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Indigenous students question universities’ commitment to Indigenization

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Ntawnis Piapot is one of two recipients of the 2018 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowships, established to encourage Indigenous voices and better understanding of Indigenous issues in Canada’s major media and community outlets.


Darian Lonechild, a student at the University of Saskatchewan, says she first joined the Facebook group « USask Confessions » simply for entertainment purposes.

The USask Confessions group encourages people to: « Private message us your most heartfelt, disgusting, hilarious, filthy, embarrassing confessions! It will be posted ANONYMOUSLY on this page. » 

Some posts are humorous, some profess their secret admiration for others. However, Lonechild said certain posts that take aim at Indigenous people are « appalling. »

(USask Confessions/Facebook)

« You really question if true critical thought is flourishing and is the university really doing its job, » she said.

Lonechild, a provincially elected youth representative for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations — and nationally as the female youth representative of the Assembly of First Nations — said social media posts like this shouldn’t be taken lightly.

(USask Confessions/Facebook)

« When stereotypes and racist confessions are made… It really can make a student feel unsafe in an environment where they’re supposed to learn and feel safe, » said Lonechild.

Jacqueline Ottmann, the University of Saskatchewan’s Provost of Indigenous Education, said the USask Confessions page is not connected to the university and the vice-provost of teaching and learning has been exploring what can be done to challenge the website when it comes to racist posts.

The University of Saskatchewan recently unveiled a new strategic plan that outlines its goals for the next seven years and its aim to make the university a leader in Indigenization.

Indigenization is a term universities have adopted to describe efforts to include Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing at their institutions. 

« Indigenization is not a separate commitment on its own, » said University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff.

« It runs through every commitment that we have, and that’s the university of the future. »

Tensions in the classroom

Erica Violet Lee, a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, sat on many Indigenization committees during her time at the U of S. Lee was also a teacher’s assistant for a mandatory Indigenous Studies course.

Erica Violet Lee is a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. (Erica Violet Lee/Facebook )

Lee said at times non-Indigenous students would roll their eyes or not take her seriously when she would be at the front of the classroom but she said she kept her message the same for each of her students: « You need to understand colonialism to properly serve Indigenous communities. »

« I realized this classroom may be the only interaction that they may have with someone Indigenous before they go and have an impact on our community members’ lives as social workers, as teachers, as health care workers, health care providers, » she told CBC.

Students at the University of Saskatchewan say there was tension after the Gerald Stanley verdict earlier this year.

In response, Lee said they held events to help students talk about the Stanley verdict and how it affected them in order to make students feel safe. That’s something that’s key to Indigenizing the campus, said Ottmann.

« These things are happening in our province and of course we have to talk about them in class. We don’t leave genocide at the door when we walk into a classroom, » Lee said.

« So those tensions — whether they’re talked about or not — are always in [Saskatchewan] classrooms. »

Leigh Thomas at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

Leigh Thomas is a U of S student who identifies as a two-spirit, genderqueer man whose first language is Cree.

« I don’t feel safe at all in any space I occupy, » Thomas said.

« There’s homophobia, there’s racism and then there’s also just straight up bigotry within classrooms and it’s because there is a lack of education and communication. »

New mural 

Indigenous artists Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch painted a mural at the University of Saskatchewan this week depicting water protectors.

« I think art helps to open people’s minds and create thought and that’s really important, especially in a place like university, » said Belcourt.

Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch in front of their mural at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

But she acknowledged the limitations.  

« I think it’s generally a huge, uphill battle to try and Indigenize spaces that are typically not Indigenous spaces. »

Lonechild said that to Indigenize the universities, there needs to be human-to-human contact between students of all nationalities.

« The divide is real that the non-Indigenous students are sitting far away or completely separate from other students, » said Lonechild.

Universities ‘complicit’ with colonization, says UWinnipeg official

Kevin Lamoureux, the associate vice-president of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Winnipeg, said they are doing their best to fulfil the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

They intend to help Indigenize the campus by ensuring every student at the university takes a mandatory Indigenous Studies course. They said they still have a long way to go.

« Universities across Canada are absolutely complicit with the exercise of colonization, » said Lamoureux.

« Many of the pseudo-justifications of colonial practices were born out of universities. Much of the hurts and harms that have been caused come from universities. »

Lynn Lavallée, the University of Manitoba’s vice-provost of Indigenous Education, said she measures the success of her Indigenization program by the success and the safety of Indigenous students that attend U of M.

« When a student — a male Indigenous warrior, very apparently Indigenous — can walk into the academy and not have security called on him, then I’ll talk about Indigenizing the academy, » Lavallée said.

Lavallée said U of M has implemented Indigenous content into its nursing and law programs. But she said what works in the arts department might not work in say, the engineering program, so they have to look for solutions.

One would be to incorporate an « infusion » of Indigenous knowledge throughout a four-year degree program. The other would be to offer a full one-semester course. She prefers the latter.

« I’m not a fan of the infusion model for a variety of reasons, and that is because we are asking people without the expertise on a topic to teach about a topic, » she said.

« What we see happening is Indigenizing the academy, even including Indigenizing spaces, falls on the shoulders of Indigenous people already at the institution. »

Students as teachers

Most of the Indigenous students CBC spoke to talked about the « free labour » they provide, often bearing the brunt of the process of Indigenizing academia.

« Native students aren’t just allowed to focus on their own work and on their own success because often we’re too busy working on making classrooms bearable for ourselves and other students to come to, or we’re talking to professors or administrators [about] things that they should know already living in Saskatchewan, » said Lee.

Chance Paupanekis outside Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

University of Manitoba student and former Indigenous Student Association President Chance Paupanekis has been involved with numerous provincial and national initiatives to help Indigenize education. He helped start the « reconciliACTION » campaign for students to hold academic administration to account when it comes to fulfilling their promises to Indigenize, reconcile relationships with Indigenous people and, most of all, educate.

« We are here to get our degrees firstly, » he said.

« I’ve been in student leadership for four years now and I just received a position that pays me a small honorarium. I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I have the passion and I see the need for these things for our kids and our children’s children. »

Hire elders

Rollin Baldhead, a student in the Indigenous Teacher Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan, said he envisions changes — like paying elders higher wages for their teaching for a start — when it comes to Indigenizing.

Rollin Baldhead in front of the Gordon Oakes Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

« If we are able to pay four or 10 elders from all areas of Saskatchewan and have them here for maybe about two years and try not to burn them out… paying them on a PhD level pay grade, then these teachers, these elders could then begin passing on their oral tradition, passing on their stories. »

Lamoureux said it is up to the Indigenous community to tell academic administration when they’ve been successful in Indigenizing campuses. But his personal goal is simple.

« When an Indigenous person can come to the University of Winnipeg and say that ‘I feel like my experience here is meaningful and my identity was honoured — as any other student’s identity should be — and I feel like I am graduating with a degree that in no way comes at the expense of my cultural identity, or my family, or my own sense of responsibility to history,’ that would be success. »

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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