForme has resigned as Chief Commissioner of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission. LaForme cited conflict with government appointed commissioners as his reason for the resignation.

The federal government launched the Commission the same month that it apologized for its complicity in the genocidal policy. It was launched as part of a solution to a court-ordered settlement to settle outstanding legal claims brought against the federal government and churches for abuses from within the schools.

Harry LaForme is a member of the Mississaugas of New Credit First Nation, the Nation that has claim over most of the City of Toronto, including Ryerson University. He is also a judge with the Ontario Superior Court of Appeal.

The Commission was supposed to be a forum where victims can heal from the abuse they endured while at residential schools. The intention of the commission was not to lay blame upon any individuals or institutions and, unsurprisingly, it has been widely criticized.

One of the criticisms leveled against the Commission was triggered by the appointment of lawyer Owen Young to the Commission. Earlier this year, Young urged a judge to impose a "financial penalty that hurts," against the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug 6 (the KI6) for protecting their traditional lands from Platinex Corp., a platinum mining company. As reported by the Globe and Mail, Young was the Crown prosecutor in the case.

There were also calls for the Commission to be independent. Rather than independence, however, the Commission reports to the Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl. This is a position of power, as defined by the Indian Act, that today remains a paternal figure who can exercise control over First Nations peoples in a variety of ways through the Act.

The root of the problem is simply the Indian Act. It was the piece of legislation that first allowed residential schools to be established (the jurisdiction to set up residential schools still exists today).

The Act has within it a formula that will essentially reduce the number of status Indians as generations pass and people marry with non-status people, a clever assimilation policy to say the least. It also places a myriad of restrictions upon status Indians that Canadians do not have to contend with (and would likely riot over had they these restrictions imposed upon them).

Until the Indian Act is repealed and self-government is recognized in a real way, no amount of apologies, commissions or government [in]action is going to address the hurt inflicted by colonization.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

White Culture Club again rears its ugly head, this time it's 'Ryevolutionary'

On Tuesday night, Ryerson's Senate met as it normally does, to discuss the various aspects of running a University.

And, as they normally do, the two students' unions served a motion calling for academic amnesty on the province-wide Day of Action to Drop Fees.

Ryerson's administrators, not ones to make waves, usually pass these motions and encourage students to get involved. They're also not ones to stand out. So it's unsurprising that they passed the motion considering that similar motions of support have already been passed at the University of Ottawa, Queen's University and York University.

The motion was served by Rebecca Rose from RSU and Tania Hassan from CESAR. It called on the Senate to strongly urge professors to allow students to be away from class should they choose to participate in the Day of Action.

In an all too typical example of how right-wing student representatives operate, Natasha Williams, a member of last year's 'Ryevolution' election block, spoke against the motion. She's likely best known for her work with the ryevolutionary Ryerson Commerce Society

Williams argued against the motion, suggesting that students who want the day off should write letters MPPs about tuition fees rather than taking a day off to demonstrate. In effect, she called for the academic punishment of all students who participate in the Day of Action. What a student representative!

While known for her work with the RCS, Williams is lesser known for her support of a White Culture Club at Ryerson, where white students could gather and discuss issues of common cause. Of course, this notion is offensive and lacks any historical, anti-racism, anti-oppression or even societal analysis.

When the 'White Culture' debate gripped the RSU two years ago, most of the activity was online. And, as is known by most who use the Internet, online posts can be forever. In Williams' case, her words remain there:

"I have a HUGE issue with someone who says there is no such thing as white culture. How dare you, that is no different to saying there is no Black culture or no Asian Culture. White culture isn't simply north American culture. I posted on another groups board saying that for example Classical European Music (and I'm speaking of for example Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven etc.) is white culture, but is definatly not north american culture, because these composers were from europe. Ballet is also white culture, and that definatly didn't originate in north america either."
How representative. How Ryevolutionary. How offensive.

Williams may have been the only student to speak against the motion for academic amnesty, but a large majority of her fellow Ryevolutionaries voted with her. These included: Shakera Martin, Darius Sookram, Merit Abadir, Ken Chadha, Paul Yoon and Melissa Piacente (former staffer at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and Ryerson Commerce Society executive member).

Most revealing about this vote is the fact that these people appeared to vastly misrepresent themselves during the election by running on a platform calling for tuition fee reductions and even outright elimination. It appears after talking the talk, they aren’t walking the walk.

Not that Williams' racist and offensive comments are representative of a group of students who purport to be representative of Ryerson's diverse members, students should be concerned with anyone who makes an alliance like this just to be able to gain power.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Will Dion give Ken Dryden the boot?

As many of our readers know, the Ryerson Free Press is monitoring certain aspects of the election that are not always on the mainstream media’s radar, such as post-secondary education and the war in Afghanistan. These issues are nevertheless critical to Canadians.

Most recently is the news of Ken Dryden, Liberal candidate for York Centre, who caught the attention of some when he called for the collective punishment of Palestinian people in Gaza. At an address on September 24 at Beth Emeth synagogue, Dryden was reported to state the following: "Stop all aid that flows into Gaza. While that may seem a harsh measure that will hurt Palestinian civilians… it is the right thing to do at this time."

