News – The McGill Daily It hasn't been 1911 since 1911 Fri, 12 Feb 2016 07:36:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 News – The McGill Daily 32 32 Divest McGill rallies outside of James Administration Fri, 12 Feb 2016 07:08:23 +0000 Just before the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) meeting on February 11, around thirty demonstrators, organized by the campus climate justice group Divest McGill, rallied outside the James Administration building.

The demonstrators stood in front of the main entrance of the James Administration building, holding signs that said “Divest McGill” and chanting, “Get on the podium, divest from petroleum.”

In an interview with The Daily, Benji Astrachan, U2 World Religions and International Development Studies student and a member of Divest McGill, said, “We just wanted to make sure that our presence was loud and clear, and that they knew that we’re there and we’ll continue to be there.”

Since 2012, Divest McGill has submitted several petitions to the BoG’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), urging the University to “immediately begin to dispose […] of the University’s holdings in corporations which develop the Canadian tar sands, transport or refine hydrocarbon from the Canadian tar sands, sell any product of the Canadian tar sands, or are otherwise involved in the production, distribution, transportation or sale of goods from the Canadian tar sands.”

Divest McGill has since garnered the endorsement of faculty and staff. For example, in November, Arts Faculty Council voted to endorse the campaign.

Three years of consistent campus advocacy have failed to influence McGill’s investment portfolio. Divest McGill alleges that the University has incurred an estimated $43 million in losses stemming from its current investment holdings during the time it has spent considering Divest McGill’s petitions.

At a CAMSR meeting on October 22, CAMSR Chair Stuart “Kip” Cobbett had said that “[CAMSR would] have a decision by early next year. Certainly by the March 30 deadline.” However, Cobbett had also added, “This is not a drop-dead deadline, because stuff happens.”

Nevertheless, in its report to the BoG, presented on February 11, CAMSR has officially declared that it has “agreed to begin working on a report and expects to submit it to the Board [of Governors] for consideration in March 2016.”

In an interview with The Daily, Gregoire Beaune, U3 Political Science and Philosophy student and a participant at the rally, said, “For me, [climate justice] goes beyond just the climate. […] Climate, today, is at the intersection of several struggles which link racialized people and people who are socioeconomically disfavoured.”

“Divesting from fossil fuels […] is more than just asking for a green campus. It’s asking for an ethical campus – one that is aware of the repercussions of its investments and also aware of the world around it,” Beaune said.

SSMU to vote on referendum question to join AVEQ student federation Thu, 11 Feb 2016 18:03:12 +0000 On February 11, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council will meet at 6:00 p.m. in the Lev Bukhman room to discuss eight motions and two notices of motion.

Student federation referendum question

During its last meeting on January 28, Council discussed the potential of joining one of two Quebec student federations, the Association pour la voix étudiante au Québec (AVEQ), or the Union étudiante du Québec (UEQ). In her report to Council, VP External Emily Boytinck has stated that there “appeared to be little interest” in continuing SSMU’s involvement inUEQ.

As such, Council will vote on whether the question of joining AVEQ, which would result in a non-opt-outable student fee of $3.50 per student per semester, should be posed to students during the Winter 2016 referendum period.

Clubs fee referendum question

Council will also vote on approving another question to be posed during the Winter 2016 referendum period, this one regarding the creation of an opt-outable Clubs Fund Fee of $2.75 per student per semester.

Currently, SSMU allocates $25,000 to the Club Fund each semester. However, a preambulatory clause in the motion explain that this is “insufficient to meet the need for funding by the [more than 240] clubs recognized by the SSMU.”

In Fall 2015, SSMU clubs had requested $117,369.48 requested from the Club Fund last semester.

A preambulatory clause in the motion states that “due to budgetary constraints, the Club Fund cannot be increased and is vulnerable to being cut in favour of other areas of the SSMU budget.”

Other motions

While several other motions concern renewing fees to support SSMU services, there will also be a motion aimed at amending the SSMU Constitution to better reflect SSMU’s current needs and to correct provisions, which are, according to a preambulatory clause in the motion, “patently false or outdated.” The proposed amendments to the constitution include adding a traditional territory acknowledgement to the preamble, changing provisions regarding the Board of Directors, and grammatical and typographical changes.

Board of Governors to approve proposal to transform Faculty of Religious Studies to school Thu, 11 Feb 2016 17:40:13 +0000 On February 11, the McGill Board of Governors (BoG) will be holding its third meeting of the 2015-16 academic year. On the agenda are a report from the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) and the annual report from Student Life and Learning.

In addition, the BoG will be voting on whether to approve a proposal to transform the Faculty of Religious Studies into a school within the Faculty of Arts.

CAMSR update on divestment from the fossil fuel industry

CAMSR will report on its January 18 meeting regarding the Divest McGill petition calling on McGill to divest from the fossil fuel industry. According to the very brief report it will be presenting to the BoG, CAMSR has “agreed to begin working on a report and expects to submit it to the Board [of Governors] for consideration in March 2016.”

Divest McGill will be organizing a rally before the meeting to “show [the BoG] that the McGill community will not accept the administration’s complicity in the climate crisis, but that [the McGill community] will support them if they choose full fossil fuel divestment.”

Proposal to transform the Faculty of Religious Studies

On December 2, Senate approved a proposal to transform the Faculty of Religious Studies into a school within the Faculty of Arts. Following Senate’s approval, the proposal requires the BoG’s approval to be implemented, which will be discussed at today’s meeting.

According to the Principal Suzanne Fortier’s report from Senate, “the new School would continue to exercise its prior rights, obligations, and functions” and also “be the primary academic unit for teaching and research in the field of religious studies, including religions and theology as fields of scholarly interest.”

Report on Student Life and Learning

Deputy Provost (Student Living and Learning) Ollivier Dyens will present the 2014-15 Annual Report on Student Life and Learning.

The report addresses the “[reduction of] wait times in counselling services to first appointments from six to three weeks during peak periods and [increase of] access to clinical care for students in Health Services to reduce wait times.”

In addition, the report states that Service Point has improved its email response time by 72 per cent, in-person wait times by 56 per cent, telephone call answer rate by 35 per cent, and speed to answer calls by 46 per cent. These improvements are accompanied by a 15 per cent reduction in demand for services.

Interfaith Day brings students together to share faiths Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:05:26 +0000 On January 29, McGill Interfaith Day invited participants to attend a variety of religious services and events on and off campus. The series of events was hosted by the McGill Interfaith Student Council (MISC), based out of the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (MORSL), and in conjunction with Ghetto Shul, the Muslim Students’ Association, the Sikh Students’ Association, the Thaqalayan Muslim Students’ Association, and the Newman Centre.

