Monthly Archives: September 2015

Meat is Murder

There is no existence more complicated, convoluted and rewarding than being a human being. We live within our own inventions: insulated homes, organized municipal communities, restaurants, the internet, language – so who would want to be anything else?

Now, across cultures relationships with land and animals vary, and since I cannot personally speak on the dynamics of indigenous peoples, or cultures outside of the white Western world, this article is largely geared towards us that live within and engage with Western and Eurocentric institutions and how they impact our concept of animals lives and their worth. I dare say the western lens has given our identities as human beings an ego, an ego that prevents us from seeing how our success impacts all the other beings that occupy the Earth with us. We call some of these beings “man’s best friend”; others we’ve hunted to extinction or genetically modified to the point of incapacitation. We are not kind to animals, and how kind we are depends largely on how they serve us: dogs and cats are domesticated to become pets, pigs and cows become food, ungulates become trophies, reptiles become handbags, and almost all animals become public, consumptive spectacles à la zoos, aquariums, museums. As a culture we have killed off innumerable species because they inconvenience our progress. We have decided that our bodies hold more value than others, that our minds hold more potential than others, and that our standards of efficiency and progress are superior to those of other species.

These acts manifest in how we collectively decide to consume, abuse, displace, and use other animal species for our own gain. Animals hold high cultural value in numerous societies around the world, but in the last two centuries under Western capitalism have been demoted to an extractive resource. The North American food industry is an appalling example of desensitization to animal suffering and worth as living things. This dates back to processes of colonial land enclosures and displacement of Indigenous communities and the invasion of many European species into the Americas’ ecological landscapes. We see not only the excessive sacrifice of animal lives but the sacrifice of thousands of acres of land to animal waste pits, corn fields and corporate farms that undermine small-scale subsistence farmers and communities. Where do the solutions lie? The academic rhetoric and grassroots application of these principals manifests in the movement of ecofeminism.

Ecofeminism aligns the oppression of animals with the exploitation of the land via colonialism, privatization, corporate farming, and animal industries like food, fashion, cosmetics and game. As per the article linked above, “the environment is a feminist issue.” Ecofeminism seeks to place all this research in a common thread of theory that conceptualizes animals and the natural world as a subjugated class under a white patriarchal agenda whose issues exist alongside women, people of colour, trans communities, and disabled communities. It recognizes that rhetoric similar to that which is employed to subjugate these communities has also been/is applied to animals.  What is crucial to the logic of this subjugation is the idea that characteristics like intelligence, productivity, innovation and utility can only be applied to humans and human invention. Actively conceptualizing animal lives as inferior to human beings because of potential they cannot posses is a tool of species essentialism.

Species essentialism, like gender essentialism and racial essentialism, presumes the identity, capabilities and potential of individuals in a community according to prescribed beliefs about them based on incurable characteristics, species in this case. Species essentialism erases the agency of animals and right to a life without human interference.

You can refer to a previous Social Justice Synonyms article on speciesist terms, using animals as negative descriptors is not only incredibly disrespectful, but confirms beliefs that justify the subjugation of animals because they are less than, or stupid, or dirty. Many animals are quite self-aware of their hygiene, their emotions, and their place within a community. Pigs even have their own systems of communication. However, this shouldn’t have to be proven before one makes the decision to become an ecofeminist, because all forms of animal intelligence deserve life. Animals do not need to have human-like characteristics for us to feel compassion for them. Yet within Western culture we continue to alienate their autonomy from their fulfillment of our needs.

This fetishization of animal bodies and labor is seen all over media, from “Got Milk?” commercials of men gyrating on cows to fast food restaurants framing their quarter-pounder as a delicious product devoid of the body it was made from, to the consumerist elitism of alligator purses and shoes.

These attitudes manifest in our language e.g., calling people bitches, and drawing negative comparisons to pigs and cows. There has also been much prejudice comparing people of African descent around the world to monkeys and likening Indigenous peoples to animalistic savages. These racist derogatory likenings have manifested in illustrations, advertisements, Disney cartoons and common consciousness. For example, this past summer at the World Cup in Brazil, bananas were thrown in the arena at black football players.  

Now, if you haven’t already guessed, I’m a vegan, which means no animals or animal by-products go in my body. I eat vegan, wear vegan (faux fur and pleather only!) and advocate for the lifestyle whenever I can. It eliminates a lot of restaurant options when I go out and exasperates my mother to no end, but it’s what I can do to take money away from industries that not only kill animals, but also contribute to the destruction of the environment in which they live. My digestion, skin and energy are all markedly better than they were before I transitioned to a vegan diet over a year ago. But I hesitate to hyperbolize how much better I feel, ethically and physically, because veganism isn’t always a cheap, accessible lifestyle. While I’m always game to talk about the personal positives I’ve found in being vegan, it’s not for everyone. I am fortunate enough to have access to lots of affordable produce and foodstuffs and that my body can handle a plant-based diet. Vegans can be pretty defensive (we do get asked, without fail, “how did you give up cheese?” like every time we tell someone we’re vegan) but they’re not always right. If you care to, see how many times you consume an animal product in a day. Maybe you’ll find you want to make some changes.
One of the greatest powers we wield over animals is the power of the oral and written language. As a species we’ve developed a thousand ways to communicate our feelings, so why is it so hard to recognize that in animals? Animals don’t have the access to literature we’ve accumulated, or the ability to produce their own and inform us of how they feel. As people, we know better. We know what slaughterhouses look like, what skinning looks like, what cosmetic testing and puppy mills and zoos look like, so why do we let these industries persist? The representation of animals and social conceptualization of animals are linked: we cannot respect their livelihood while we co-opt their identities as slurs. Animals do not know how to replant forests or shut down factories. Our responsibility for animal life began when we took responsibility for their death.

Special thanks to to milo and alexis for unbeknowingly letting me into their world. 

Amelia is an aries with a shrinking stomach and half a bachelor’s.



Angélica Choc at UBC: “We come carrying more than 500 years of resistance”

Angélica Choc is a Mayan Q’eqchi’ woman from the community of La Union, in the Guatemalan municipality of El Estor. Adolfo Ich Chamán, her husband and an outspoken critic of the Canadian-owned nickel mine operating in the area, was brutally murdered on the 27th of September, 2009. The security manager of the mine was arrested in connection with the killing. In a precedent-setting decision, Angélica’s lawsuit, as well as two others, have been allowed to be heard in Canadian courts. For more information on the case, see or the documentary Defensora.

The vast majority of mining companies are headquartered in Canada, partly due to the support provided them by the Canadian government, including a climate of impunity for cases such as Angélica’s. The Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI), a federal mining institute based at UBC, has attracted much scrutiny for its perceived role in the Canadian diplomatic, academic, and corporate apparatus for prioritizing the interests of the extractive sector over those of communities.

The following is a transcript of a talk given by Angélica Choc at UBC on 26 March 2015. Transcribed and translated by Eviatar Bach.