The Liberals have gotten off pretty easy during this election campaign for their history of supporting Canada's war effort. During this election they have painted themselves as a peace-loving party, exemplified by their support for American war resistors and commitment to end Canada’s role in Afghanistan by 2011

However, the Liberals are just as culpable for Omar Khadr's arrest and seven-year detention at Guantanamo Bay as are the Conservatives. They could have toppled the Conservative government on any number of votes, including the budget where billions of dollars was earmarked for military expansion, but instead they let it quietly pass

Sins of omission are often worse than sins of commission
. But that's not the case for Dryden. His words about cutting aid to Gaza were loud and clear.

With the exception of a short piece from John Turley-Ewart, Associate Editor of the Financial Post, most of the major media outlets seemed to miss the comments made by Ken Dryden. As Turley-Ewart points out, there appears to be a vast gulf between the media’s treatment of those who promote intolerance and those who promote Islamophobia.

Dion has already fired one candidate for her volatile comments pertaining to the Jewish community. The question now is will he follow his own example and consult with the Arab community about this latest infraction committed by another one of his candidates?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

No One Is Illegal-Pictures from today's rally

Today, there was a rally organised by No One Is Illegal calling on the federal government to stop the deportation of Isabel Garcia, a woman who left Mexico to flee domestic violence.

The RFP went to press today, but during that fury, we managed to get pictures from the rally.

Click here for more information about today's rally. Also, keep watching the RFP's website for a story about Garcia from June.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stephen Harper: FAIL

For many students, failing a course is a fate worse than any other while at school. Within this realm, there are two kinds of failure: failure due to lack of understanding and failure due to cheating.

In many ways, it is failure by cheating that is worse. Those who do it don't think they'll be caught and are able to enjoy the lull between cheating and getting caught.

Cheating is an especially timely issue for students at Ryerson having just witnessed the largest story on cheating and plagiarism last year in Canada.

However, this is probably not what folks at the Canadian Federation of Students were thinking when they developed their party platform report card, released today. They were judging platforms issue by issue, not based on plagiarism. As such, the F earned by the Conservatives was because of performance on tuition fee policy, not plagiarism.

Failure due to both performance and plagiarism can be an indication that you may want to reconsider your choices to study a particular programme or at a particular institution. Getting an F in politics due to both performance and, on the same day, being accused of plagiarism may be an indication that there is something seriously wrong with your party.

In a video released today by the Liberal party, it is clear that Harper borrowed parts of a speech about the war in Iraq from one delivered by John Howard, then-Prime Minister of Australia. Owen Lippert, a former foreign policy adviser and campaign worker has been canned for the gaffe.

A video of Harper, superimposed on a video of Howard has been uploaded to the Liberal party website. It shows the parts of the two speeches that are the exact same.

Stealing from yourself is one thing, but it is indeed plagiarism when it's taken from someone else. The originality report from would likely result in a zero in the assignment and an F in the course, if he were a student in a class.

But he isn't, and really, Harper and his Conservatives should get many Fs for a number of their policies and public statements: tax cuts over social spending, refusing to do university debates, the war in Afghanistan, racial slurs against First Nations peoples, the list could go on for days.

Grading the Harper Conservatives, and the other parties, is a useful tool to get a message across. But things should be placed in perspective: how embarrassing it is for us Canadians to have such a leader, and how difficult it will be for university administrators to prosecute students who are found to have cheated.

Imagine the new defence: if Stephen Harper did it and got elected to be Prime Minister, why can't I?

Who will be able to argue against this logic with a straight face?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RSU President Announces Withdrawal of Anti-War Stance at RSU

Last night, RFP reporters donated 7 hours of their lives to witness the September board meeting of the Ryerson Students' Union. While there will be extensive coverage of the meeting in the October issue, out next week, this letter made its way to us today. We thought it fit to publish. It was sent to all members of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

OPEN LETTER to the members of the Canadian Peace Alliance:

Dear members of the Canadian Peace Alliance,

It is with great regret that I must inform you that the Board of Directors of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) resolved last night to not continue its membership in the Canadian Peace Alliance. While I affirm that a significant minority of our Board and I are very supportive of the Canadian Peace Alliance and are staunchly opposed to war, I can no longer say that this is the position of the RSU.

The RSU has had a long and proud tradition of supporting anti-war initiatives. From the position taken at our 2002 Annual General Meeting against the American-led occupation of Iraq to strong student contingents at rallies calling for Canadian troops out of Afghanistan, the RSU has, in the past, been a proud and vocal supporter of peace.

Unfortunately, our Board of Directors has shifted dramatically to the political right and, at last night’s meeting several motions were served that illustrated this shift. This includes the narrow defeat of a motion to continue our membership in the CPA and proposed budget amendments that would see our funding of campaigns for peace, accessible education and student rights all reduced to zero. Further budget cuts to our progressive campaigns work are still outstanding and will be considered at our next meeting.