Speaking to The Daily, Kripa Koshy, a member of MISC, said that interfaith events help foster dialogue between the McGill community and different faith groups, as well as dialogue between the faith groups themselves.

“Our diverse team of faith representatives often uses the resources their respective groups have to facilitate one event specifically aimed at demystifying their faith to those outside of the faith tradition.”

A Jumu’ah prayer, a Catholic mass, a Sikh meditation, Shabbat services, and a roundtable discussion were all a part of the day’s events.
According to Koshy, “Our diverse team of faith representatives often uses the resources their respective groups have to facilitate one event specifically aimed at demystifying their faith to those outside of the faith tradition.” Each student-led, on-campus organization hosted an event representative of a feature of their faith, and all of these groups joined the roundtable discussion.

Koshy went on to emphasize how the roundtable discussion spoke to the purpose of Interfaith Day. “Rather than engaging in complex religious rhetoric, [it was] an informal chat where students of faith [discussed] the challenges they encounter while fulfilling their study objectives and faith commitments,” said Koshy. “Exploring these spaces allows me to better understand my neighbour, and thus offer better support to religious minorities and communities in our multicultural society.”

Phoebe Warren, a U2 Political Science and History student, told The Daily that she heard of Interfaith Day through her involvement with the Unitarian Church of Montreal.

“Exploring these spaces allows me to better understand my neighbour, and thus offer better support to religious minorities and communities in our multicultural society.”

Speaking about the Shabbat services hosted by Ghetto Shul, Warren said, “It was wonderful. Our individual beliefs weren’t particularly important during the religious part of the evening, and we were able to focus on enjoying the practices and rituals for what they are and how they compare to our own.”

The services were followed by a community dinner. Warren recalled a conversation she had that night, saying, “I was able to engage in a discussion […] no holds barred, about our beliefs, why we believe them, and how it impacts our worldview.”

In an interview with The Daily, Cassie Frankel, a U3 Political Science student involved in Ghetto Shul, spoke about the same event, saying, “It gave the anthropological opportunity to observe different religious prayer customs while also providing a social forum to meet other interested students of faith in a more low-key setting.”

“I was able to engage in a discussion […] no holds barred, about our beliefs, why we believe them, and how it impacts our worldview.”

“I also really enjoyed the opportunity to bring my own friends along to something so important to me, that is such a regular yet not necessarily understood part of my life at McGill,” Frankel added.

Koshy also attended the Shabbat services, and, regarding the Torah passage shared during the services, said, “[It] really resonated with me, as it narrated a story of how new perspectives can add great value to existing traditions and can in fact help strengthen communities.”

Speaking more broadly about Interfaith Day, Koshy said, “What I found most noteworthy was how beautifully the diverse faith groups worked together to connect their communities and offer a warm welcome to friends and strangers alike.”

Ambassador discusses Burma’s transition Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:05:07 +0000 On February 4, around twenty people attended a talk given by the Canadian Ambassador to Burma (Myanmar) Mark McDowell about Burma’s democratization, development, and relationship with Canada. The lecture was part of the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID)’s Global Governance Program Speaker Series.

McDowell began by giving a brief history of the country. Burma – renamed to Myanmar by the ruling military junta – was one of the most authoritarian countries in Southeast Asia. In 2010, a new government was elected, which, according to McDowell, surprised observers by enacting a “triple transition.”

This triple transition meant there were reforms in terms of politics, the economy, and the peace process.
But Burma has experienced the world’s longest running civil war between several ethnic groups. Despite an agreement with the government, tensions still exist, such as the conflict between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State.

Student perspectives

Many students and faculty at the talk asked questions regarding the current political and economic situation in Burma, and emphasized how beneficial McDowell’s visit was in providing a greater understanding of contemporary Burma.

“It’s a pretty rare occasion and we’re very fortunate to have an ambassador […] who has real experience in terms of Canadian and international diplomacy.”

When asked why she attended the lecture, U2 student Gabrielle Denis remarked that her initial interest came from a political science class on Southeast Asian politics.

Shirley Zhang, a U3 Arts and Science student, speaking to The Daily, said, “It’s a pretty rare occasion and we’re very fortunate to have an ambassador […] who has real experience in terms of Canadian and international diplomacy. [It’s] a lesson we cannot learn from a classroom setting.”

In an interview with The Daily, McDowell added that the lecture was lent depth by students’ and faculty’s questions, remarking, “There were certainly more questions than we had time for and a lot of pretty spot-on questions about some of the more complicated aspects of reform.”

Lack of awareness

Despite the interest shown by attendees, McDowell emphasized that there is a lack of awareness in Canada about politics in Burma. He further added that the media has often portrayed Burma’s move toward democracy as a very unsure process.

“I think now is the time for people to be focusing on Burma as a country that seems to be leading a very dramatic democratic transition.”

McDowell told The Daily, “I think Burma is a country that has been sort of exoticized and only known through a few tragic events in the past 25 years. I think now is the time for people to be focusing on Burma as a country that seems to be leading a very dramatic democratic transition.”
McDowell added that when he started in this position, there were few economic ties, little developmental programming, or contact with high level politicians, but the embassy is building relationships in the country.

Regarding the need to raise awareness, McDowell said that he has visited five universities. He stated, “[We’re] not just publicizing what we’re doing. It’s a chance for us to listen to what Canadians are interested in, what their concerns are. It’s us studying as well.”

Students’ right to strike in legal limbo, Court of Appeal rules Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:04:01 +0000 On January 27, the Quebec Court of Appeal concluded that the legality of students’ right to strike has not been established. The decision came in response to a Quebec Superior Court decision that granted an interlocutory injunction to the Association générale des étudiants de la faculté des lettres et sciences humaines (AGEFLESH) at the Université de Sherbrooke.

The injunction was granted during the anti-austerity movement that culminated in a massive student strike in the spring of 2015. It demanded that members of AGEFLESH refrain from blocking classes.

In an interview with La Tribune, AGEFLESH spokesperson Raphaëlle Paradis-Lavallée had said in French, “Students’ struggles must be done politically, and not through judicial ways. The injunction impedes upon the right to strike.”

Also during the spring of 2015, students at Concordia University and the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) faced disciplinary reactions, this time in the form of disciplinary tribunals.