Good afternoon, I bring you greetings from my dear village of El Estor. I am Maya Q’eqchi’ and a proud indigenous woman.

It is a great honour to be here to share a bit of my experience of struggle and the resistance that we, the indigenous communities of Guatemala, maintain; a very strong resistance against the mining companies that come to our country, like the Canadian mining company Hudbay, and the Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel, its subsidiary.

In my country, mining companies are entering and displacing our communities with the support of the government. The government is authorizing the military and the police to displace our communities with the support of the companies’ private security. They have burned down our houses, they have stolen our possessions, they have sexually abused women, and they have committed murder, like they murdered my husband, Maya Q’eqchi’ indigenous leader and teacher at an educational centre.

It’s sad, all of what has happened. I know very well that it’s not only in my country that all this is happening. Not only in Guatemala are the natural resources being stolen, and being defended by us, the indigenous peoples.

And why do we defend them? Because we know that we are native to those soils, and thus that we are the ancestral owners. We come carrying more than 500 years of resistance, from when our ancestors were dispossessed from their lands.

I always say something that they passed down to us: they threw away our branches, they threw away our leaves, they cut our trunks. But our roots remained. And the roots are us, me. I am their daughter, their granddaughter, their great-granddaughter. And today I raise my voice in the streets to demand that our rights be respected as indigenous peoples and as human beings, that we all deserve respect in our territories.

Since I arrived in Vancouver more than two weeks ago, I have visited different places to share my experience of struggle with brothers, indigenous and non-indigenous. And I have told them to be conscious, to protect their territory, because it is a treasure, like Guatemala.

But unfortunately in Guatemala the government is issuing licenses to disappear the richness that we have in our country. They have issued those licenses to have more money to build large buildings. But we, the indigenous peoples, don’t need buildings. We think about our children, we think about our grandchildren, great-grandchildren. What will their future look like? We all drink water, we all eat from Mother Earth, we all breathe fresh air. So why should we permit that these resources be contaminated?

I notice that in all of this, the ones who suffer most are we, the women. Because it is we that go searching for food for our children, running from place to place, to defend ourselves from the police. Like what happened with my compañeras at Lote 8, the eleven women who were sexually abused by ten men to each woman. I ask, where are their hearts, those who hurt those women? They were men. Have they no mother, have they no wife, have they no daughters? I think that they wouldn’t like what they had done to those women.

Because of these violations of our rights, our human rights and our rights as indigenous peoples, we have been able to seek justice, we have been able to file cases, and thank God, we have had successes, because here in Canada the three cases were accepted to be heard in court, and that is an achievement for us, the women. It’s an achievement that we are seeking, that I am seeking, because they have done me a great harm: taking my children’s father away. That is a great injustice. That is what the companies have done in our territory.

When they come to talk about their work in their own country, they say that there they are welcomed, that they are building projects, that they bring employment, that they bring development. What development? What employment? We don’t need the mine. We live well in our communities, with our own crops. I live in front of Izabal Lake. When I don’t have food at home, I run there and fish, and that’s how we have food. But if we don’t protect it today it will get contaminated.

We are maintaining that resistance, but we are running a risk. Because for the company we are rocks, I am a rock in its path. But I, my strength and my struggle, will survive like my husband did. Because I think about my children, about my grandchildren. If it doesn’t suit the company, if they don’t like that I file that case, if someday they disappear me, I will go proudly, because I know that it won’t have been for corruption, for impunity. I will go calmly, leaving my land. But if one leaves, ten remain.

I won’t take any more of your time, our story is long, very long, but unfortunately our time is short. There’s a documentary called Defensora that says everything about what has happened with our communities, and what is happening.

And what to do? It’s not enough to come and listen, it’s not enough to know. We have to unite forces, we have to keep watch, so that Mother Earth’s natural resources are respected. Because not only Guatemala ought to defend its territories, not only Colombia, not only Peru, not only Africa, not only the Philippines. How many are suffering? And the majority are Canadian companies. And? What do you think of that? Let’s analyze this and unite to demand justice and respect for human rights. Thank you very much.


Institutional Burden Politics: A look at UBC’s disability structures

How do UBC’s bureaucratic and institutional structures perpetuate ableist assumptions such as burden discourse?

Burden discourse is when disabled bodies don’t feel entitled to ask for support. This can be due to language use, interpersonal interactions, and/or structures in the institution, which is what this article will focus on.

It is critical to look closely at how bureaucratic architecture and institutional structures influence and shape our experience at UBC as disabled students and allies. Not only is this necessary to better understand and identify how the institution affects our bodies, but it is imperative to analyze how UBC views, understands, and enforces the role of disabled bodies in the institution.

Although UBC’s primary source of disability support, Access and Diversity (A&D), provides necessary guidance, it also has much room for improvement. For instance, during my first visit to A&D, I was asked what accommodations I need to have “success” at UBC. At the time, I asked for exam accommodations because it was the only support they had mentioned was available. In my following years at UBC I’ve learnt that there are many more resources available, such as bursaries, scholarships, hired note-takers, and computer programs. Because we live in an ableist society (ableism is the “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities”, see this Social Justice Synonyms article for more information on ableism), I did not know that I was entitled to ask for further resources. I was not aware of the huge range of support available and that I in fact deserved and was well entitled to these services.

Further, the focus on success itself is also fraught: many notions of success within academia are ableist. Ableism in universities is institutionalized through structures and organization, such as the expectation of taking at least 5 classes a term and 27 credits a year in order to qualify for awards and scholarships. As it so often does, ableism here becomes tied with classism, as financial aid is awarded to those with the ability to match the expected workload. Although with permanent disability status through A&D you are eligible for grants through the government, UBC offers a very limited amount of financial support to its disabled students in comparison. “Success at UBC,” therefore, is not only an individual’s capacity to learn and study, but also constructed from a complex network of power relations.

These are major issues in terms of burden politics.

Not feeling entitled to support (or feeling like a ‘burden’) is an internalized manifestation of ableism, and therefore A&D, and any other form of disability support on campus, must set a precedent of undoing ableist conditioning to fully support disabled students and allies. This includes educating students that receiving disability support is not supplementary to an education but a right, that ableism is directly linked to capitalism and production politics, and that ability is not a percentage scale but rather a deeply personal and intimate relationship to the world around us. Although working within institutional ableist frameworks is often necessary for social organizations such as A&D to survive, failing to challenge ableism at every intersection is a way of fulfilling institutional policies while simultaneously creating a form of accessibility that is not centred on disabled students. By setting an example of actively working to undo ableist barriers, both internalized and structured by the institution, A&D and others would have the opportunity not only to shift institutional structures and non-disabled folks’ perspectives, but also allow disabled students to begin to imagine an institution that dismantles burden politics.