I would, however, like to assure you and your members that there are still a dozen directors and thousands of Ryerson students who are committed to the peace and anti-war movement at Ryerson. The Students Against War coalition will continue to be anchored by the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR). I also commit to you all that, as President, I will work hard to ensure that the first-ever national anti-war conference scheduled for February will be a success, and not derailed by these circumstances.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.

In peace and solidarity,

Muhammad Ali Jabbar

Ryerson Students' Union

Local 24, Canadian Federation of Students

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ATTN Ryerson Students and Community Members: Pro-Choice Event TOMORROW

The Ryerson Students' Union sent this notice out about a photo-exhibit on tomorrow:

The struggle to keep Canada pro-choice persists as the Conservatives supported Bill C-484 which would have given personhood to the fetus and been an attack on abortion rights.

Minister of Health Tony Clement has refused to intervene to allow clinic abortions to be funded in New Brunswick.

Don't let the Harper Conservatives send women's rights back to the 1950's! Come out to these events to show your support and rally for the cause.

Wednesday September 24
Credit Lounge 11 am- 5 pm
Photo display of pro-choice women defending our rights.
Photography from the 60s, 80s and today!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The CASA Misses Chance to Lobby Federal Candidates on Students' Main Priorities

With the Federal election in full swing, advocacy organizations of all types are trying to influence political parties to get the best promises possible. Just as these groups kick into high gear, so too do the media outlets.

Media groups voraciously seek out angles, interviews, cute stories, scandals and anything else they can get their hands on to keep an audience tuned in. This is a prime opportunity for interest groups to get their messages out to the public and politicians.

One interest group, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has recently launched web-campaign which they sell as “All you Need to Know to Make an Educated Vote.” Notable components to the site include some information on voting, and press releases, a blog, and a short video.

On second glance it is clear that missing among the CASA’s campaign is any attention to the issue that is arguably most important to students—tuition fees. This is first apparent in their poll asking what is the most important change needed for post-secondary education in Canada. Strangely, of the four questions, none give an option for reducing, freezing or, heaven forbid eliminating tuition fees. There isn't even an “other” option.

Unfortunately, it appears that the price of tuition fees isn’t on their radar at all for this election. At best, this is an embarrassing misreading of the students’ priorities that they purport to represent. What's more, the CASA’s “solutions” ignores calls from federal candidates themselves for dedicated federal funding to be used to help offset tuition fees.

For example, the CASA does not link to the NDP’s “Education & training your family can afford” among their links to that party’s education platform. Instead they characterized the “NDP Party Platform” as only relating to the promise to medical students, which was announced in their plan for healthcare. Contrary to the all-encompassing website it purports to be, the rest of the “Party Platforms” section is out of date, with the exception of a section on the Green Party.

This organization appears to simply steer clear of tuition fees altogether. A closer reading of the CASA’s website and their press releases reveals a disconnect between their own tuition fee policy and the consistent absence of this issue from their lobby priorities. The CASA has come on board with other organisations who do call for a national strategy on post-secondary education, including dedicated transfer payments. Such a method of payments could be used to help offset the cost that students pay, making this an important federal issue. The average student must be disappointed, however, that the CASA is missing the boat on integrating into the discussion calls for lower tuition fees. Instead their sights are aimed lower, calling for a Pan-Canadian Dataset.

Students deserve better than this. When an organization’s lobby efforts do not represent their paying membership, students ultimately lose.

Student ‘representatives’ who call unqualified praise for party platforms 'lobbying' would better create the change they seek by taking jobs from the Liberals or the Greens and working from within these parties. If this is the CASA’s idea of making the post-secondary education system better, they should leave lobbying for real change to students.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Trent Central Students' Association: At the whim of partisan politics?

School has only been in session for a few weeks and already Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) President Liam Mooney is under fire from various constituents at that campus. According to reports from the Trent Arthur, Trent's student newspaper, Mooney (a self styled moderate) immediately set upon an aggressive agenda which has raised a number of students' eyebrows on that campus.

According to the Arthur's website these moves include:

1. Culling staff. Resulting from a closed-door vote, staff person Cat Dickenson was fired without cause. There was no record kept of the meeting's proceedings. As a corollary, a wedge was driven through the TCSA executive over the firing.

2. Opposing staff unionization.

3. Reprimanding a fellow executive member (Meaghan Kelly, VP Student Issues) for articulating TCSA policy against a privately owned and operated residence on campus during a CBC Radio interview. In an email, Mooney pointed to a error during her interview and accused her of following her own “own myopic political project.”

4. A failed attempt to see the TCSA withdraw from the CFS. His petition to leave CFS was answered by a counter-petition against defederating signed by over 20 per cent of TCSA's membership in one week.

5. Ignoring the "Solidarity in Meetings" policy of the TCSA when he met with elected provincial representatives alone.

6. Inviting anti-choice groups onto campus during clubs day.

It has been revealed that Mooney--pictured here (third picture down) with Federal Liberal candidate for Peterborough Betsy McGregor--may be the one who is harbouring his own partisan political project. According to the President of the Peterborough Young Liberals Jonathan Pinto, Mooney is a member of the Young Liberals, though he has never held an executive position within the party.