Since the beginning of the 2016 Winter semester, students targeted by these tribunals have been receiving the results of their trials from their respective universities. Eamon Toohey, a member of Concordia Against Tribunals (CATS), told The Daily that the entire process has been “a gruelling nine months for all the students involved.”

Toohey continued, “As of now, the first group of students have gone through their tribunal and received letters of reprimand from the University. While this doesn’t necessarily limit future actions, it goes on their records. This endangers their standing when applying for grad school, and makes them targets should they continue with student activism.”

“Students’ struggles must be done politically, and not through judicial ways. The injunction impedes upon the right to strike.”

The charges against the Concordia students were filed by professors under article 29g of Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities. The students’ actions allegedly caused “obstruction or disruption of University activities,” even though at least three of the students who received complaints were not actually involved in the protests.

Toohey also pointed out that while the strikes occurred at the beginning of April, professors pressed charges at the end of the month, “despite the entire Political Science Students’ Association making a democratic decision to strike.”

According to Toohey, the tribunals have not only affected the students directly involved, but have set a dangerous precedent for future student movements, whereby universities can impede upon students’ autonomy to take action.

“It’s not an immediate restriction but rather sets a dangerous precedent for student activists, limiting their ability to freely mobilize without fear of retribution. […] The importance of actually having the freedom to strike as students is that it puts us on equal footing with all the other parties involved, it’s another step toward having equal control over the productive labour of education we are involved in,” Toohey added.

Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP External Emily Boytinck said that the Court of Appeal’s decision regarding the Université de Sherbrooke injunction was a useful clarification. “Although the legality of student strikes is still sort of [up] in the air, […] we now know that it’s not definitely illegal to be blocking classes,” Boytinck told The Daily.

“People who would otherwise really want to participate are scared because they are going to get an injunction, or get a ticket, or get tear-gassed.”

Boytinck said that while some strikes may disturb regular class activity, such disciplinary actions can discourage students from participating in broader student movements in the first place.
“Students should be able to fully participate in the student movement. It goes down to the same thing as getting ticketed. […] These types of things would serve to […] make people feel scared to participate. […] People who would otherwise really want to participate are scared because they are going to get an injunction, or get a ticket, or get tear-gassed.”

Although there have not been cases of student injunctions at McGill during the spring of 2015, there have been cases where the McGill administration carried out disciplinary actions against students who participated in political activities.

For instance, in 2012, the University terminated the contract of a floor fellow due to his participation in the occupation of the office of Morton Mendelson, who was the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) at the time. In addition, the University issued a provisional protocol strictly outlining students’ rights to demonstrate on campus.

Boytinck explained that strike regulations at McGill can be ambiguous and that this can be used against the students by the administration.

“The student code of conduct [Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures] at McGill is extremely vague […and] can incriminate students for […] making somebody feel unsafe, which is totally vague, and can be used at basically the discretion of the committees. Personally, I find that to be not exactly setting up McGill to be protecting all its students,” Boytinck said.

Boytinck also emphasized the importance of strikes as an effective pressure tactic in combatting government decisions like tuition increases and austerity cuts.

“I really do think that student strikes shouldn’t be illegal, and that should be clarified. Students should feel safe using pressure tactics of whichever form they deem necessary,” Boytinck concluded.

Panel reconsiders narrative of Africa Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:03:57 +0000 On February 4, the McGill African Students’ Society (MASS) hosted a panel discussion titled “Seeing Success: Media, Content Creation and the Aesthetic of Growth” as part of the annual Africa Development Convention.

The convention spanned three days, from February 4 to 6, and included five events, centred on the theme of “‘Africa’ Interrupted: Switching the Channels of Development Discourse.” In addition to the discussion on media, three other panels were held, touching on topics of environmental activism, mental health, and academia in the context of Africa and development discourse. The series concluded with a keynote speech by Mukoma Wa Ngugi, author, activist, and assistant professor of English at Cornell University.

Marilyn Verghis, an International Development Studies student and MASS VP Education, spoke to The Daily about her involvement in organizing the event series.

“The concept was interrogating development through different lenses. We traditionally look at it through economics, through GDP [gross domestic product] growth, through state capacity, and by those measures, there are so many places in the ‘Global South’ that the European countries can characterize as ‘underdeveloped,’” said Verghis.

“What we’re trying to do is really challenge that assumption by measuring development in different ways and challenging the hegemonic construction of what it means to be a ‘developed country,’” she added.
Panelists at the February 4 event were Pius Adesanmi, director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University; Yann Jr. Kieffoloh, creator of the OVSWebTV channel; Wilfried Fowo, editor in chief of; and Djamilla Toure, the founder of SAYASPORA, a platform dedicated to highlighting the successes of African women and the African diaspora.

“We each have an image of what Africa is for us.”

The panel discussion revolved around the use of social media to reclaim narratives and construct counter-narratives to challenge Western stereotypes of Africa, as well as promote intra-African discourse.

“We each have an image of what Africa is for us,” said Toure. “It’s important to tell our stories, but to also acknowledge that all perspectives are subjective.”

Adesanmi addressed some of the most common narratives of Africa told in the media, such as the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, and governmental corruption. He discussed the 2014 Ebola crisis, describing “how something that happened in four countries came to define almost the entirety of Black humanity.”

Apart from the media portrayals of negative events such as terrorism, disease, and poverty in Africa, panelists also problematized typically ‘positive’ portrayals of Africa, such as the optimistic development narrative of Africa’s economic and social progress, captured in the term “Africa rising,” which first gained popularity in 2007.

“When you search ‘Africa rising’ in Google, look at what comes up. […] You’d get to page three or four before you encountered your first African voice,” said Adesanmi.

“I think it’s really important that we own our stories,” Kieffoloh said in response. “We tend to show our culture, our history, in the [same] way that the Westerners do.”

“The concept of owning your own story and telling your own story doesn’t mean a refusal to acknowledge those kinds of [negative] stories and situations. […] It means resisting being reduced to just that,” added Adesanmi.

“We tend to show our culture, our history, in the [same] way that the Westerners do.”

Speaking to the importance of having such a conference at McGill, Verghis said, “There is often a lack of representation of people from the ‘Global South’ by themselves, and for that reason we really wanted to offer the convention – the entire series – as a means of reclaiming that space in this campus.”

Verghis continued, “The honest truth is that I feel development is understood in a very problematic way at McGill. I think the academic offerings try to kind of give space for alternative discussion, but students themselves really need to be the champions of that. They really need to interrogate beyond the classroom, beyond the required readings.”

SSMU base fee not increased Fri, 05 Feb 2016 03:22:58 +0000 Updated on February 6.

