On January 31, 2017, the Bauer Theatre was almost at maximum capacity as students, faculty and community members alike gathered to watch the first John C. Friel X Talk on justice. This event was hosted by the U in partnership with the McKenna Centre and The Xaverian Weekly.
Event moderator Emily Keenan opened up with the acknowledgement that this event was taking place on traditional Mi’kmaq land as well as voicing condolences to those effected by the Quebec City shootings.
Eric Friel, a police officer from New Brunswick and son of John C. Friel, the series namesake, soon took to the stage. Eric Friel explained how his father, an X alumnus and criminal lawyer fought for justice. “He didn’t care about money, he cared about people.” John C. Friel who worked his way up to be a judge, fought for justice on a continual basis.
Rachel LeBlanc VP of activities and events soon offered a few words explaining what X talks is, “it is a lecture series driven by students… students from all walks of life.” LeBlanc also addressed the topic of the lecture series, explaining that “justice is undoubtedly the fight that keeps us alive today.”
The first speaker was Rebecca Massey, a second-year student whose talk was entitled “The Dangerous Silence of Conformity.” She stated that when she first came to StFX she experienced a few shocks, such as a lack of diversity, alcohol consumption and the culture of conformity.
Massey has a unique worldview as her parents are Ethiopian refugees. She called StFX a “diaspora experience” further explaining “I could not identify with the mainstream.” She called upon both the school and the students to adopt a more inclusive and diverse environment, therefore creating a more just one.
The second speaker was student Jasmine Cormier whose talk was entitled “A Difficult Conversation.” Cormier, a sexual assault survivor who received national attention for an article she wrote explaining her sentiments and criticizing Marie Henein (Gian Gomeshi’s defense attorney) focused on how “the system fundamentally distrusts women.” She also drew parallels between what it means to be a victim, and what it means to be a survivor. Her speech was deeply personal and this was evidenced by the fact that select audience members could be seen wiping tears, empathizing with the speaker.
Cormier acknowledged that although not all agree with what she has to say, in the interest of free speech and justice, her voice should be heard.
The third speaker in the series was second year Clancy McDaniel. McDaniel, who revealed her history as a kidnap victim, stated that she had a typical east coast upbringing and never thought she’d be in such a situation. McDaniel’s talk primarily focused on the injustice of human trafficking from an abduction survivor’s perspective.
She stated how her experiences caused her to “internalize [her] disposability.”
The final speaker in this series was Tareq Hadhad, a Syrian refugee who settled in Antigonish in 2015. He stated that once you become a refugee, “you lose your sense of belonging.”
He went on to mention that his family experienced injustice while they were in Lebanon for three years, after fleeing Syria and prior to arriving in Canada. Hadhad did not like using a Lebanese accent while there but admitted that if he didn’t use one he would face persecution by authorities, officials, or others.
Hadhad was also assigned a number by the UN for identification purposes. When asked by a refugee re-settlement employee what his number was, Hadhad replied with “I’m not a number, I’m a human being.”
Hadhad’s talk entitled “A Newcomers Perspective” explained his journey as well as expressed gratitude and admiration for his new country and community.
He then said he had doubts prior to arriving in Canada about how integrated he and his family could be in the community and he said he was quite happy with the result.
“I couldn’t find Antigonish on Google, but everyone here is very supportive,” Hadhad said.
Not everything was smooth sailing however, just after the inauguration of President Trump, Hadhad had received an invitation to meet and speak with the Governor of the state of Vermont, Phil Scott.
Trying to cross the border from Quebec into Vermont, Hadhad was denied entry, an invitation from a State Governor apparently wasn’t enough he said.
To wrap up the event McKenna Centre Director, Mary Coyle came on stage to express her gratitude at the number of people who came out to watch and praised the overall success of the event.
In an email sent to the Xaverian Weekly Coyle stated “I was just so thrilled with the good crowd and the outstanding speakers.”