Although this whole situation is considered "petty and stupid" by some observers, others should wonder if it’s main-stream politics, and the appearance of its intrusion into students' union politics, that is the problem. Indeed, it wouldn’t be the first time that political parties attempted to influence the affairs of a students’ union.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Website now live!

Fresh off our September "Double Issue," the Ryerson Free Press has a new website! Now you can check out the print version, online.

Visit us at

The blog will still be active at this URL, so keep coming back here until you hear from us again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

RSU infinitley increases P&P tickets: from zero to ten

The Eyeopener, Ryerson’s student weekly student paper, has come out with its first news issue of the year. In it, appear two stories of financial problems with the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).

We first broke this story in our September issue, where we reported that the RSU Board of Directors hadn’t been able to pass its operating budget, because some directors weren’t showing up to vote on the matter. A similar story appears in the Eye. However, one issue that no one picked up on until now was that of the inflated cost increases of this year’s Parade and Picnic.

Luckily, the event was spared from the bad weather being dished out by the remnants of Hurricane Gustov. But despite this, attendance was much lower than in years past. It is normal to have well-over 2,000 students attend this event. This year, the Eye reports that less than half of that number attended.

To many, the lacklustre event--epitomized by Kardinal Offishall as headliner (didn’t he perform at the February 7 2006 student day of action for free? To compare, York had Talib Kweli play tonight for free)--was punctuated with more offensive moments like the 30 minute “booty shaking” contest. During this throw-back to less-sophisticated times, organizers had to awkwardly work the crowd to get much of a reaction from the confused observers.

Perhaps there is another reason that the 48th annual P&P seemed a little off this year: the advertised price to participate was an outrageous ten dollars. It is true that every year, students pay some amount to take the ferry. But last year, that was only two dollars, the rest was subsidized by the RSU. The University also donates tens of thousands of dollars to subsidize food. Last year, it was close to $35,000.

The justification for charging students ten dollars this year was increased costs for the P&P. Sid Naidu, the Vice-President who is in charge of this event, told the Eye: "Costs go up every year and that’s part of what students don’t see," he said. "Permits went up this year. We need street permits."


Did Kardinal Offishall charge more than the international sensation MIA last year? Did ferry tickets become more expensive? Isn’t the budget for the P&P already a massive line item for the RSU?

Inflationary excuses didn’t cut it when McGunity tried to justify cancelling the tuition fee freeze and they don’t cut it with Sid’s decision to jack up the prices of the P&P.

To many, the move to increase the cost of the P&P came off as a mere cash grab.

Let’s hope that this shift to right wing politics at the RSU, operationalized by the recent P&P, doesn’t continue to undermine the organization’s progressive history.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Canadian Death Toll in Afghanistan Nearing 100 as Federal Election Looms

Today, the 97th Canadian solider was killed in Afghanistan. This would otherwise be top news on most Canadian news sites, if it had not been for the fact that the writ dropped this morning, launching the Canadian political scene into a federal election.

With 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan right now, Canada’s role in the occupation of Afghanistan should be a major theme in the October 14 Federal election. But be sure that both the Liberals and the Conservatives will do everything possible to keep this issue out of the media. The Liberals slyly committed Canadian troops to the NATO-led occupation of Afghanistan after tens of thousands of Canadians demonstrated vigorously to keep Canada out of Iraq. By 2006, under the Conservatives, Canadian troops were leading offensive operations in Southern Afghanistan where some of the fiercest fighting was taking place.

To put Canada’s role in perspective consider the following numbers. It costs Canadians on average $1.3 million per day to keep soldiers and military equipment fighting in Afghanistan. By February 2009, the planned end of the mission, it is estimated that the bill will reach about $4.3 billion. This includes over $1 million spent in funeral services.

Despite these numbers, the continued unpopularity of Harper’s direction in Afghanistan and the growing Canadian anti-war lobby, it is expected that a Conservative government will keep troops there beyond the planned pull-out date. In fact, they are getting help from Former Liberal Cabinet Minister John Manley, whose panel looking into the matter, not only called for an extension to Canada’s involvement in the war, but for the troop commitment to increase by another 50% and for more high-tech equipment to be committed.

With the Americans planning to play an increased role in the Afghanistan war, insiders are bracing for the situation to become much more “nasty”. It is highly likely that the number of troops dead will reach 100 before Canadians go to the polls on October 14. The only real uncertainty is what kind of backlash the Conservatives and Liberals will face in the federal election for getting Canada into this situation.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A sad day for democracy at Nipissing and Canadore

Nothing says the start of a school year more like the talk of referenda.

And, to that end, nothing says counter-democracy more than when a referendum is conducted during the summer or so close to the beginning of the school year that no student could be expected to participate fully.

Over the summer, the Joint Student Centre Executive Committee (JSEC) at Canadore College and Nipissing University, organized to launch a referendum to raise the student centre fee that is shared by students at the two institutions. The referendum is on now.