On February 3, the results of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter 2016 special referendum were announced. The referendum question to increase the SSMU membership base fee by $5.50 failed with 49.7 per cent, a margin of 18 votes, while the question regarding the restructuring of the executive portfolios passed with 72.1 per cent of the votes.

In an interview with The Daily, Erin Sobat, a member of the “yes” committee for the fee increase, said that the results of the referendum question are “disappointing.”

“Those who voted “no” with [the information we communicated] – we obviously respect that and we are glad that they had the opportunity to look through it and make an informed decision,” Sobat said.

“What is disappointing is knowing that with a 16 per cent turnout, [there are a] number of students out there that simply did not hear about the campaign, did not care enough to vote, or did not feel that they had the information or knowledge to see it as important or relevant,” Sobat continued

Consequences of the “no” vote

SSMU VP Finance and Operations Zacheriah Houston explained that the “no” vote will have immediate results. Houston said that he was in the middle of working on the February budget revision before the referendum, and that all relevant departments had already submitted their preliminary drafts.

However, Houston told The Daily that he did not start reviewing this draft, “because I knew that I needed to know whether or not [the] base fee passed to really make these decisions.”

“For this year, we will want to reduce spending, but [will] not necessarily need to cut things drastically, because we saved so much on salaries this year. For example, an already planned project of the VP University Affairs would not necessarily get cut, but if the VP University Affairs’ mental health budget has some extra money with no direct plan – [we’re] definitely trimming all that off now. Any unallocated money and budgets will get cut,” Houston said.

SSMU VP Clubs & Services Kimber Bialik explained to The Daily that the cuts would affect how much assistance her portfolio would be able to provide to help run student group events.

“In the context of my portfolio, the biggest issue that I have on the student group side of things is that we are wildly understaffed,” said Bialik. “A big part of the base fee increase [would have meant] being able to hire more staff – student support staff and eventually a full-time student group support staff.”

Executive restructuring

According to the results of the executive restructuring question, the VP Clubs & Services position will be converted into VP Student Life, and the VP Finance and Operations position will be divided in two. The restructuring will also re-allocate some of the responsibilities of current positions to accommodate for the seventh executive.

Bialik explained that the new VP Operations portfolio would require someone who is focused on planning for the “big picture, thinking long term, and coming up with a new vision for what we want our operations to be.”

“There are so many things that have a lot of potential in that portfolio, there’s a lot that can be done with Gerts, the Student Run Cafe […] and the [Shatner] building,” Bialik said. “We really need someone who is focused on consultation and figuring out what students want, and figuring out a long term plan for how to actualize that.”

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Action Network launched at McGill Thu, 04 Feb 2016 20:34:33 +0000 Updated on February 5.

On February 4, a group of McGill students and student organizations, called McGill BDS Action Network, brought the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to campus by launching a BDS campaign at McGill.

In an interview with The Daily, Laura Khoury, one of the organizers of the campaign, explained that the campaign “particularly calls on university campuses to divest from companies that profit off of the occupation of Palestine.”

“That includes any business activites that allow these companies to profit off of anything that the State of Israel uses to continue to expand its occupation and its settlements on occupied territories, which is against international law,” Khoury said.

For its first action, the campaign held a demonstration at the Y-intersection on February 4, handing out flyers to passers-by with information regarding the campaign. In addition, the demonstrators held a sign stating, “Stand against oppression, stand for justice in Palestine.”

The demonstration was also accompanied by the launch of a website, detailing the goals of the campaign.

Currently, McGill has investments in four companies which, the campaign organizers claim, directly profit from the occupation. These companies are the British private security systems corporation G4S, surveillance and reconnaissance systems provider L-3 Communications, Israel’s fourth largest commercial bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, and the real estate company RE/MAX.

“That includes any businesses that allow these companies to profit off of anything that the State of Israel uses to continue to expand its occupation and its settlements on occupied territories, which is against international law.”

According to Khoury, the campaign is also attempting to bring these investments to the attention of the McGill Board of Governors’ Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), which could consider recommending divestment if the McGill community proves that the companies’ business activities constitute “social injury.”

Members of the campus environmental justice group Divest McGill have been attempting to appeal to CAMSR in a similar fashion since 2013, asking that McGill divest its holdings in tar sands and fossil fuel companies.

At this point, the BDS campaign is officially endorsed by many groups, including the McGill Syrian Students’ Association, McGill Students in Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights, Cinema Politica McGill, Midnight Kitchen, the Black Students’ Network of McGill, Divest McGill, the Union for Gender Empowerment, and McGill Students for Feminisms.

Apart from appealing to CAMSR, however, the campaigners are also planning on bringing up a BDS motion at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter General Assembly (GA) on February 22. Two motions regarding Palestine were brought up at the two GAs in the previous academic year. The motion brought up at the Fall 2014 GA was tabled indefinitely, while the one brought up at the Winter 2015 GA was voted down.

Muhammad Anani, another organizer with the campaign, differentiated the upcoming motion from last year’s motions regarding Palestine. The upcoming motion will explicitly call on SSMU to support BDS campaigns on campus, and to lobby the McGill Board of Governors to divest from corporations deemed complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Zahra Habib, another organizer with the campaign, explained that while the motion is one of the campaign’s concerns, it is not the only concern. Habib explained that the main purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness regarding Palestine on campus.

“We created this campaign to […] raise awareness on campus about the motion, for students to both get a background and to mobilize, and to come to the SSMU GA and vote – regardless of whatever side they’re on,” Habib told The Daily.

Between now and the Winter GA, the campaign will be holding various events, including a talk on BDS and anti-Semitism by Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis on February 18, a screening of Palestinian short films by Cinema Politica on February 17, and a “Concert for Justice” on February 20.

Fuad Quaddoura, a U0 Science student and a Palestinian himself, expressed that he was glad to see students mobilizing around this issue.

“I was headed to my math class, and seeing this was an eye-opener. I was really happy, pleased. The fact that so many people – Palestinian, non-Palestinian, white, all races – are signing up for the cause is just really heartwarming,” Quaddoura told The Daily.

Copy editor Chantelle Schultz was not involved in the editing of this article, as she is a member of the McGill BDS Action Network.

Prisoner Correspondence Project raises awareness for incarcerated trans people Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:12:51 +0000 On January 22, the Prisoner Correspondence Project (PCP) raised awareness as part of the Trans Prisoners Day of Action and Solidarity.