Disability support is generally based on the disabled person defining their own needs and asking for what is necessary to survive, but asking for help in an institution such as UBC is very complex. For instance, in order to be accepted as an Access & Diversity student, you must have supporting documentation from a medical professional. The university sees this as a means of ensuring the legitimacy of students’ needs, or in other words, that the disabled student is ‘disabled enough’ to be supported financially by the university. Not only does this perpetuate ableist assumptions that people exaggerate their disability or ongoing medical conditions to take advantage of resources (which extends beyond the university to Persons With Disabilities benefits and welfare), but it creates a barrier and binary of student ability and needs. With limited resources, this is perhaps necessary for Access and Diversity, but if the university prioritized addressing ableism, then these resources could be made available to students of all ability and needs, no matter their supporting documentation.

Further, making supporting documentation a basis of disability support heightens social barriers to access. Sexism, racism, heteronormativity and classism are prevalent in doctor–patient interactions. Many medical diagnoses are heavily influenced by a doctor’s perception of their patient, which allows for these social dynamics to come into play. When it comes to invisible illness, for instance, diagnosis is based on both tests and the patient’s narrative of their experience with illness. The doctor plays an active role in listening to the patient and while functioning within the white-dominant patriarchal framework of the Western medical system, there is most certainly the risk of prejudice influencing assumptions the doctor makes about the patient’s experience. Moreover, many invisible illnesses are difficult to diagnose and can therefore can take many years to define, which is even more challenging since an average waitlist in Canada for a specialist is over two months, contributing to the problem and inhibiting support for all the years prior to diagnosis.

Another example is sexism. Defining women’s complaints as hysteria has a long history in the Western medical institution, and although hysteria is no longer present in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), sexist assumptions that women’s complaints are exaggerated and not valid are still very much alive in patient-doctor interactions.

Further, racism has often justified manipulative and downright dangerous medical practices, including various experiments on Indigenous communities in Canada/Turtle island. This is but one example of how the Western medical system has been and continues to be a tool in Indigenous genocide and colonial violence. Although this history may not be overtly present in every doctor-patient interaction, the power dynamic of colonial doctor/Indigenous patient influences medical spaces.

Disability is inextricably linked to race on both a local and global scale. Intergenerational trauma as a result of colonialism and genocide disables Indigenous racialized bodies. Environmental degradation, political crisis and diaspora disables racialized bodies. Acknowledgement of these forces has to be at the forefront of disability support on every level, especially in a university that exists on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) land and hosts thousands of international students. An institution that truly understands disability must actively work to support students that are living with the effects of such forces in their families, homes and bodies.

Because the process of getting support as a disabled person or an ally (of ‘coming-out’, of identifying oneself and asking for support) is met by oppressive barriers, such as sexism, racism, and ableism, and enforced by bureaucratic paperwork, the institution makes it very clear that you must prove that you are a ‘worthy burden’ to the economy of the establishment.

A burden is “something that is exacting, oppressive, or difficult to bear,” which is how I would define the challenges of navigating institutional burden politics at UBC. You are not a burden. The exacting, oppressive and difficult-to-bear burden is the labyrinth of paperwork, social barriers and ableist framework that we have to wade our way through to claim space.

Mental health resources on campus

First Nations House of Learning: 604.822.8940 First Nations House of Learning (counselling for Aboriginal students) 1985 West Mall Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z2

Counselling Services, Student Services Brock Hall: 604.822.3811 Fax: 604.822.4957 Brock Hall 1874 East Mall Room 1040 Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1

Sexual Assault Support Centre, Emotional Support and Intervention: 604.822.3475. Nest 3127 6133 University Boulevard Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z12

Putting My Own Oxygen Mask on First: Reflections on Suicide, Support, and Being Publicly Mentally Ill

Content Warning: This piece is a personal account of depression, anxiety, and suicide in the context of contemporary student life.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide please call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or contact Vancouver Coastal Health’s  SAFER services.

In the chaotic return to campus for the fall term, September 10th, Suicide Awareness Day, weighs heavy on my mind. I often find myself in uncomfortable staring contests with ominous posters and bus ads warning that ‘silence kills’. These always seem oddly out of place next to the influx of new and returning students bursting with life. It’s pretty easy to shudder and move on. Yet September 10th is an opportunity to reflect on how badly mental health awareness and support services are needed and how difficult and nuanced the conversations on these topics need to be. The detrimental effect of intersecting oppressions contributes to higher rates of suicide among queer, trans, and intersex people of colour (QTIPOC), people with disabilities, people facing class oppression, and racialized and Indigenous youth more broadly. Systematic and structural oppression can either deter these folks from accessing resources or greatly affect how they interact with pre-existing health care models. There have been countless think pieces on the correlation between intelligent high achievers struggling and feeling isolated and how millennials are deeply unhappy. In short, “we are a generation… who were told we could do anything and instead heard we had to be everything”1. There are far too many people caught in the silence and messy in-betweens.

Years of looking at awareness campaigns urging their audience to speak up because silence is fatal has prompted me to ask: what does it mean to speak up and go public with personal histories of suicide? What does it look like for individuals to be publicly, openly mentally ill? Of course silence in the form of negligence, stigma, shame, and isolation are deadly combinations, but what does it cost individuals to tell their stories? I struggle with lifelong mental illness which includes, but is not limited to, depression and anxiety. Even anonymously, I am uncomfortable and too ashamed to share some of my other diagnoses. I am someone that struggles with suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts), self-harming behaviours, and self-destructive tendencies. I thought very carefully about whether or not to put my name to this piece. Being anonymous feels too similar to hiding, and I am so very tired of hiding. However, I realised there could be negative implications of having my name publicly linked to mental illness and suicide. The reality of being publicly vulnerable is very challenging to navigate. I am fearful of not being in control of how people perceive me. It would be foolhardy to pretend that there is no longer stigma attached to mental illness and, particularly, suicide. Above all else, I desperately don’t want to be seen as unstable (see image above). Perhaps one day I will have some distance from the severity of my mental health struggles so I may own them more publicly. However, being on this journey of illness and recovery, and of hurting and healing, provides me with an opportunity to highlight the complexity of mediating function and disfunction. Many folks with mental illness do not get the luxury of choosing how others get to experience or find out about their illness. It must be noted that this ability to amplify my voice while retaining privacy is an immense privilege.

