QPIRG To Reorient Students Towards Social Justice
Orientation week has ended, not with a bang but a downpour of rain. Given that, it would seem to be time for Concordia students to stop having fun and get serious about school.
But for those not ready just yet, the local Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia have a week of block parties, workshops and a film screening to help ease the transition. It’s called DisOrientation.
“We want to present to new students coming into university for the first time a different aspect of what education could be, things that go beyond simple academics,” said Christina Xydous, co-coordinator of QPIRG Concordia.
According to Xydous, DisOrientation week is geared towards “getting [students] involved and becoming participants in their community and in social justice issues, and becoming aware of things beyond the campus, so to speak.”
Founded in 1981, QPIRG Concordia has grown from a student club funded by the Concordia Student Union into an autonomous organization deeply rooted in community activism.
The group also funds undergraduate research in areas of social justice and human rights, while also providing space for over thirty working groups: small grassroots entities tackling issues such as prisoner solidarity, migrant justice, trans struggles, free expression, anarchism and child care for low-income families.
But, despite their activist reputation, Xydous maintains that DisOrientation week is meant to be accessible to everyone.
“A lot of students already have a sense before even arriving into university that they want to know more about certain things and have a certain inclination towards those things, but I think that the issues we cover throughout our disorientation week are so broad that it really reaches out to all kinds of people,” she said.
The festivities include a film screening of The Hole Story, a documentary on the mining industry in Canada produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The event is co-sponsored by Cinema Politica.
A block party is also planned for Sept. 27 at the corner of Mackay St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. Billed as a mobilization of the red square-sporting student movement, the festival is attempting to repeat the success of a similarly styled protest that was held on campus during the general strike in April.
“I think a lot of people were really excited with the results of that [event] and wanted to take it a step further, especially in light of everything going on in the past year in the city and throughout province, noticeably the autonomous neighbourhood assemblies that have popped up every where,” said Xydous.
These prominent street displays, she continued, indicate to her a trend of rising community awareness and localized activism.
“I think we are seeing people claiming their space and claiming their cities,” she said. “We’re throwing this block party to celebrate the fact that these are public spaces and it’s important for us to congregate in them.”
Workshops will also cover various issues throughout the week. In a discussion on gentrification, Fred Burill, a Concordia alumnus and researcher, is looking to show students the impact of urban renovation.
“I think the argument is quite compelling to students in general, as a largely low-income population that is always on the lookout for cheap places to live, and that will get harder and harder as gentrification advances,” said Xydous.
Other workshop topics include developing indigenous identity, examining anti-colonial protests of the Plan Nord construction plan proposed by Jean Charest’s Liberal Party, and a discussion on recent developments in the Quebec general student strike.
“We had to have something on the issues of this year’s student strike,” said Xydous. “It was a massive mobilization of students across the province and perfectly relevant to [what] Concordia students want to discuss.”
But for something to be relevant, it must also be of interest, and QPIRG Concordia is hoping those unfamiliar with its history of community activism will embrace the invitation to get involved.
“[You] sensitize and inform people about the various issues that we think are important,” said Xydous. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”