Later that week, on January 26, PCP held an event at Café Ouvert which included screening a movie and reading from a zine written by a prisoner. This was the first year the day of solidarity has been held. The PCP aims to raise awareness around and give a voice to the challenges faced by trans prisoners, adopting an intersectional approach to incarceration and LGBTQ issues as a whole.

The PCP is a non-hierarchical, volunteer-run collective operating as a working group of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) Concordia. The PCP’s main initiative is a pen pal program between LGBTQ prisoners and the broader community. It also provides a resource library which includes reading materials that address questions regarding coming out while in prison, gender transitioning, and legal aid concerns.

While some support programs do exist, the PCP aims to give voice to those who fall through the cracks. Its initiatives, such as the pen pal program, aim to connect the queer and trans community outside to those in prison, specifically connecting those imprisoned in the U.S. and Canada with people outside of prisons. The majority of pen-pal correspondents are from outside of the U.S..

Day of action and movie screening

In an interview with The Daily, Parker Benley, who is a member of the PCP, said that the purpose of the day of action and the movie screening was two-fold.

First, it served as a call for more pen pal program participants. Benley explained that currently there remains roughly 700 trans prisoners on the PCP’s waitlist looking to establish a correspondence. Secondly, the day of action aims to raise awareness on the issue and garner further donations to the cause.

As a result of finance issues – mainly due to the weakness of the Canadian dollar and their purchases of U.S. postage for their pen pals based in the U.S. – Benley said that the PCP will be launching a campaign for monthly donors in the next few weeks.

Benley was optimistic about the event’s impact, and was pleased to see a full house during the movie screening and reading of PCP inside member Catherine Lynn Quick’s zine, A Caged Bird Sings. The day ended with a collection of contributions and many new pen pal sign-ups.

Benley expressed hope that the movement will grow and continue to raise awareness of the harsh realities of imprisonment.

According to Benley the day of action sought to “raise awareness of the things that we can change to alleviate the harm [experienced by trans prisoners].” Concretely, this would focus on the currently lacking healthcare provisions. Benley expressed hope that the event would amplify the discussion around prisons themselves, remarking, “prisons aren’t safe for anyone.”

The PCP garners its main contributions from McGill’s and Concordia’s branches of QPIRG, as well as McGill’s Union for Gender Empowerment. While pleased with the level of campus support, Benley said that “more would be better.”

Race Project’s first semester sees issues of execution Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:07:01 +0000 Race Project, a mandatory workshop for first-year students in McGill residences that addresses racism and colonialism, is in its first semester of full implementation. The workshop discusses white privilege and microaggressions, debunks the myth of reverse racism, and educates students on Canada’s colonial history.

Race Project is modelled on Rez Project, a similarly structured workshop about consent, gender, and sexuality that has been in effect since 2005. Rez Project has recently come under scrutiny for its white-centric focus, and Race Project was designed to complement the anti-oppression training by introducing discussion of issues of racism and colonialism.

In an interview with The Daily, Jenny Zhang, a second-year student and Race Project facilitator, explained that “since first-years come from a lot of different backgrounds, we’re trying to give everyone a base level of knowledge on these anti-oppression topics in order to hopefully make rez a safer space.”

Race Project workshops are approximately three hours long, and are led by two trained facilitators: one Black, Indigenous, or Person of Colour (BIPOC) facilitator, and one white facilitator.

“We’re trying to give everyone a base level of knowledge on these anti-oppression topics in order to hopefully make rez a safer space.”

Tristan*, a facilitator, told The Daily that students in certain faculties could complete their academic career at McGill without ever having a single conversation about race. As a result, he said, students may never address their own prejudice or lack of knowledge.

Issues with implementation

Tristan told The Daily that a floor fellow, who did not undergo Race Project training, shut down a Race Project workshop early because they thought that the facilitators were being “too aggressive.”

According to Tristan, the floor fellow felt that the content was being delivered in a “non-neutral” manner. This has led to accusations that certain floor fellows are too involved during the course of the workshop, hence not allowing students to honestly and safely discuss the topics.

“If you had attended the Race Project training, you would know that the content is not neutral. It’s explicitly expressed that the project is anti-colonialism, anti-racism,” Malika*, an Upper Rez floor fellow, told The Daily.

“The floor fellow shutting [the workshop] down is not a reflection on the project,” Malika continued, but rather reflects the different perspectives and levels of training of floor fellows.

“If you had attended the Race Project training, you would know that the content is not neutral.”

But the missteps were not solely on the part of some floor fellows. Another floor fellow, Rayna*, said that in another workshop students had used racial slurs as examples during the workshop, making other participants highly uncomfortable.

“There’s a part of the workshop where you’re supposed to use a diagram to show a visible outcome of racism, how racism occurs, and its systemic roots. You’re just supposed to write ‘racial slur’ as a visible outcome. People were writing actual racial slurs on the board,” Rayna explained.

Identities inform inquiry

Because Race Project is mandatory, facilitators must work with a wide variety of students with differing backgrounds, experiences, and levels of knowledge.

“You’ve got some students who can be really quiet and unwilling to participate, some who can be rather aggressively combative when they don’t agree with the things you’re saying, and some who really appreciate the workshop and learn a lot from it,” said Zhang.

“These are pretty emotionally intense subjects,” Zhang continued. “We talk about [the] history of residential schools [and] white privilege, so it’s pretty expected for students to express strong feelings. It’s our job as facilitators to keep discussions from getting too off track and/or becoming really triggering for those involved or in the group.”

“Racial diversity is as important as gender [and sexuality] diversity in the context of a university, as your questions can only come from your identity.”

“A huge red flag topic for us was the section that dealt with reverse racism and how it’s really not a thing,” said Zhang. “Even previously quieter students, who are generally white, would often start to argue that people can be racist against any race, including white people. It can be hard to get students to understand on the first try why historical power relations are still so deeply ingrained and relevant in the modern world and our current cultural context.”

In an interview with The Daily, Charmaine Nelson, a McGill Art History professor and currently the only female Black art history professor in Canada, also emphasized that it is essential to engage students in discussions of race and colonialism. Nelson said, “Racial diversity is as important as gender [and sexuality] diversity in the context of a university, as your questions can only come from your identity.”

“So the fact that I’m asking different questions than people who came before me is because I’m a Black woman of a certain identity group, who’s interested in getting certain answers,” Nelson continued.

“There’s been generations of white male scholars before me who haven’t asked certain questions because they’re not interested, for example, in the humanization of the American slave. It should be made clear to students that [having these discussions] should be a given. This is not an issue for only the Black, Indigenous students. White students can’t sit outside and think, ‘this isn’t about me,’” she concluded.

