News | J-Board case develops as hearing draws near

Justice discloses previous involvement with OPIRG

Since students Zach Newburgh and Brendan Steven announced the filing of a Judicial Board (J-Board) case against Elections SSMU’s Chief Electoral Officer Rebecca Tacoma, SSMU executives and J-Board justices have both released statements regarding their involvement in the case.

The case challenges the results of the fall 2011 referendum question regarding QPIRG’s existence and opt-out system.

SSMU President Maggie Knight released a statement explaining that VP University Affairs Emily Clare will spearhead SSMU decisions relating to the J-Board case.

Knight stated that she has “too many different roles in relation to the ongoing Judicial Board case” to make decisions regarding the case, including hiring J-Board justices, acting as supervisor to Tacoma, and a history of personal interactions with petitioners Newburgh and Steven.

Knight specified that she voted to censure Newburgh last year following his involvement with Jobbook.

Clare said that she plans to disclose any previous involvement with QPIRG, including professional interactions with the group in her capacity as Equity Commissioner last year.

“I’m not making the decision, just more facilitating the J-Board process,” said Clare.

SSMU’s Conflict of Interest Policy, which was redrafted following last year’s allegations against Newburgh, is also mentioned in the J-Board case itself. The case charges VP Clubs & Services, Carol Fraser, Clubs & Services representative Adam Winer, and former Arts representative Micha Stettin with conflicts of interest.

The three councillors played roles in bringing QPIRG and CKUT’s referendum questions to Council for approval. At the time, Fraser and Winer were members of the CKUT ‘yes’ committee, while Stettin sat on the QPIRG Board of Directors.

Discussion also arose around the history of J-Board Justice Raphael Szajnfarber, who was involved in a 2008 Hillel Ottawa dispute with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG).

On Tuesday, Szajnfarber released a statement detailing the situation. Then-President of Hillel Ottawa, Szajnfarber acted as spokesperson for the organization when Hillel complained that OPIRG had refused to provide funding for an event due to Hillel’s connection to Israel.

“I’m the one who liaised with [Szajnfarber] and asked him to put up that statement, because it’s just trying to get as much information out as possible,” Clare said.

Szajnfarber’s statement outlines the steps he took to inform SSMU of his involvement in the situation during his interview for the position of a J-Board Justice, as well as informing his fellow justices and filing an official disclosure form.

Chief Justice David Parry also filed an official disclosure form declaring his former position as staff writer with The Daily and Le Délit, though none of his work covered student politics.

Szajnfarber stated that he has “never met or been in contact with any of the parties to the dispute,” and that none have asked him to step down from the case. QPIRG McGill is not considered a party in the J-Board case; the named parties are Steven, Newburgh, and Tacoma.

SSMU Council will hold a public discussion about the case tonight.

According to a statement released by J-Board, there will not be a decision on the case at the hearing, but a judgment will be made “within a reasonable delay after the hearing.” The hearing is set for Monday, January 30.


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