It is vital that discussions of suicide address the intermediary aspect of struggling with suicidal ideation, the challenges of (in)sufficient care for chronic illnesses, and the gaps in support services. We need to be seriously discussing what it looks like for people who are caught in between and don’t fit neatly into existing diagnoses and support services. Currently, our medical system has imperfect and outdated models for assessing folks who are struggling with suicidal ideation. We have a triage system that assesses if the person in question is immediately in danger of harming themselves or others. The most crucial question a suicidal patient is asked upon intake is if they have a plan. This timely, decisive model certainly has it uses, but it fails to take into account folks who routinely encounter suicidal ideation and tendencies. These services are necessary for crisis management — to keep people alive. Yet they are also reactionary and have a poor understanding of the multiplicity and complexity of suicidal ideation. They do not reward suicidal folks for being self aware and doing preventative work to keep themselves out of danger. To put it bluntly, when I am not doing well I am always thinking about how to kill myself. I am keenly aware of my self-destructiveness. I intentionally do not allow myself to formulate or enact any one plan. On the numerous occasions I have gone to the hospital when I felt I was a danger to myself, these attempts at self-preservation have limited how I have been able to access support. The message this gives suicidal folk who are doing their utmost to be reached, to foil their own plans, is that their reality isn’t worthy of services and care. Our intake services minimise the daily struggle of suicidal ideation and dissuade patients from determining how they access support. This serves to tell a desperate individual that they are a problem, which is a very dangerous and damaging setback. We need to be emphasizing that the services are lacking, not the person. Otherwise people who already feel burdensome are being told they continue to be problems. If you are told you are not sick enough or not presenting as sick enough in a specific, clinical moment it calls into question the choice to be seeking help in the first place. This minimization process is contagious and it becomes all too easy for high functioning mentally ill folks to get in the habit of dismissing their issues and doubting their judgement of the severity of their problems. I cannot count the number of times I have told someone I could not bear to be alive for one more day in the same breath that I have said I’m fine.

I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine. I have to be fine. It will be fine. It’s probably nothing. Don’t worry. I’ll handle it. It’s mine to fix. Forget I said anything.

I’m always fine until I’m not. I can’t count the times I have sought out hospital emergency rooms alone and eventually left without telling anyone because I couldn’t stand feeling so simultaneously in the way and invisible. I was scared by how easily I just got up and slipped out past the chaos. The last time I was in the hospital two friends came with me and held my hands the entire time. In the six hours we were there on a Saturday night every time I apologized and said it was a mistake to come they firmly and kindly said, “Oh, we’re not leaving”. For the first time I came away from the hospital having seen a psych doctor for assessment and with a clear picture of the services I could access and the waiting lists I would be put on. I am sharing this anecdote in an attempt to give insight into how disheartening and upsetting it is to navigate these services alone. Being mentally ill means continually having to advocate for yourself when you are at your worst. I often find myself walking out of specialist appointments I have waited on for months feeling lost and small and no further ahead than months prior, being condescendingly patted on the shoulder while the refrain of “You’re such an articulate, bright young lady, you’ll work it out” rings in my ears. I’m very good at minimizing my own issues. I don’t think that’s an accident and I don’t think that it is unique to me. This warrants further discussion about our health care services not least about how navigable these services are, who they best serve and who they alienate and dismiss. I have days where I just cannot be on subway platforms, days I don’t walk over bridges, days where I stay out walking for hours not trusting myself to go home until I am too exhausted to do anything but sleep. When I am not doing well my loved ones answer my phone calls with a panicked “are you safe?” by way of greeting. I am someone who calls a crisis line in the morning and writes an exam in the afternoon. We need to do more to recognize this complex reality so we can provide appropriate support for people who are struggling but passably functional.

When it comes to discussing mental illness and suicide in the context of campus it is important to reflect on what it means to promote balance and prioritize health. How meaningful are these conversations if the reality of adjusting ideas of personal success is unfeasible for those of us whose identities are too closely intertwined with academic excellence? I look at the last five years of my life and I honestly do not know how I’ve done it. I crashed and burned spectacularly in my second year and was able to scrape a term of medical Withdrawals (as a result of being registered with Access and Diversity) rather than Fails. Those W’s on my transcript bring tears to my eyes and I always ask myself why I didn’t persevere and complete the term. This is when I  rely on my support network to remind me how bad things got. It was a very scary, confusing time for me that I hardly remember. I usually tell people that I ‘took some time off for myself’ because somehow it feels less shameful when I phrase it as a casual, mature choice. I don’t want people to know how difficult it is for me to take care of myself. I have been faced many times with distraught loved ones telling me to pause my degree and take less on. Though my health, happiness, and relationships have suffered immensely I have maintained an A average my entire degree. And for what? It’s been hell. I’m frightened to look back and see that time and again I willingly chose grades over my health. At the end of every term I turn to my best friend and laugh “well that nearly killed me.” She never laughs with me. It’s too real.

In academic communities and in classrooms we need to be talking about these serious and uncomfortable topics with the assumption that there are people in the room who may be currently struggling with mental illness. We cannot be further isolating folks by painting suicide and suicidal ideation as extreme, unlikely, and highly dysfunctional. Additionally, the flippancy of phrases such as “that makes me want to kill myself/shoot myself/slit my wrists” to express boredom, disgust, or frustration are extremely problematic in the ways they devalue and desensitize us to the language of suicidal ideation. The alarming frequency and nonchalance in which folks speak like this has real consequences. Not only is there a very high chance there is someone who overhears and is personally triggered, but it also means that people mustering the strength to share a personal secret and get help have to do that much more to be heard.

From my experiences being on both sides of mental illness (I have been in need of support and I have also played the role of supporter for close friends in dire situations) it is clear that our networks of support are precarious and unsustainable. Not because people aren’t loving and caring but because supporting a loved one with suicidal tendencies is draining and terrifying. Most people have the instinct to help but often feel powerless and frozen by a fear of making things worse. As a result many folks with chronic mental illness feel obliged to protect and care for the people in their support networks. This tense standoff means that no one is fulfilled in the role of helping and no one is getting adequate care. This can add heart wrenching emotional strain and resentment to previously healthy relationships. We cannot rely on the compassion and commitment of individual relationships to keep suicidal people safe. Individuals who are most empathetic and able to understand suicidal people often have these skills as a result of their own experiences. While there is something wonderful about finding other struggling folks and being able to recognize and validate that shared pain, this is bound up in complex levels of trauma.

Increasingly I have become uncomfortable with the glaring discrepancy between my willingness to offer support to my friends while dismissing my own value and failing to take my own advice. I like the role of supporter but I am quick to encourage peers and friends to use resources that I have felt too ashamed to access myself. I have felt disingenuous to be preaching self love and self acceptance while hurting, hiding, and disqualifying myself behind closed doors. I recently came across an Anais Nin quote that illuminated the complexity and duality of support networks. “I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not a virtue. It was a disguise”. This is not to say that people who are struggling cannot simultaneously offer support, but it showcases how reliant networks of care are on particular people who are already overwhelmed. When it comes to personal boundaries regarding mental health it’s a ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ kind of scenario. It is imperative that as members of communities in solidarity with one another we are invested in understanding each other’s needs and why they arise, even if we are unable to fathom experiencing them. I think it does a disservice to personal stories of pain and resilience when we tell people ‘put yourself in their shoes’. This implies that those shoes are easy to fill, easy to understand, temporary, and easy to leave. Anyone who struggles with invisible, chronic, and/or stigmatized illnesses knows that this is certainly far from the truth.