Mandatory attendance

When asked what could be done to improve Race Project in the future, one common concern from floor fellows and facilitators alike was attendance.

“I think there should be a more rigorous attendance system, as not all floor fellows get 100 per cent attendance,” Rayna said. “Because Race Project is not technically part of a resident’s lease, we can’t force them to come, and yet the project is sold as mandatory. So maybe it should be incorporated into residency leases.”

“We have to get the conversation started somehow, and hopefully at least a handful of the students we teach Race Project to will be interested in learning more about these topics on their own,” Zhang said.

The Daily reached out to McGill Rez Life office but did not receive a response in time for publication.

*Names have been changed.

An earlier version of this article stated that Rez Project has been in effect since September 2013. In fact, Rez Project has been running since 2005. The Daily regrets the error.

SNAX to see return of the sandwiches Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:06:16 +0000 At the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Council meeting on January 27, documents were approved that could allow SNAX, the student-run shop on the ground floor of the Leacock building, to recommence selling sandwiches as early as this week. Councillors also approved a set of new electoral bylaws concerning the VP Finance position, and voted to endorse a “yes” vote in the referendum to increase the Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) non-opt-outable membership fee.

SNAX is regulated through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between McGill and AUS. The previous MOA expired on May 1, 2015, but the sale of sandwiches had been banned since November 2014, as it technically contravened the MOA.

The administration had agreed informally to allow sandwiches to be sold, but reneged on its agreement for reasons that remain unclear. This sparked considerable backlash from students, who staged a sit-in in March 2015 to protest the sandwich ban and highlight the increasing lack of affordable food options on campus.

AUS has been negotiating with McGill since November 2014, hoping to renew the MOA and get sandwiches back on the menu at SNAX.

“Some plans in [the] past, which were to add [around] twenty seats to SNAX […] aren’t really possible anymore.”

Now, more than a year later, the negotiations have yielded results: two documents have been produced that could allow sandwich sales to resume as early as this week. The first, an updated MOA, will expire in April 2020. Except for a few minor adjustments, it is essentially the same as the previous one.

The second is a letter of permission from Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens, which would allow SNAX to sell pre-packaged food items, such as sandwiches, as long as their suppliers are legally registered and follow appropriate labelling procedure. It also stipulates that SNAX must be subject to random health and safety inspections, and may not create a seating area of any kind.

“This is a pretty thorny topic which we did have to compromise on,” President Jacob Greenspon said of the seating issue. “I don’t see why [the administration] would see that as a threat, but apparently they do. […] Some plans in [the] past, which were to add [around] twenty seats to SNAX […] aren’t really possible anymore.”

However, Greenspon also explained that the AUS negotiating team had obtained a number of concessions from the administration.

“The Deputy Provost won’t be able to come down and say ‘Oh, that looks a little dirty, SNAX has to shut down.’”

“Something we’ve got them to compromise [on] was that the only people that can be performing inspections for health and safety […] are inspectors who are […] legally registered, and qualified to be able to do those inspections, so the Deputy Provost won’t be able to come down and say ‘Oh, that looks a little dirty, SNAX has to shut down.’”

The letter of permission for food sales is strictly temporary, expiring in December 2016. If SNAX complies with its various conditions, however, the letter explains that it “may be extended at the University’s discretion on similar or modified conditions until the end of the MOA”.

A number of councillors expressed concern at the vague nature of this statement.

“It sounds like it’s at the University’s discretion, which means even if we do everything they say, they could hypothetically be like ‘just kidding, we’re not going to incorporate this into the MOA,’” said VP External Becky Goldberg.

“Legally, yes,” said Greenspon. “But […] if [we comply] with [these] conditions, after negotiating with us for 18 months, I think politically it would be very difficult for them to be restricting sandwich sales again, especially given the […] demonstrations […] that happened last year.”

After a substantial discussion, councillors voted unanimously to approve the MOA and the letter of permission. In an email to The Daily, Greenspon explained that he and VP Finance Mirza Ali Shakir will be meeting with Dyens and Dean of Arts Hudson Meadwell this week to officially ratify the documents, after which sandwich sales will resume as soon as possible.

Other business discussed at Wednesday’s meeting included a motion to amend electoral bylaws for VP Finance screening, which has been discussed for several months and approved by an AUS referendum, and a motion to endorse a “yes” vote in last week’s referendum concerning an increase in SSMU’s membership fee. The first was approved unanimously, while the second passed by an extremely narrow margin, with 13 votes for, 11 against, and 12 abstaining.

Continuing Studies student group under scrutiny Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:03:24 +0000 In 2012, The Daily investigated severe governance issues at the McGill Association of Continuing Education Students (MACES). The Daily has recently received information from inside sources alleging that these problems were never fully addressed, and that transparency remains a major point of contention within the association.

Recently, two MACES board members, VP Finance Ghassan Berro, and senator and non-voting member of McGill Board of Governors Nely Gaulea, resigned from their duties. As a result, MACES has called for early elections, the nomination period for which started on January 25, to fill these vacant positions.

In an email to The Daily, Zaher Agha, MACES VP Internal, speaking on behalf of the MACES board of directors, stated that Berro resigned because he felt he could no longer commit his time to MACES and Gaulea resigned “due to personal reasons that [the board was] not made aware of.”

When asked about the potential of continuing governance problems at MACES, Agha said, “MACES has been working hard to introduce a real change to the organization in order to improve services and increase transparency, therefore we had a plan that included major initiatives and reversals of previous decisions.”

Lack of transparency

In an interview with The Daily, a MACES insider, Leah*, emphasized that lack of transparency remains the major issue at MACES. According to her, the governance problems of 2012 have not been adequately addressed.

Leah provided an example of decision-making problems among the board members. According to her, in a meeting to decide whether to offer a Microsoft Excel course to students in the Fall or Winter semester, a majority of the board voted not to offer the course in the Fall semester.

However, MACES President Sean Murphy, who still holds the position, “was pushing for it, […] wanting to impress the school [and show] that he’s doing great stuff for students. [He was implying that] everyone on the board needs to vote for this, because the president will look bad if not,” Leah said.

“[He was implying that] everyone on the board needs to vote for this, because the president will look bad if not.”

Ultimately the board came to a compromise that the course would be offered in the Fall semester on the condition that sufficient students signed up for it within a week.

After a week, Murray was to inform the other members of the result, in accordance with MACES bylaws, but Leah said this did not happen.

“To this day, I don’t know […] if we had the number of registrations needed,” she said.

The Daily reached out to Murphy for a comment, but was not able to acquire one.