There isn't a ton of information written about the referendum in an official capacity. Other than a facebook group that wasn't created by the Nipissing Students' Union, their website has a 13 word brief from August 28 directing students to a PDF for information .

The group NipissingYOU, a counter voice to the Nipissing Students' Union, has more information at their website, including the NUSU link to the PDF, and a link to the Campus Free Press, a student paper at Nipissing University. According to their website, the referendum starts SEPTEMBER 4! (Orientation for new students starts on Tuesday, September 4).

And, just to ensure it doesn’t look completely crazy, there will be an open forum on Friday Sept. 5. For everyone keeping track, that is during the voting period. Groups wanting to register a ‘no’ or ‘yes’ side campaign had to do so by today.

Perhaps most undemocratic about this referendum is contained within the question. Rather than a simple yes or no vote, the JSEC has crafted four options: three yes options and one no option. And, to further influence students to vote yes, the question has a list of possible improvements that can be made to a student centre by an increased student centre levy.

Students at Nipissing should be outraged.

And, according to yesterday’s Bay Today, they are. In fact, students are now appealing to the university president (and former Ryerson Vice-President, Academic) Denis Mock to stop the proposed referendum.

There have been many years of questionable conduct at the Nipissing Students’ Union and maybe the tactics driving this referendum shouldn’t surprise anyone.

However, organising in the summer to pull the wool over the eyes of members is just about the lowest tactic a students’ union can take. Sure, the nature of student politics is to develop policy that may not be agreed upon by everyone. But in a member-driven organisation, the students are the highest decision making body (or, at least, they should be). Students need to be equipped and trusted to make the right decision. Boards need to equip and trust students to make the right decision. Otherwise, board and executive members are just fooling themselves.

A proper referendum should be highly publicized, offer enough time for students to register in different camps and learn about the issues, contain no leading information in the question and be a simple yes or no question.

Hopefully students at Nipissing will win their chance for a fair referendum.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Protests and counterprotests at Caledonia

Yesterday was Labour Day.

While many of us were celebrating past victories of the labour movement, there was a struggle was unfolding at Kanenhstaton (Caledonia, Ontario). reported that a blockade was set up by folks from Six Nations and their supporters and that a counter blockade was set up by local settlers.

Their story also has a good picture of a head-shaved youth, arrested for tearing down a flag of Six Nations.

While the CTV story was unable to confirm whether or not the blockade was set up in support of people arrested at a reclamation site at Brantford, calls for support were circulated earlier that day. These calls said that the OPP had arrested three people in Brantford who were at a reclamation site there.

These reclamations are going to continue, and Canadians need to start taking responsibility.

Many of the sites in and around Six Nations that are being developed will mean massive profits for housing developers. However, the 'vacant land' is under claim by Six Nations.

After watching their land be developed, sold off and pillaged for centuries, it's no surprise that people at Six Nations are fighting back. They have every right (and responsibility) to protect their land.

Rather than pushing to continue such conflict through their support for further erosion of First Nations land claims like some have, the settler population at Caledonia and Brantford need to respect the original people of those areas. We all need to call on the municipal and provincial governments to honour the treaties we have developed with First Nations and not develop land which is still under claim.

The time of developers' unadulterated profiteering is coming to an end. Those settlers in the area will either have to start respecting the legally binding treaties that outline First Nations' rights to the land, or get out of the way.

Friday, August 29, 2008

September DOUBLE ISSUE on the rack tonight

The September DOUBLE ISSUE of the Ryerson Free Press will be on stands tonight by 5:00.

If you're interested in the newspaper and do not live in the Toronto area, please email

Monday, August 25, 2008

McGuinty, the CSA AND Maclean’s Miss the Mark on Textbook Grant

The Question That Needs to Be Asked: How Close to the McGuinty Government is Too Close for the College Student Alliance?

Maclean’s' education blog usually reserves its barbs for students’ unions, those fighting tuition fee increases, and other progressive student issues like public transit.

However, in a recent post, we were bemused by Maclean's uncharacteristically stern tone directed at the Ontario government regarding the 2008 Budget promise of a $150 textbook grant available to (only) full-time students this fall.

Maclean’s seems to be finally catching on that this announcement might not have been the best move, let alone adequately followed through on. While union-phobic corporate giant Wal-Mart has been heavily promoting its long line of exploited-worker-produced back-to-school products for nearly a month now, the McGuinty government has released absolutely nothing to inform students how to take advantage of their textbook grant. It’s been five months since the announcement of this new financial aid measure and, with just days before the fall 2008 term begins, students are still left wondering:

Do we need to keep our receipts?

Do purchases of used textbooks qualify for the grant?

Are international or graduate students included?

The list goes on.

To many, a textbook grant seems like a weak and round-about way to address the financial onslaught against post-secondary students. In their media release, the Canadian Federation of Students, was clear that students’ preference is for tuition fee and student debt reductions. “When thousands of Ontario students signed petitions calling for debt relief, a one hundred and fifty dollar text book voucher wasn't what they had in mind,” said a CFS spokesperson.

