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Banned Author Finally Gives Reading

The Concordia Student Union courted controversy this year when planning Orientation events.

Author and activist David Bernans was invited by the CSU to speak and read from his historical fiction novel North of 9/11. The book, which was originally published in 2006, was being launched as an e-book.

In 2006, Concordia’s administration banned Bernans from giving a reading on campus. It eventually came to light three years later, after a long and eventually successful fight for a freedom of information request, that Bernans had been monitored by Concordia’s secret Risk Assessment Committee. There were no troubles with Bernans coming to read on campus from the administration this time around, however.

“Nine-eleven means different things to different people,” said Bernans during the reading, which was held at the Co-op Bookstore.

“Some people are remembering 9/11, [for the incident in] 1973, when a US-backed coup overthrew the popularly elected government of Chile through organized terror, murdering and torturing along the way. Other people are remembering the 2,977 victims killed on 9/11, 2001, in the terror attacks on New York and Washington. While others are remembering the victims of the War-on-Terror terror […] started in the wake of [9/11],” he said.

Before reading a passage from the novel, Bernans spoke about the politics and history of Concordia around the turn of the millennium, calling the university a “pretty dynamic hotbed of activism, [which] really freak[ed] out the administration.”

“There was a student strike which forced the administration to back down from a planned fee increase, there was in-your-face activism that allowed the People’s Potato to insert itself on campus despite a corporate exclusivity agreement with a food-service provider, and the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights had been growing by leaps and bounds, making its mark on what would later be known as GazaU,” he said.

He also spoke about Dr. Lillian Robinson, who was a teacher of women’s studies and the principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia before she died of ovarian cancer in 2006. He describes her as “Concordia’s troublemaker extraordinaire”.

“Lillian Robinson became a lonely voice of anti-imperialism reason [at Concordia after 9/11] in a time of war hysteria,” he said. Robinson is both the personal hero of the main character in North of 9/11 and of Bernans himself, who had had to fight back tears when he started speaking about her.

Bernans closed his reading by saying that Concordians need to keep up the struggle against any ill-intentioned administration plans.

“[There has been a] security overkill that is a part of the legacy of 9/11 [at Concordia],” he said. “It’s important for people to be vigilant about this […] and to bring a motion to the senate about the Risk Assessment Committee. Try to bring it out of the shadows because it’s a secret committee that makes secret decisions about what events can and cannot happen on camp

This article originally appeared in Volume 32, Issue 03, published September 13, 2011.