Although navigating resources can be discouraging, I have found that when there is space for vulnerability and sharing the potential for connecting to and healing with one another grows exponentially. It makes me unbearably sad that there are so many people in my life who have suffered immensely from mental illness and its complications. However, it is through being more open about my own issues that I have been able to make stronger, more meaningful connections to friends and strangers alike. As I have worked to better articulate my needs (in safe spaces to receptive people) I have been increasingly overwhelmed by positive interactions that have altered and accelerated the self care work I do. I am humbled by the intimacy of care and honesty that I have experienced when people I love and admire have chosen to sit in spaces of vulnerability and work to reach me. Making space for sharing stories and pain has made me feel that not only are my difficulties very real, but that the work I do to not be ruled by my illnesses does not go unnoticed. Slowly but surely these demonstrations of support and understanding accumulate. If a day goes by where I choose to be here and show up for myself rather than hurt myself, that is a victory. Every time I get approached by someone wanting to talk to me about mental health I feel like I am part of something productive and powerful. By witnessing and validating one another a gradual process of recognition occurs. If a loved one is more transparent about their struggles and this knowledge does not diminish my love for them, then in turn maybe I too am worthy of love and compassion. The healing intentions behind these connections have enabled me to recognize that maybe I too appear as strong, resilient, and capable as the friends that have shared their darkest secrets with me. Maybe I can start to recognize that the stories I tell myself about myself are a little outdated and a little tired. If I recognize the gap between how people negatively perceive themselves and how they appear to others, then maybe I am also wrong about myself. The more we see one another clearly the more we see ourselves clearly. At the end of the day, mental illness and the personal struggles it entails does not vanish magically, but the weight of this burden dissipates when shared. Being willing to have these conversations is about being willing to cultivate the tools we need to reach out and in turn be reached. It is about putting steps into place to plan and prepare to prevent isolation and desperation.

I must admit, I wanted this article to be perfect and poignant. I wanted it to provide all the answers and fix all the problems. But right now, I think I’m too close. The topics that I’m writing about are my reality. Writing this has been difficult and it has taken a lot out of me. It took far longer than I wanted it to because I had to close my laptop and walk away when it was too upsetting. I had to take my own advice and take care of myself first. I am in the midst of doing this work. I would by lying if I said it isn’t sad, boring, frustrating work but I would also be lying if I said it didn’t pay off.  I can say that I no longer believe I am an inherently bad person who does not deserve a life, but I do continue to struggle with self destruction and suicidal ideation. I hope that this article broadens the conversations we are having in our communities and on campus about the reality of chronic mental illness, invisible illness, and suicide. To me, it is not about putting periods of illness and despair into tidy past-tense boxes, but instead lessening the impact of these struggles so that they become manageable background noise in full, vibrant lives. I’ll conclude with a sign off my best friend and I used to text each other in our darkest times.

“Be gentle with yourself. All the love. Call if you need.”

Special thanks to Jane, Mary, Anne, Eviatar, and K for their editing skills and compassionate support.

If you would like to speak to the author of this piece directly, email with the subject line ‘Suicide Awareness Article.’ Please be considerate of confidentiality and respect personal boundaries.

Refusing to be a Pawn: A Review of La Prenda

Find the full lineup for the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival here.

Showtime of La Prenda:
4:45pm, Sunday September 13
The Cinematheque

This review contains discussions of rape, kidnapping, murder, and genocide

“There is too much violence against women in Guatemala,” Astrid Elías Macario tells us from Los Angeles. “Many of these women stay quiet out of fear that they’ll be attacked again.”

Astrid survived a kidnapping and sexual assault at the age of fourteen in Quetzaltenango, the second-largest city in Guatemala. Fearing for her safety, she crossed the border into the United States and joined thousands of other racialized survivors who face deportation. Unlike so many (largely children) Guatemalans seeking refuge from violence in the United States, Astrid was finally granted asylum after having to fight a long legal battle. She is one of the women whose story is told in Jean-Cosme Delaloye’s La Prenda (The Pawn), a documentary showing this Sunday, September 13th at the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival.

Astrid’s story is not unique. Guatemala is one of the most violent countries on Earth, where violence against women is rampant: according to the United Nations, two women are killed in Guatemala every day, and with almost complete impunity. In 2011, only 12% of murders of women were brought to trial, and many fewer resulted in a sentence.

Astrid refuses to stay silent about what happened to her. Indeed, much of La Prenda is testimony for the violence against women in Guatemala, where testifying in the courts offers little justice to the deceased, the survivors, and each of their families.

The film follows the court cases of Astrid and of Francisco Saquic, who is seeking justice for the kidnapping and murder of his wife Micaela by gang members. Karin Gramajo, part of the organization Sobrevivientes (Survivors), helps Francisco through the proceedings. Propelled into this work after the murder of her cousin Kelly Díaz, Karin remains in Guatemala today, fighting in the courts despite facing threats to her safety. In the first few minutes of the film, Karin solemnly reveals her reason for staying: “Just as there is divine justice, there is justice on earth. And that is what we are pursuing, justice for what they did to Kelly.”

La Prenda is a product of the media landscape in Guatemala where, upon discovering a corpse,  police call journalists to report on the death the next day. The press, director Delaloye tells us, has the same access to the bodies as police, as though capturing images of the dead for television and newspapers can bring justice.

It cannot. Motivated by making coverage of violence in Central America more visible in Western media, especially in Europe, Delaloye – a reporter by trade for daily newspapers and public radio stations in Switzerland – admits that media production plays a limited role in holding perpetrators accountable. He tells us, “We came, shot, and left, but they’re doing this [fighting] every day.” Nonetheless, he hopes that the film will help with Kelly’s case, which has been in legal limbo for years.

Astrid hopes that it will encourage other survivors to speak.

Few Canadian and U.S. cases on violence against women are filmed. But Delaloye’s camera follows survivors and families into the courtroom and uncovers unsettling, gruesome pictures taken by journalists of the murder, as well as shots of investigators examining evidence from the crime scene. To survivors and family members in the film, describing the brutality of the murders is a crucial part of their testimony. La Prenda withholds almost none of the essential horror.

Looming in the background of the experiences shown in the film are the legacies of the Guatemalan Civil War, in which US-funded death squads committed genocide against the Indigenous Mayan population through rape, massacres, and destruction of villages. During the war, violence against women was used as a weapon of terror. As Astrid tells us, “Aggression has become a mode of being.”

“It has to do with the history of Guatemala,” says Norma Cruz, founder of Sobrevivientes, in La Prenda. “[Violence against women] was accepted and planned during the Civil War that lasted 36 years. And we have had a patriarchal society for more than 500 years. We’re making the first steps to try to overcome this heritage.”

Indeed, changes are happening which provide hope for the future. Although many of those who committed atrocities during the war are still in power, Ríos Montt, who oversaw the genocide campaign, was charged with crimes against humanity (the charges were later thrown out on a technicality); and just a few days ago, Otto Pérez Molina, a military officer under Montt, resigned as President of Guatemala and was subsequently arrested for corruption owing to immense popular pressure. Over the past few years special courts have been instituted in Guatemala for trying cases of femicide and other forms of violence against women, with significantly higher conviction rates.