In direct contrast, the College Student Alliance (CSA), couldn’t squeeze enough complements into its media release titled “McGuinty delivers for students and Ontario”. Written like it came straight from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities media relations department, the CSA offers blind support for many initiatives announced in the Ontario budget, despite the perpetuation of tuition fee increases.

Moreover, there are other factors that raise questions around potential collusion between the CSA and the Ontario government. According to the Canada Newswire (CNW Group) website, the CSA’s release was actually distributed before the government’s own, leaving us to wonder how much prior knowledge the CSA had about the budget.

Take these examples:

Exhibit A:
Time of March 25 media releases about the 2008 Ontario budget distributed over the Canada Newswire (CNW Group)
College Student Alliance: 4:44 pm
Ontario Government: 4:49 pm
Canadian Federation of Students: 5:20 pm

In other words, while it took the Canadian Federation 36 minutes to get their release out over the wire after the government announcement was made public, miraculously, the CSA managed to put their release out 5 minutes BEFORE the government’s announcement went public.

Exhibit B:
Later the same month, an opposition MPP was pushing John Milloy, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, for an explanation about why he hasn’t been doing his job when it comes to enforcing the province’s prohibition of tuition-related ancillary fees at colleges. Milloy stood up in the legislature and quoted directly from the CSA’s praise-laden press release about the 2008 budget.

While the students who the CSA purport to represent may be asking if their money is being used to prop up the government, it’s just another day of navel gazing at Maclean’s.

As if none of this ever happened, Maclean’s allows for “student politician” perspectives on the government’s cone of silence around the textbook grant. The CSA offered up vague hopes that information about the textbook grant will be forthcoming, but are not questioned on their previous cheerleading for the initiative.

In their post, Maclean’s seems to indicate that the government’s frustrating textbook grant will backfire now that it’s been blogged about. Quite the opposite. One blog post by a magazine that prefers headlines with shock-value over reputable journalism will hardly translate into bad press for the government. In fact, the status quo will never be challenged while the Maclean’s post-secondary pundits are treating organizations like the College Student Alliance as anything more than cheerleaders for the government of the day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How far off is the death of bottled water?

The proliferation of bottled water into all aspects of our lives has possibly been the greatest success of capitalism of the last twenty years. This billion-dollar industry is as ludicrous as the idea of bottling and selling air, while turning a massive profit.

But that is exactly what has been done. People love their bottled water: by the case full, by the single bottle, or by the water cooler. This, despite the fact that bottled water is actually more expensive than gasoline.

It seems, though, that times are changing. Could bottled water be on its way out? Students at Ryerson and across Canada through the Canadian Federation of Students have been working with groups like the Polaris Institute for a few years to build a campaign to kick bottled water to history’s curb.

And it seems to be catching on. London City Council has approved a ban on bottled water in city-run facilities. According to today's Globe and Mail, the move was extremely popular among citizens, and city officials are going to ensure water fountains make their way to the newly dry facilities. Columnist Paul Berton for the London Free Press wrote today that this move is also being contemplated by Kitchener, Charlottetown, St. John's, Vancouver and Nelson, B.C. In fact, David Millar said that Toronto City Council will be contemplating a similar move before November.

City politicians, citizens of London, students across Canada, the Council of Canadians and Pierre Trudeau's son all support limiting the use of bottled water. With so many people on side, who could be opposed?

Other than those crazies at the Maclean's-supported Western Standard, it seems that the only organised source of criticism is coming from the Canadian refreshment industry. In anticipation of the vote, the group sent out a press release arguing that limiting bottled water is not the right solution to London's waste problems.

Their arguments are hardly enough to save this fleeting industry (bottled water is good because the bottles can be made into vests?). The bottled water industry is in trouble, and now more than ever is the time for pressure to be mounted.

Next up… plastic bags.

Turmoil continues at CKLN

It was announced yesterday that Kristin Schwartz and at least five other volunteers have been released from CKLN. Kristin has been a long-time staff person there.

This is the latest attack on a shrinking cohort at CKLN who are fighting the corporatisation agenda of the former Board of Directors.

While the situation there is too complicated for a small blurb, there is a good blog that can catch you up to speed on the situation there.

Visit Take Back Our Radio to get a glance at the struggle that has been unfolding there for months.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Foreign campuses are big business for Western Universities

One week ago, the Toronto Star ran this piece co-written by Canada's favourite feel-good duo Craig and Marc Kielburger. This piece follows their usual trend of advocating a dangerously out-of-touch brand of philanthropy. Titled "U.S. campuses abroad bridge cultural gaps", it argues that international campuses provide an "opportunity to build cross-cultural bridges."

Despite the fact that this trend has caught on with Canadian universities and colleges (albeit in less obvious ways), the Kielburgers focus on American universities, particularly those in the Middle East. Their thesis is simplistic and rosy. Basically, it is good that American universities have created satellite campuses overseas.

However, Craig and Marc's fluff piece brushed over a crucial point. Had the goal of these universities been the cultural enlightenment of a generation of Arab and American students, perhaps this expansion would take a different form. But, as the article states, universities are in it for the money. These campuses take in foreign students to help fund their operations back home. Foreign students are funding American students off their backs. There is something seriously wrong with this.

