At its September 17 meeting, the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Legislative Council adopted a motion to acknowledge its position on colonized land at the beginning of every Council meeting, and launched a process to rename the Champagne and Jack Daniels meeting rooms in the Arts Lounge. Council also rejected a motion that would have have imposed restrictions on the composition of the AUS First-Year Events, Academic, and Representative Council (FEARC).
Acknowledgment of occupied and colonized land
Arts Senators Jacob Greenspon and Kareem Ibrahim presented the Traditional Territory Acknowledgment Motion and explained the importance of explicitly recognizing the occupation of traditional Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory, where McGill is located, at the beginning of all sessions of Council as well as on the AUS website.
“McGill is on colonized land, and we just want to give recognition to the fact that the many people [and] populations of where we live experience oppression due to the past histories of the founding people in Canada, and essentially McGill,” stated Ibrahim. “It is basically a gesture that just goes to show that we are a cognizant group of students and that we care about the impacts of our ancestors and, I guess, McGill.”
During the debate period, AUS President Ava Liu expressed concern over the repetitiveness of stating the traditional territory acknowledgment at every Council meeting. “We do not currently either sing the national anthem nor have any other form of political or nationalistic affiliation, so adding it in politicizes something that may not necessarily already be in existence,” added Liu.
AUS VP Social Kyle Rouhani countered Liu’s statement and emphasized that this acknowledgment would serve as a reminder of the colonial occupation of Indigenous land at McGill. “I think that the point of having it at the beginning of every Legislative Council [meeting] is not necessarily that it’s preaching to the choir, but that it’s just constant reminder of the fact that we are all on occupied, colonized land.”
Ibrahim expressed hope that the motion’s success will set a precedent for other student associations as well as McGill’s administrative bodies, such as Senate.
“We hope that passing this motion will have a domino effect on our fellow student associations so that we can work in unison to help impact these important changes to make our community more inclusive,” Ibrahim told The Daily in an email. “And it doesn’t stop there – hopefully once we have student support, we can bring these ideas to bodies like Senate, which would be a huge step forward for McGill.”
Meeting room name change, amendment to FEARC bylaws
Greenspon and Caribbean and Latin American Studies & Hispanic Studies Association Representative Vincent Simboli also brought forth a motion to rename the Champagne and Jack Daniels rooms of the Arts Lounge, used for AUS committee meetings and by the AUS Essay Centre.
Simboli felt that the current names for these rooms promote a drinking culture, which conflict with AUS’ principles of safe space.
“It’s a drinking culture that not everyone participates in and that not everybody can identify with. So I don’t think it’s a responsible thing to have those names.”
The motion passed by a wide majority. AUS’ next listserv email will include a nomination callout for new room names.
The motion to amend FEARC bylaws, which was proposed by VP Internal Leila Alfaro, was the only motion that did not pass at Council. This motion sought to ensure that one executive of FEARC would be a student coming from CEGEP and that another executive would be an international student. Both executives would have been responsible for organizing academic and social events for the first-year students that they respectively represented.
Alfaro told The Daily in an email that she had anticipated resistance from the AUS councillors in passing this motion.
“Because I understand and even expected this, I do not think it’s a big deal that the motion did not pass. In a way, it was meant more as an experiment,” Alfaro added.