Trouble with reviewing bylaws

A MACES Bylaw Review Committee was formed in September. According to Jack*, a member of the committee who wished to remain anonymous, “As a group, I think we realized that the bylaws weren’t […] up to date, and they weren’t really comparable to [those of] other student associations.”

Leah brought up another problem with the bylaws, regarding the VP Internal’s mandate to “take, prepare, and circulate minutes of all such meetings.”

The MACES website has a section to post meeting minutes but it has not yet been set up. According to Agha, “minutes are being taken at every meeting and are held in the office as per the bylaws […and] are presented to the audit firm at every financial year.”

While the MACES bylaws do not stipulate how these minutes should be circulated, Leah maintains that as long as the meeting minutes are not posted on the website, students will be kept unaware of decisions that are being made.

“As a group, I think we realized that the bylaws weren’t […] up to date, and they weren’t really comparable to [those of] other student associations.”

Julia*, another MACES insider who wished to remain anonymous, added that MACES was “trying to increase the awareness among students,” but it is still the case that not all students are aware of the association, as communication remains a problem.

While Jack believes that the establishment of a committee to review the bylaws is a step in the right direction, he said that, so far, they have not rewritten the bylaws because of conflicts of interest with board members on the committee, as there were more board members than non-members on the committee.

Jack continued to explain that the conflict of interest was not an isolated instance, pointing to similar conflicts of interest. He gave an example of a committee meeting at which one member proposed auditing a document and hiring someone with special certifications to do so.

The member added that it made sense and “it was a great way to show that we are transparent. But he proposed right after that he be the one to do that, since he’s certified,” said Jack, noting the obvious conflict of interest.

Improvements and future of MACES

With the upcoming elections, there is hope that MACES will increase its transparency and solve these issues. Agha believes that MACES has greatly improved since 2012, especially now that there is a plan in place, reversing previous decisions with major initiatives.

Such initiatives include re-launching the MACES website, creating a MACES Facebook page, revising the bylaws, creating Standard Operating Procedures documents, recreating the MACES Council, and initiating several new programs for students, including a MACES scholarship and bursary program.

In an email to The Daily, SSMU President Kareem Ibrahim said, “[MACES has] been great to work with and is making huge strides to improve. […] They’ve been trying to run a referendum to opt-in to Student Services for a while now and are making plans to do it this semester.” Unlike in 2012, MACES now has representatives at Senate and other committee meetings, as well.

“I really hope that there will be a change, but I don’t know how feasible that is.”

Ollivier Dyens, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) also told The Daily in an email, “We meet with MACES on a regular basis […] to address issues, challenges and projects.”

Leah said, “We cannot deny that there is always room for improvement, and as [with] any other entity there [are] always some challenges that arise, but […] we are genuinely concerned and are working hard to best represent those who have trusted us and elected us as representatives.”

With the recent resignations and three more board members finishing their terms this semester, elections will be very important for the association to move forward.

But Leah and Mark*, another inside source, both expressed concern for the future board members. “I really hope that there will be a change, but I don’t know how feasible that is,” Mark said.

*Names have been changed.

Report finds McGill lacking in equity Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:02:20 +0000 On January 28, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held a panel discussion on “Diversity in Academia,” following the release of a report entitled “Equity in the Hiring of McGill Academic Staff: An Investigation,” acquired by The Daily on January 24, which discussed concerns with the state of McGill’s employment equity.

In 2007, McGill Senate and Board of Governors ratified an Employment Equity Policy. Last May, the biennial review of the policy noted that since 2013 there has been “little change” in the proportional representation of “designated groups” within McGill faculty.

“Lack of commitment, formalized practice, and transparency in regards to employment equity at McGill.​”

The policy specifies six “designated groups”: Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, ethnic minorities whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, persons with disabilities, women, and persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities.

The panel began with Carolin Huang, one of the SSMU Equitable Hiring Researchers who wrote the report along with Molly Korab, a former Daily editor. Huang described their findings, which included a “lack of commitment, formalized practice, and transparency in regards to employment equity at McGill​,” and a “lack of leadership from the upper administration on equity.”

The panel comprised of four McGill faculty members: Tara Flanagan, associate professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology; Susan Gaskin, professor in the Department of Civil Engineering; Zoua Vang, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology; and Adelle Blackett, professor in the Faculty of Law.

Commitment to diversity

The panelists questioned McGill’s – and more generally Canadian and U.S. universities’ – commitment to diversity. “We say things like ‘diversity is good’ but I’m not sure to what extent the University really believes that we are not excellent if we are not diverse,” said Blackett.

“Since 2008, the percentage of Aboriginals and people with disabilities [who are McGill faculty] has actually declined,” explained Huang. Over the last eight years, the percentage of McGill faculty that identify as women has only increased by 1 per cent; the percentage that identify as ethnic minorities increased by 0.9 per cent, and the percentage that identify as visible minorities increased by 0.8 per cent.

University employment through time

Please select a school and a category to see the available data!

McGill University Queen's University Dalhousie University
Women Aboriginal peoples People with disabilities Visible minority

McGill’s Employment Equity Policy states that “in its pursuit of employment equity it is understood that the University will not engage in reverse discrimination [or…] impose quotas.” Rather, its stated goal is “the enlargement of the pool of appropriately qualified candidates by encouraging applications from a broader range of persons.”

“We say things like ‘diversity is good’ but I’m not sure to what extent the University really believes that we are not excellent if we are not diverse.”

“There’s a misperception that the pool of qualified minority candidates is just not there – that there are maybe one or two qualified minority faculty but then the rest of them are subpar,” countered Vang. “I think because of that misconception, university administrators and hiring committees go on with their ‘business as usual’ mentality and there isn’t effort to go out there and to recruit talented minority faculty.”

Further, Vang noted that “there is this misperception that you can’t have racial diversity among faculty and still commit to academic excellence. And this idea that the two are incompatible is based on stereotypes that minority faculty are less qualified than white faculty,” she explained.

Both before and after being hired, racialized candidates’ qualifications are viewed with “greater scrutiny and suspicion” by administrators, colleagues, and students than those of their white counterparts, Vang explained.

Intellectual erasure

Blackett pointed to the links between the lack of diversity in faculty and the lack of academic space given to topics such as race, disability, and Indigeneity. “The ‘designated groups’ become measures of underinclusion, but also become measures of intellectual erasure,” she explained.

Flanagan noted that McGill does not have a disability studies department, and as a result, McGill fails to “legitimize the experience and the scholarship around disability, as they do at other universities.”