And, to add to that, the article states that curriculum is virtually the same and K-12 education is being re-vamped to "prepare students for the tough entrance standards of American universities."

It is the belief of many that it should not be the role of the American military to police the world. Nor should it be the role of American universities to educate the world. Education and curricula are highly political and culturally loaded. This foreign intrusion suggests that American education is somehow superior to what is, or could be, offered in other countries. This arrangement also allows governments off the hook for maintaining or creating a domestic and public post-secondary education system. What’s more, it opens the door to cultural domination from a foreign power. Hardly a noble exercise in geopolitical welfare.

Perhaps a better approach would be to encourage exchanges of faculty and students to international institutions while respecting national and institutional autonomy. This, while at the same time adequately funding post-secondary education, would provide a true opportunity for 'cross-cultural bridges'.

In Canada and the United States, international and foreign students are viewed as wads of cash. Students studying at an Ontario university who are International or who do not have status, pay two to three times more for the exact same education as their domestic colleagues. This is despite the fact that they were educated elsewhere, costing taxpayers nothing for their K-12/OAC education.

Craig and Marc could have better used their column to highlight the plight of International students in Canada. Instead, they spewed the same flawed arguments that are used by university presidents who view foreign 'markets' with dollar-signed eyes.

This kind of rhetoric doesn't help students, either foreign or domestic. Nor does it presuppose that education is a right. It undermines the fight for an affordable education for all; something that the vast majority of students have called for time and again, despite citizenship status.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Worth Linking To

Not that we usually do this, but this video is too funny not to post a link to.

In response to John McCain's recent attack ad against Barack Obama, Paris Hilton has accepted her nomination from McCain to run in the 2008 presidential election.

In dedication to our Editor In Chief, here's Paris Hilton, For President:

Could there ever be a Canadian equivalent to this?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sheldon Levy Visits Israel

The Ryerson Free Press blog recently took a bit of a vacation, and returned to find out that Sheldon Levy, that loveable poster-child of a perfect university president, has also been on vacation. He took a road trip, of sorts, with five other university presidents: David Johnston of the University of Waterloo, Luc Vinet of l’Université de Montréal, Peter MacKinnon of the University of Saskatchewan, Allan Rock of the University of Ottawa and William Barker of University of King’s College in Halifax.

Rather than facing Chinese security during the Olympic lead-up, from where the majority of Ryerson’s international student population hails, Levy and his peers vacationed in the occupying state of Israel.

The tour was co-hosted by University of Toronto law professor Ed Morgan and York University historian Irving Abella, both of whom have led previous missions, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

The purpose of the trip was “to introduce the Canadians to their Israeli counterparts, to allow them to see first hand the quality of education and research at Israeli universities, and to encourage the creation of joint research and exchange programs” Abella said. He is also the former national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

This quite the claim, considering it is normally academics themselves who create ties with universities. New international academic partners are not decided though presidential decree.

And somehow, the website has missed this story. The Free Press couldn’t find a link anywhere to a report about Levy’s trip. This is despite that the news feed has steadily published on other, somewhat less important issues than a president’s trip to a controversial state.

Perhaps that’s because Levy’s trip happened almost a year exactly to the day that he released this letter. Levy, and a number of other university presidents, were quick to condemn the British University and College Union’s (UCU) motion to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Many students disagreed with this approach and Levy was coerced into a panel on academic boycotts months after. He received a lot of flack on both sides for how the situation was handled.

Maybe the Ryerson publicity machine has learned from last year’s mistakes: from announcing support for the state of Israel without consulting students, staff or faculty, to siding with a professor over expelling a student in the infamous Facebook debacle. Maybe their approach this time was to not say anything at all.

There seems to only be one account of this trip, and it’s from the Jerusalem Post and the Canadian Jewish News.

Of course, Levy, and his jet setting colleagues, are free to travel where they please. But when Levy travels with Ryerson’s banner overhead, he has the responsibility to, at the very least, notify the community. When Levy joined others from Ontario on a trade mission to India, students were informed and the details were more public. Ryerson should at least announce that this trip occurred, and to justify it. If the University is afraid that they can’t justify the trip, then hiding the fact that Levy went isn’t the way forward; he simply should not have gone.

Maybe Levy’s quick condemnation last summer of the UCU boycott wasn’t triggered by a support for academic freedom as was previously stated. Maybe he was just looking for a free trip, to materialize a year later.

For his next trip, perhaps he should look towards Cuba, Scandinavia, Ireland or Sri Lanka. Levy and his buddies could at least get a snapshot of what free university education looks like. That’s the kind of diplomacy that all Ryerson students could get behind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are Canadians actually "split on" Omar Khadr's interrogation video?

The mainstream news is buzzing today about a video of Omar Khadr’s interrogation by a Canadian CSIS official at Guantanamo Bay. The video most prominently being played by news agencies is of Khadr weeping and saying “kill me”.

Khadr is being detained for allegedly throwing a grenade that fatally wounded an American soldier. He was also shot three times. There’s no word of the punishment faced by the person who shot Khadr, who, at that time, was 15 years old.

