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Alexandra Markus

Homophobic Discrimination and the Fight for Equal Rights

Just last week, gay marriage was legalized in the state of New York. Passed in the state senate by a mere four-vote margin, it made New York the sixth state in the U.S. to allow same-sex couples to marry. This represented a triumph for gays everywhere on the bumpy road that has been their fight for equality.California legalized gay marriage in 2008, only to have that overturned by the result of the Proposition 8 referendum in 2010. I couldn’t help but wonder: what would lead a liberal state like California to show up in such great numbers to deny a fundamental right? Why is it that 44 of the 50 states still have laws banning gay marriage?My interest in the issue started in the summer of 2008, when I was nearly eighteen. It was my very first day of Shad Valley at McMaster University, a program for students who have shown promise in science, technology, entrepreneurship, and/or leadership. Bobby Umar, the Assistant Director, had us play a game called “Take a Stand” as an icebreaker. The questions started out rather banal: “Coke or Pepsi?” “McDonald’s or Harvey’s?” Eventually, Bobby asked, “Do you believe gay marriage should be legal?”This was the first time that I was really forced to ponder the issue. My contact with the gay community had been pretty much nonexistent until then. Growing up, I remember people calling each other “gay” as an insult. We were taught that homosexuality was unnatural and wrong. I don’t remember who exactly planted that idea in my head (as my parents are, I now know, pretty open to homosexuality).So there I was, standing on a line made out of tape. If I were to step forward, I would officially unveil my opinion as “in favour of gay marriage.” If I were to… Read More

Real or Myth? Health Rumours Explained

On a daily basis, we are bombarded with news items which claim they hold the secret to living well and avoiding disease. Unfortunately, disease is, literally, in the air we breathe. Misconceptions abound regarding a wide variety of health issues, three of which I will discuss in today’s column:MYTH OR FACT?1. Living near a hospital leads to better health outcomes.MYTH. Although you’d probably be far more likely to survive a heart-attack or stroke with relatively minimal complications due to early intervention, your risk of getting cancer would skyrocket.Puzzled? Here’s why:It is no secret that hospitals dispose of copious amounts of waste. Syringes, gauze, disposable gowns, examination table covering paper, gloves, masks, human body parts…the list goes on. According to Dr. Sarah Berry, Professor of Sociology at McGill, this amounts to an average of 90kg per patient per day! So what happens to all this waste? Since risk of pathogenic contamination is relatively high, 90% of medical waste gets incinerated in the hospital smokestacks. According to Berry, most of these incinerators have inadequate filters, resulting in the frequent release of hundreds of chemicals into the atmosphere, such as mercury, which causes neurological problems, and dioxins, which are highly carcinogenic.I am in no way trying to obscure the benefits these hospitals provide; I am merely stating the ironic truth about hospital waste disposal. Although they certainly do the best they can, these government-funded hospitals do not have the money to buy adequate incinerators, and Quebec landfills are already filling up at an alarming rate.Moreover, hospitals are almost always near high-traffic areas, which many studies have shown increase cancer rates of nearby residents quite significantly due to exhaust exposure. Cars spew out plenty of toxic chemicals, including benzenes (linked to leukemia), ozone (which is toxic for us to breathe on the earth’s surface),… Read More

Debunking common misconceptions about Israel with Prof. Gil Troy Part 2

I’m here with Dr. Gil Troy, Professor of History at McGill University. Troy is also the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. The book has been hailed as a "must read," and the most persuasive presentation of the Zionist case "in decades." It has been released in a third expanded and updated edition, having sold over 25,000 copies.Devil’s Advocate: Israel confers automatic citizenship upon all Jews who immigrate under the Law of Return. Non-Jews - including native-born Palestinians - must prove residency and pass other tests; citizenship is granted at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior. Under the new interim policy for "family unification" passed by the Israeli Cabinet in 2002, and made part of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law by the Knesset in 2003, a discriminatory system has been put in place preventing applications for residency or citizenship from Palestinian spouses of Israeli citizens. How is this not discrimination? Gil Troy: In Canada, if you come in with X thousands of dollars, you get fast-tracked in immigration. I got fast tracked, first because I came in as a professional, then I married a Canadian – how is that not discrimination? Israel has fast tracking for Jews (i.e. Jewish people) because of the historic need for a Jewish refuge, but it has a normal track for others… DA: And the intermarriage law - isn't it racist? GT: A racist law would be based on skin color or other biological differences. Is it a problematic law? Yes. Do I prefer that Israel remain a Jewish state but have more civil control of marriage? Yes. Are intermarried couples oppressed in any way? No, they go to Cyprus to get married. So is it perfect? No. But the question, “Isn’t… Read More

Debunking common misconceptions about Israel with Prof. Gil Troy

A major thing that has attracted my ire is the huge anti-Israel movement on the McGill campus, spearheaded by QPIRG, its working group Tadamon!, and Israel Apartheid Week, which it supports. What upset me was that an organization that claims to be so committed to social justice issues supports these extremely one-sided points of view. Tadamon! supports the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement, the goal of which is to take a stand against the oppression of the Palestinian people. As Professor Gil Troy would agree, the Middle East conflict is extraordinarily complex, so much so that anyone who is that committed to one side clearly did not take the time to fully explore the issue and all of the factors that come into play. In taking the stance QPIRG takes, by supporting the very limiting bad guys/good guys duality, it is unjustly denying Israel’s right to exist, and supporting events that encourage hatred towards Israel without grasping the ambiguity of the issue. If it did, it would be supporting organizations that foster dialogue, instead of organizations that view the conflict in black and white. I’m here with Dr. Gil Troy, Professor of History at McGill University. Dr. Troy is also the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today. The book has been hailed as a "must read," and the most persuasive presentation of the Zionist case "in decades." It has been released in a third expanded and updated edition, having sold over 25,000 copies. Dr. Gil Troy: Before I try to answer the individual questions, let’s get two or three key concepts down – which are critical for the rest of the conversation. First, the word “racism” – I am not just being pedantic – but using that word – and its sister… Read More

A “no” vote in the SSMU referendum is a vote for democracy

When Christopher Morin created a group on Facebook asking people to vote “No” in the QPIRG/CKUT existence referendum, many “Yes” advocates criticized him for having breached the Elections McGill rules by unofficially campaigning for the “No” side. They also warned me about possible sanctions for campaigning on the “No” side; however, when I approached the massive “Yes” campaign desk and asked them where the “No” campaign was, they smugly replied that there was no “No” campaign.The referendum gives voters two options.If you vote yes, you are voting to remove QPIRG from the online opt-out system. In exchange, you will be forced to either make the trek all the way up the steep “McHill” to QPIRG's headquarters on University Street and Pine Avenue, or be lucky enough to not have class during QPIRG's proposed "Opt-Out days" where you will have to visit their booth, probably getting bombarded with misleading propaganda discouraging you from opting out in the process. Students are busy, and in proposing this option, QPIRG is taking advantage of that.If you vote no, you are voting to abolish the QPIRG student fee. QPIRG is scaring people by saying that QPIRG will not exist if the "no" side wins. This claim is a misleading tactic because QPIRG will continue to exist. It clearly has enough supporters who would do whatever it takes to keep it alive. QPIRG would, at the very least, be demoted to club status, where it belongs with all the other political groups. If the "No" side wins - and if QPIRG is such a valuable organization that people cherish - people will want to give QPIRG money.As I investigated, I learned that the SSMU, a group that is supposed to be neutral, is very partisan. When I voted “No” in the referendum, I clicked on the… Read More
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