While not explored in the film, salient connections can be made to Canadian settler-colonialism and imperialism. Between 1980 and 2012, over 1,100 Indigenous women were murdered or missing in Canada (being RCMP estimates, the number is likely much higher). And a 2012 fact-finding mission led by the Nobel Laureates Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchú, a human rights activist for the Indigenous people of Guatemala, concluded that the Canadian government bears responsibility for violence against women in Guatemala through the lack of accountability for Canadian mining companies. Canadian resource extraction, both at home and abroad, follows familiar patterns of displacement and violence against Indigenous women.

La Prenda is brutal to watch, but also fiercely resistant to despair. Some of its most powerful and enlivening scenes depict Astrid and her family making food, eating, and praying together. Moreover, the film’s capturing of natural landscape also reveals Guatemalan life as more than systematic violence. Francisco’s home rests within lush tropical forest; scenes of him and his two children, both safe and playing in the stream, offer momentary relief from the harsh world beyond. In grieving the woman – mother, wife, human being – who was abruptly taken from them, they have the land on which their home humbly rests. They have each other.

Thank you to Astrid Macario and Jean-Cosme Delaloye for the interviews, and to Sonia Medel.

Vancouver Latin American Film Festival Review: NN

Find the full lineup for the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival here.

Final Showtime of NN:
5:00pm, Saturday September 12th
Goldcorp Center for Arts, SFU Woodward’s

This Peruvian film, written and directed by Héctor Gálvez, opens with a spectacular shot of the Andes Mountains, with a forensic team digging for bodies of the disappeared. The film centres on an unexpected and unidentified body – NN means “Non Nomine”, the designation given to bodies that cannot be identified – and the search to determine who the man was.

This visually and thematically stunning film asks many questions and provides few answers, and is not so much a tear-jerker as one that leaves a hole in one’s heart. The time-consuming and monotonous tasks of the forensic team, the sparse dialogue and the slow pace of the film create a sense of how mundane and lengthy the processes of identification are. It also demonstrates to the audience the recurring violence and slow suffering of the identification process itself, for both family and forensic team. While the story clearly follows Fidel as the main character, the film feels almost out of focus. We learn about Fidel only through snippets of scenes, bits of conversation. Gálvez directs our attention to objects – pieces of clothing, boxes or bone – rather than the characters. Through this, he mirrors the detachment from the horrors of exhuming and identifying the disappeared that Fidel struggles with throughout the film, as well as his depression.

What surprised me most about the film was how apolitical it was. While it is estimated that Peru has 15,000 people who were disappeared in the 1980s,  the focus on Fidel gives us very little sense of the scale of the conflict. Only through seeing how the records and evidence are treated by the government do we begin to place the story within larger structural issues, though to a Peruvian audience much more subtle social commentary may be apparent.

Perhaps that’s the point. It is easy to quote numbers of people who were disappeared, who are now being identified, but much harder to tell the personal stories of a son who never knew his father, of a widow who seeks closure, thinking she may have found her husband for the fourth time, of a forensic team member struggling with the question: what role must truth play in being compassionate, finding healing, and giving closure?  

Anne Kessler is a 6th year human geography student.

Top 16 Talon-Approved Initiatives on Campus

By Anne Kessler, updated from “The Top 10 Talon-Approved Initiatives on Campus” by Urooba Jamal

Do you find yourself rapidly muttering expletives under your breath every time you engage in any type of mainstream media? Have the phrases “in solidarity with,” “hegemonic,” and “social construct” come to replace filler words like “um” and “like” in your daily lexicon? Is there a collective groan from your closest comrades every time you say “that was so problematic”? Do their groans become more pronounced when you call them comrades? Do you fantasize endlessly about the radical restructuring of our current social, economic and political orders? Have you found yourself yelling “viva la revolución!” in the mirror by yourself? Are you longing for a space where you can meet like-minded people to promote your **“reverse-racist/misandrist/feminist-killjoy/commie/environmental-vegan-hippie-shit” agenda? Or are you simply trying to find your beloved club or resource group in the behemoth that is the AMS Student Nest/New SUB?

Well, you’re in luck! There are many places right here at UBC to cultivate such aspirations. Or even learn if you’re new to all of this. Below is a list of the Top 16 Talon-Approved Initiatives on Campus. Many of these organizations will have booths at Imagine Day or Clubs day, so you can check them out in person then!

1. AMS Resource Groups

The AMS Resource Groups are student-run and aim to support and showcase the diverse backgrounds of their memberships. Located in room 2102 of the AMS Nest (New SUB), there is also a shared lounge space for folks to hang out in. Did you know they also provide funding opportunities? Contact one of these groups to find out more! Some of these resource groups include:

The Women’s Centre

The Women’s Centre is getting relaunched this year, and provides safe space to chill or study in between or after classes for all women (cis and trans) as well as gender non-conforming folk. They also run events revolving around feminism and programming, including a new sexual assault support group. A highlight at the end of last year was a protest organized calling on UBC’s administration to acknowledge that rape happens on campus and to take concrete action.

Website | Facebook

The Social Justice Centre (SJC)

The SJC serves as an organizing and research space for activists and advocates at UBC. They work towards progressive social change by raising awareness about social justice issues and fostering students with the techniques to engage in activism. UBC activist legends have it that the most dramatic cases of resistance on campus have occurred with the help of this leftist student hub.

Email | Website | Facebook Page | Facebook Group

Pride Collective at UBC

The Pride Collective offers educational and social services applicable to sexual and gender diversity to the UBC community. They also provide support to those who self identify as asexual, bisexual, gay, intersex, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer, questioning, those who do not identify and allies. Down with the cis-tem!

Email | Website | Facebook

Colour Connected Against Racism

Created in 1994 to fight institutional and other forms of racism on campus, Colour Connected organizes various events on issues pertaining to Indigenous people and people of colour. After a few years, this group has undergone a revival — look out for ways to get involved with resisting racism on campus!

Email | Facebook

2. First Nations House of Learning at the Longhouse

Located in the Longhouse, the House of Learning directs many initiatives designed specifically for First Nations students including advocacy services, advising, counseling and support services. The House of Learning also hosts a free weekly Tuesday lunch for First Nations students and students interested in engaging in First Nations issues.

1985 West Mall | 604-822-8940 | Website | Facebook

3. Sprouts

Sprouts is a non-profit and volunteer-run café on campus bringing organic, local and fair trade food to UBC students. Their two most popular initiatives include Community Eats, a by-donation lunch on Fridays, and The Sprouts Box, an on-campus fresh produce delivery service. Both will rock your socially-and-environmentally-conscious tastebuds! Seedlings – ‘an offshoot of sprouts’ – is a cafe on the top floor of the Thea Koerner Graduate Centre that specializes in raw, vegan, and healthy vegetarian food. Because it’s 100% student volunteer-run, prices are affordable, making it one of the best study spots on campus!

