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‘I couldn’t believe it’: University of Alberta evicted student after attempt to kill himself

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Hallways at the University of Alberta are decorated with posters with reassuring slogans such as « Love yourself » and « Take a break and find balance. »

One U of A student in Edmonton says that when he walks by the slogans, he feels as if it’s all for show.

In the fall of 2016, the 18-year-old tried for the second time to take his own life. After his second discharge from hospital in less than a month, a university administrator came to meet him.

But instead of offering help, the staff member handed him a notice of eviction from his residence.

« I couldn’t believe it, » said the student, who told his story to Radio-Canada. CBC News is calling him Eric to protect his identity.

« I was being evicted for trying to attempt suicide. I hadn’t put anyone else in danger. »

Eric was told he had to move out of his campus residence because he had violated his residency agreement. The agreement states that « the resident will not endanger persons or damage property in the premises and residence. »

The student was told he had to move out of his campus residence because he had violated his residency agreement. (Supplied/Name withheld by request)

The administrator handed the student a trespass notice and an eviction letter that said: « You admitted to attempting to commit self-harm within your residence and this was the second attempt. »

The letter also said: « The type of example your actions support have no place in an academic learning environment. »

Eric said he had experienced symptoms of depression since his early teen years, but at university his symptoms worsened. « Things suddenly felt meaningless, » he said.

He first attempted suicide in his second year of university. Police intervened and took him to hospital. After he was discharged, the U of A gave him a list of phone numbers to call if he needed help.

« I never gave it [another] thought to contact those people, » he said. He said the help he was offered was based on an assumption that his actions were a cry for help, not a serious suicide attempt.

One week later, he still had constant thoughts of dying, he said. He tried again to take his own life.

Again, police took him to hospital. When he returned to his dorm, staff had booked him a hotel room for the night and told him they would meet with him the next morning, he said. That’s when the university took action.

Decision without explanation

Officials at the U of A haven’t explained how the decision could have been approved.

In an interview this month, André Costopoulos, dean of students, said there is no policy that includes « considering self-harm or actively self-harming » as a reason to ban a student from a campus residence.

Costopoulos wouldn’t comment on the specifics of Eric’s case, but said it’s possible the decision was based on erroneous information.

Two weeks after Eric’s eviction, the same administrator who gave him the letter emailed him about reconsidering the previous decision.

But Eric said the damage was done.

« I just felt like I needed a safe place to stay where I could try to work this out in my head, where I can feel comfortable, » he said. « They took that away from me. »

‘Never justifiable, never acceptable’

The University of Alberta Students’ Union said the eviction is unacceptable.

A letter like the one Eric received is « never justifiable, never acceptable, » Andre Bourgeois, vice-president of student life, said in an interview this month.

Bourgeois said the students’ union is aware of more than one case when a student was evicted under similar circumstances.

He said that he’s concerned that a recent directive from Alberta Advanced Education to have the province provide clinical care services for students will make it harder for school staff to make decisions in the best interests of students with mental health issues.

« I wouldn’t say that I’m confident that the university will never make another mistake when it comes to suicide or mental health, » Bourgeois said.

Students vulnerable

Mara Grunau, executive director of the Calgary-based Centre for Suicide Prevention, said suicidal thoughts are almost always the result of multiple factors, but students can be particularly vulnerable to certain stresses.

« What we typically see with students is the pressure they feel to achieve, » Grunau said.

« It can also be pressure from living away from home for the first time. »

Symptoms of mental illness also often reveal themselves in late adolescence, she said.

Since 2017, five University of Alberta students have died from suicide, according to Costopoulos.

Still a student, Eric has sought psychiatric help and continues to fight his depression.

If you are dealing with thoughts of suicide you can call the 24-hour Canada-wide crisis service hotline: 1-833-456-4566.

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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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Anglais

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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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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