The government has said it will not comment on the video.

It is fair to assume that only public pressure will snap the feds into action on this case. Khadr, who fits the definition of a child soldier, was engaged in an illegal war. However, the Canadian Press has reported that Khadr’s case has somehow “Split Canadians”.

The article uses comments posted on some media websites to argue that Canadians are divided in how they view Khadr. Many of the comments made against Khadr quote things that have been said by his family in the past to argue their case. It’s important to mention that much of what has been written on the Khadr family has been blown up by right-wing editorial journals like Maclean’s Magazine, a rag that has recently been condemned by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for publishing content that can be seen as Islamophobic.

But, if there were truth in the Canadian Press article, what exactly are Canadians “Split On”?

Isn’t the majority of Canadians supportive of the definition of child soldier? Or is this definition thrown out when the child-in-question is complicit in ‘terrorism?’ Or is Muslim? Or is Canadian and Muslim? Is this a definition to be imposed upon other countries with other conflicts, and not a definition that the Canadian government or Stephen Harper needs to uphold?

When framed this way, it’s likely that this video does not split Canadians. It is only when the facts are skewed, when ambiguous and loaded terms like terrorism are used, and when rhetoric and racism are thrown in the mix could the Canadian population look “split” on how Omar Khadr has been treated.

If Canadians hope to hold high heads on the world stage when they declare their country a peace-loving and peace-keeping nation, their government needs to stop being complicit in American foreign occupations and conflict. Canada needs to demand that Khadr is returned to the country of his citizenship.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Canadians to help construct the "Great Wall of Kandahar"

The Canadian Press reported yesterday that Canadian Forces have agreed to help with the construction of a wall that will surround Kandahar University, Afghanistan.

The wall will be “a three-kilometre perimeter of stone, brick and iron around the school campus”. Its main purpose, according to the article, will be to keep out thieves, make it safer for women to attend school and stop sheep herders from using the area around the university for sheep herding and grazing.

This endeavour will cost the Canadians approximately $500,000.

Hasn’t history demonstrated that building walls to keep out various threats instead of trying to develop proactive solutions is not a sustainable practice? Canadians would do well to challenge the use of our resources for this project.

However, if we think hard enough we might be able to imagine some bright sides to this new project: maybe the wall will help protect students from Canadian soldiers who will be building it. With at least 6500 people killed in Afghanistan in 2007, perhaps Afghans will actually appreciate the added security from NATO troops.

However, if the Canadian Armed Forces are representing Canadians overseas and doing it through taxpayers’ dollars, having troops build a fence around a university is yet another example of a band-aid solution that will not go very far in addressing the root problems of the conflict there.

Afghanistan is a nation that has faced occupation after occupation, where today, warlords still control many of its regions. The bottom line is that, with or without Canadian walls, Afghanistan will not find peace while it is occupied by foreign troops.

Monday, July 7, 2008

KI6 and Bob Lovelace "Fully Vindicated"

The leaders of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) have won an appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal in regards to their recent jail sentences.

Donny Morris, Chief of KI, Bob Lovelace, retired Chief of Ardoch and their legal counsel Chris Reid, have just circulated a press release announcing the victory.

Morris, Lovelace and five other leaders from KI were sentenced to six months in jail earlier this year. In similar cases, all were put there for disobeying court orders that allowed for prospecting on traditional lands. Morris chose to obey Algonquin law to protect the land around Ardoch. The KI6 made a similar decision.

The press release said,

In both cases, Ontario’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Michael Bryant, instructed Ontario’s lawyers to support the mining companies in seeking the harshest possible punishment for our “disobedience” of Ontario’s laws. The government made it clear at every step of the legal proceedings that their only priority is to support the 19th century Mining Act which states that mining is always the best use of land, and any peaceful protesters who oppose mining should expect jail and crippling fines.”

While the seven leaders were released on May 28, it was only today that the reasons that their release was made known. The Court had this to say:

Where a requested injunction is intended to create ‘a protest-free zone’ for contentious private activity that affects asserted aboriginal or treaty rights, the court must be very careful to ensure that, in the context of the dispute before it, the Crown has fully and faithfully discharged its duty to consult with the affected First Nations. The court must further be satisfied that every effort has been exhausted to obtain a negotiated or legislated solution to the dispute before it. Good faith on both sides is required in this process”

At the heart of this issue is Ontario’s colonial approach to First Nations’ rights over traditional land. While these rights are constitutionally allowed, they are in direct opposition to the Mining Act, which allows prospectors onto any land, regardless of ‘ownership’, as long as it has the approval of the Provincial government.

Jailing these leaders was an embarrassment to the province of Ontario. With Steven Truscott being awarded $6.5 million for the wrongful conviction that stole his youth, Ontarians are again reminded that our justice system needs to be changed if justice is indeed going to be served. And, nearly 50 years after one innocent man’s journey for justice has finished, a very different group of seven have been vindicated for another wrongful conviction.

When will the Government of Ontario learn?

Link: YouTube coverage of the National Day of Action in Toronto