Old SUB 44 | 604-822-9124 | Email | Website | Facebook

4. RAGA (Race, Autobiography, Gender, and Age) Student Network

RAGA is an informal, independent, and volunteers-run group that strives to centre and support Indigenous students and students of colour, recognizing that racialized students face additional barriers in the academic institution. Working collaboratively with community organizations to promote social justice, RAGA organizes conferences, workshops and other public events. Sign up for the mailing list to stay informed about events, as well as activism and other calls to action in the city!

Email | Website | Facebook

5. Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC)

SASC is working towards creating a safer campus through “supporting survivors of all sexual orientations and all genders, including women, trans* people, and men.” They provide both short-term emotional support services and also frequently hold workshops and events. This year they are piloting a new program on healthy masculinities. A great way to get involved is to apply to be an outreach or office volunteer – applications are due on September 11th at 5pm! Smashing patriarchy by centering survivorship!

AMS Nest 3127 | 604-827-5180 | Email | Website | Facebook

6. UBCC350

This group is inspired by the global climate movement fostered by and strongly support aggressive global and national action to address the climate crisis. One of their biggest campaigns is Divest UBC, urging UBC to divest from fossil fuels. Thanks to the group’s efforts, 76.9% of student voters in the 2014 AMS elections were in support of divesting, as well as 62% of professors in a February 2015 referendum. Stay tuned for the next stages of their campaign and their continuing quest for climate justice!

Email | Website | Facebook

7. The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the UBC Farm

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems “integrates interdisciplinary academic, community, and production programs to explore and exemplify healthy and sustainable food systems.” The farm itself is 24 hectares of integrated farm and forest lands. Managed by the Centre, both of these programs seek to explore and model themselves around new paradigms of sustainable communities through research, community engagement and food production.

3461 Ross Drive | 604-822-5092 | Email | Website | Facebook

8. Cinema Politica

Cinema Politica UBC, a part of the larger Cinema Politica network, “showcases documentaries that critically engage in social, environmental, economic and gender issues.” Presenting independent voices in the film community and animating discussions, their events are free and open to everyone. Be sure to check out the next featured documentary at the Norm Theatre!

Norm Theatre (Old SUB) | Email | Website | Facebook

9. Solidarity For Palestinian Human Rights UBC (SPHR)

SPHR is a non-profit student-based organization established on the principles of social justice that advocates upholding the rights of Palestinians in “the face of human rights violations and all forms of racism, discrimination, misinformation and misrepresentation.” Their work involves awareness-raising, advocacy, non-violent direct actions, and the promotion of Palestinian identity, culture and history. Last year they successfully brought forward a student referendum on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which saw 61% of students vote in favour, but failed to reach quorum. Watch out for their biggest event later in the year, Israel Apartheid Week, that aims to shed light on Israeli settler colonialism, occupation and apartheid.

Email | Facebook

10. The Terry Project

The Terry Project is a game-changing initiative at UBC. A cross-faculty program that aims to “educate undergraduate students on pressing global issues like climate change, poverty, conflict and disease”, they consistently host engaging events centered around these topics and beyond. Check out the weekly Terry Podcast, “Cited” – a radio show that critically engages with local and international issues – and their BarTalks events, where they host panels discussing current events and controversial topics.  Watch out for the TEDxTerry Talks happening this October — applications for speakers will be coming soon!

Email | Website | Facebook

11. The Dr. Simon K.Y Lee Global Lounge and Resource Centre

The Global Lounge aims to provide a space for students and student groups to engage on international and multicultural topics. As well as hosting great events ranging from movie nights and soccer games to discussions and panels, they give out funding for student groups aiming to do engage on these issues.

Building 1, 2205 Lower Mall (Marine Drive Residence) | 604-827-4774 | Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

12. Bike Co-Op

The Bike Co-Op is a space created to help students and the wider community learn about bikes and bike repair in their Bike Kitchen.  They also “engage in cycling education, outreach and advocacy to promote biking as a safe and sustainable means of transportation.” They recognize the ways bike shops can be intimidating and inaccessible spaces, and aim to combat this through their programming, such as their monthly Women and Queer nights. They also refurbish and sell used bikes, and run the Yellow and Purple campus bike share program.

AMS Nest 29B | 604-822-2453 | Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter

13. Departmental Student Societies

Though the primary focus of any departmental club will be the students in their department, many run social and academic events and programming that are open to all students. A few that have a particular social justice focus have been included below.

Indigenous Law Students’ Society

ILSA provides a platform for indigenous students and non-indigenous students who wish to learn more about Aboriginal law to come together for educational and social activities. They also have a Speaker Series, which works towards their goal of increased Indigenous awareness. A must for law students and prospective law students alike!

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Geography Students’ Association

The Geography Students’ Association is a departmental club that is well known for its Bzzr gardens and nerdy trivia. As a department that’s overrepresented in its’ hippies and Marxists, you’re sure to meet some new friends while pulling up weeds in the GeoGarden, at one of their sustainability events, or editing student papers in the Trail Six undergraduate journal.

Student Lounge, main floor, 1984 West Mall | Email | Website | Facebook  

First Nations Studies Student Association (FNSSA)

FNSSA’s focus is the academic study of indigenous issues and aims  “to create dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples around issues that effect Indigenous communities on campus, in Vancouver, in Canada, and across the world.” With InSA (see below), they organized this year’s First Annual Pow Wow. Also check out their Undergraduate Journal and Blog that showcases the written and creative works by Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in the First Nation and Indigenous Studies program. Finally, they manage the UBC Needs Decolonization page where students share and discuss indigenous issues and decolonization.

Email | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Gender Race and Social Justice (GRSJ) Student Association

The GRSJSA, on top of organizing events for students in their program, plans and executes the ambitious annual F-Word Conference, which focuses on feminism, activism and community and “showcases student research and community collaboration across activist and academic disciplines.” The conference happens at the end of the year, so there’s lots of time to prepare a presentation or paper!

Website | Facebook | Twitter

14. Feminist Club

Started out of the UBC Needs Feminism Facebook page last year, the Feminist Club is one of UBC’s newest social justice focused places on campus. It started with a bit of a bang of controversy but the club is now running smoothly to promote feminism on campus!

Facebook | Twitter

15. Indigenous Students’ Association (InSA)

The Indigenous Students’ Association is a social and cultural club on campus that aims to bring increased awareness to and celebrate Indigenous culture while building a sense of community. Along with FNSSA (see above), they organized a hugely successful, first annual Pow Wow on campus in the spring of 2015. Keep an eye out for another one this year!

Email | Facebook

16. AMS Speakeasy

AMS Speakeasy provides drop-in, non-judgmental peer support for students facing many types of challenges. They’re great at knowing other resources on campus and are always a great place to start looking for help. They’re currently taking applications for volunteers, so don’t miss the deadline of midnight on September 8th!

AMS Nest 3121 or Main Concourse North Side | 604-822-9246 | Email | Website

…and last, but not least, The Talon affirms that The Talon is indeed a place to meet rad people, duh. In all seriousness, there are many involvement opportunities for folks interested in writing critically about UBC-related news. If you’d like to submit a piece, check out our submission guidelines and email us at For visual design and all other opportunity inquiries, feel free to email us too!

Viva la revolución!

**ordained by none other than the PC Police™

Frontlines Beat Pipelines 2: Supporting The Unist’ot’en Through Creative Resistance

The first week of school brings more than just the familiar and notorious whirlwind of welcome back events, parties, and Imagine Day-related hysteria. It also conjures up the long legacy of on-campus colonial violence and misogyny that sometimes rears its head in traditions like Frosh. The Sauder School’s “Pocahontas chants” of 2013 readily come to mind.

Given UBC is on unceded Musqueam land, and most of what we know as British Columbia is unceded too, what are some ways to have some first-week-back fun while also actively, and immediately, grounding ourselves in the land we live, connect, and study on?

Fret you not.

Luckily, there is a Talon-approved event happening amidst this first-week scramble that supports Indigenous land-based resistance to pipelines through Hip Hop, spoken word poetry, storytelling, and visual art. What is this magic, you ask?

For the past 5 years the Unist’ot’en Camp of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in the North have peacefully defended their traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory from pipeline development. Despite a recent increase in RCMP presence near the community, from Wet’suwet’en to Coast Salish territories, support for the Unist’ot’en refuses to wane.

On Thursday, September 10th 2015, visual artists, Hip Hop artists, poets, activists, scholars, and community leaders will come together for FRONTLINES BEAT PIPELINES 2: a fundraiser for the Unist’ot’en Camp’s new project, the Healing Centre for Indigenous youth.

This incredible night of creative resistance will feature an all-Indigenous and POC lineup including:

The event will also be holding a silent auction featuring Unist’ot’en-inspired artwork by:

  •      Acclaimed Filipino muralist Bert Monterona
  •      South-West Asian illustrator and writer Paradise Khanmalek;
  •      Vancouver-based painter, performer, and Unist’ot’en volunteer Kasha
  •      Poet and author Stephen Collis
  •      And many more!

The goal of the night is to raise $10,000 to contribute to the $40,000 that is needed for the Healing Centre’s construction.  

The Healing Centre will cater to primarily Indigenous youth, and will include counseling space, meeting rooms, a kitchen, a dining hall, and sleeping quarters.

The Healing Centre is important because it exemplifies how the Unist’ot’en community is is a place of “learning, of healing, of connecting with nature, of breaking with the legacy of colonization” as worded by its website.

The Healing Centre will allow Indigenous youth, the future of the frontlines, to maintain a healthy and strong presence at the Camp.


Unist’ot’en community members and volunteers in front of the Camp’s Healing Lodge during Unist’ot’en’s 6th annual Action Camp, 2015. Image courtesy of the Unist’ot’en Facebook page.

Financial aid for the Healing Centre and for the Camp overall is also vital at this time because it was announced recently through a letter titled, “We Stand with the Unist’ot’en”, that the Camp is on high alert following rumours of an impending RCMP raid. The safety of both community members and Camp supporters are undoubtedly in question, and the Camp has vocalized clearly on social media their request for solidarity and support at this time.

Over 500 Camp supporters and organizations have signed “We Stand with the Unist’ot’en”. Among the list of names are Anishinaabe scholar and author Leanne Simpson, environmentalist David Suzuki, Greenpeace Canada, and Idle No More. To view the letter, and/or to sign it yourself click here.

Projects like Frontlines Beat Pipelines 2 remind us to be aware of, and to rethink our relationships with, the land we live on. Another great initiative that you can check out, which challenges our relationship with the land constituting UBC in particular, is Knowing the Land Beneath Our Feet, a multimedia project that unmaps UBC’s colonial geography on Musqueam land. Through delivering a digital walking tour that tells the deep histories of certain sites on campus, the project reminds us of both the continued presence of Indigenous peoples on the land known as UBC, as well as our responsibilities to the land, each other, and to the Musqueam people as visitors on their land.


September 10th 2015
Doors 7pm, show starts at 7:30pm
Wise Hall
1882 Adanac St BC V5L 4E5
Traditional, unceded, and occupied territories of the Musqueam, Skwxwú7mesh, and Tsleil Waututh Nations.
19+ show
Consent is mandatory as always


Accessibility: There are ten stairs at the front entrance. There is a wheelchair accessible entrance through the rear. The venue, hallways, and both washrooms are wheelchair accessible (via Facebook event page, see Full Accessibility Audit here.)

The venue will have a scent-reduced policy in effect.

If you are unable to attend the event you can still donate here:

Facebook event page: 

The Frontlines Beat Pipelines 2 promotional poster. Image courtesy of Unist’ot’en Facebook page.

The Frontlines Beat Pipelines 2 promotional poster. Image courtesy of Unist’ot’en FaceBook page.

Sol Diana is a third-year First Nations and Indigenous Studies (FNIS) and Political Science undergrad at UBC.


Introducing the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival 2015

The Talon – UBC’s alternative student press – is back from our summer hiatus!  This year brings in a fresh start, with new ideas, exciting content, and a set of amazing incoming editors! We will be publishing again in a couple of days.

We’re proud to kick the year off by announcing our media partnership with Vancouver Latin American Film Festival. If you haven’t heard of or been to the Fest before, now’s your chance!

The annual festival is a non-profit organization that aims to create a forum to share Latin American cinema with a Vancouver audience, and in particular to provide space for independent filmmakers to showcase their work. This year will feature a number of new directors from Mexico, guest country of honour. The Festival is kicking off Thursday, September 3rd, and will close on Sunday, September 13th.

The Festival will be taking place on the occupied, unceded, traditional, and ancestral territories of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations. We hope this Festival provides our audience an opportunity to engage and act in solidarity with the crucial work of decolonial resistance, including Indigenous resurgence on these lands and abroad, which often begins – but by no means ends – with media, education, and art.

Some heartrending and critical films in the line-up include El Patron, Anatomy Of A Crime (Argentina, 2014), a film based on real events that occurred in the Buenos Aires meat industry; Daughter of the Lake (Peru/Bolivia, 2015), a documentary following the story of Nélida, a young Indigenous Andean woman, in her conviction to protect the waters in her community from gold extraction; and NN (Perú, 2014), a story exploring Peru’s Non Nomine – the disappeared whose bodies have finally been found.  

Be sure to check out the fourth edition of Indigenous Film from BC & Beyond, “Ecologies of Healing and Knowing,” a showcase of short films curated by imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival and Sonia Medel.

We are also going to be doing a review of a film showing on the closing night: La Prenda (The Pawn), a documentary about violence against women in Guatemala and the intersecting violence of US border patrol. Stay tuned!

The rest of the festival and more information about tickets, venues, and special guests can be found on the VLAFF website.

We can’t wait to see you at the Festival, and are excited to bring you more critical Talon content (hint: new editors! political cartoons! creative content! welcome back parties!).

Hope you had a restful summer.

In solidarity,
The Talon Editorial Collective 2015-2016