“There exists the resistance to challenging a canon that we assume captures the highest level of academic expression, but that might actually be built on a really narrow range of expertise,” Blackett added.

“The more I talk about these issues, the more I’m silenced, and the more I get a reputation as the ‘angry Asian woman with a chip on her shoulder.'”

Huang and Korab’s report notes that ​“equity at McGill has largely focused on women (and by proxy, white women) as opposed to other identity categories.” This lack of academic diversity, the report said, “hinders creating a safe space for members of minority groups.”

“The more I talk about these issues, the more I’m silenced, and the more I get a reputation as the ‘angry Asian woman with a chip on her shoulder,’” said Vang. “With diversity you have the chance to change and transform these cultures of silence, these cultures of denial.”

Concrete implementation

Huang explained that while conducting interviews for the report, she found “no one has a clear idea of their role in the entire implementation of the employment equity process. […] There’s no documents that actually show how these practices are implemented at the university.”

“In comparison to other universities [in Canada…] McGill doesn’t have any particular programs or even an official equity office apart from the SEDE [Social Equity and Diversity in Education] office, which doesn’t actually have the power to influence upper administration decision-making,” Huang added.

“In the discussion in general it seemed like we were conflating diversity with anti-discrimination.”

“I think we need to be forced out of our comfort zone,” said Gaskin. “It could come from a strong leader at the top of the administration who says ‘this is my priority and this is what is going to happen.’”

A Cognitive Science student, who attended the panel and preferred to remain anonymous, told The Daily that they felt the panelists and the University failed to clearly distinguish between affirmative action and more halfhearted hiring practices that do not account for differences.

“I find I have a lot of questions as to the approaches that are taken [to] establish diversity, and also in the discussion in general it seemed like we were conflating diversity with anti-discrimination. I see those as separate questions which both have value – but without defining the values explicitly and by conflating the two, it can stunt progress,” the student said.

Action from within

Blackett criticized the fact that the University needed encouragement from outside forces before it acted upon issues regarding equity.

University employment: the most recent data

Select a category to see the data available from each university
  • Women
  • Aboriginal peoples
  • People with disabilities
  • Visible minority

For instance, in 2013, Woo Jin Edward Lee, doctoral student and a course lecturer at the McGill School of Social Work, filed a human rights complaint against the University, accusing the school of systemic racism in its hiring practices.

Later, in March 2015, another human rights complaint was filed against the University, this time by an employee in McGill’s Faculty of Medicine who was allegedly fired “without due notice or cause,” and had claimed ethnic discrimination and related psychological harassment.

“The inability to reflect internally the type of broader open society that we want to have externally is really a terrible predicament of academic institutions.”

“Internal to institutions, we are very jealous of our academic freedom, and rightly so, but that makes it all the more incumbent on academic institutions to take the challenge of diversity seriously and to take leadership on it, rather than to wait for external bodies like human rights tribunals to tell the University that it hasn’t actually been living up to its requirements,” said Blackett.

“The inability to reflect internally the type of broader open society that we want to have externally is really a terrible predicament of academic institutions,” Blackett emphasized. “Taking seriously the challenge of inclusion is not just for the betterment of the universities, but it’s part and parcel of our responsibility to society at large.”


The employment equity data for the various universities was collected from the following linked sources: McGill University, Queen’s University, Dalhousie University, York University, University of Windsor, Western University.

SSMU discusses student federations Thu, 28 Jan 2016 17:44:52 +0000 Updated on January 30.

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council met on January 28 to discuss the promise of joining one of the two emergent Quebec student federations that were formed in the past year, the Association pour la voix étudiante au Québec (AVEQ) and the Union étudiante du Québec (UEQ).

In addition, Council approved several motions to ask a plebiscite question regarding the creation of a smoke-free campus, to adopt a set of messages regarding SSMU’s commitment to develop “harmonious relationships with the permanent residents of the Milton-Parc Community,” and to support a potential Indigenous leadership academy in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Further, Senate caucus representative David Benrimoh presented a report from the Accountability Committee, which included proposed regulations for the committee. Council decided to consider this report a notice of motion. As such, the regulations will be brought back to Council for consideration at the next meeting.

Presentations by AVEQ and UEQ

Speaking at Council, AVEQ’s internal coordinator Sofia Guerrieri and interim admin coordinator Ben Prunty explained that the organization’s core values were “democracy, solidarity, and equity.”

“When we talk about democracy, we talk about a vision in which students are at the heart of the student movement and at the heart of our participatory decision-making process,” Guerrieri said.

UEQ’s general coordinator Caroline Aubry and member of the coordinating committee Jonathan Mooney cited solidarity, transparency, accountability, collegiality, credibility, and local sovereignty as the core values of their organization, with a particular focus on local sovereignty.

“If SSMU decides to affiliate in a certain way, if they follow their bylaws, that’s alright. If they want to disaffiliate, that’s their bylaws telling them how to do it. We won’t keep associations [against] their own will,” Aubry said.

The main difference between the two federations remains the voting system and the fees. AVEQ utilizes a one-association-one-vote system, whereas UEQ uses a double majority system. In UEQ’s system, any motion is first voted on based on the one-association-one-vote system and then is approved through a semi-proportional system, where voting power is weighted based on the number of individual members represented by the association.

Misperceptions of SSMU’s involvement in negotiations

Following the federations’ presentations, during the discussion period regarding affiliation, Medicine representative Joshua Chin asked whether, regarding SSMU’s experience with UEQ, “Going back to the early days of [UEQ], where members were signing their contracts in dedicating their involvement in this – we didn’t sign on. […] My question was, was there any opportunity at a later date to sign on to this project?”

When UEQ was first being formed, the student associations present were asked to sign a contract to dedicate their commitment to the project. Because this was in the summer, SSMU had chosen not to sign the contract.

Chin asked, “Was there any opportunity at a later date to sign on to this project?”

“I think that would be a question for your executive team. I really don’t know because at any time any association can sign the contract.”

In response, Aubry said, “I think that would be a question for your executive team. I really don’t know because at any time any association can sign the contract.”

Since last April, when the deliberations on the creation of these two federations began, SSMU VP External Emily Boytinck has been sitting at both tables. This course of action was approved by Council at previous meetings.

Nevertheless, Chin expressed that he found it “disturbing” that a choice to focus attention on a single federation was never brought up to Council.

In response, Boytinck said, “We did have a question at Council. I asked very explicitly after my first presentation of the associations. There was a clicker vote which said, ‘Do you want me to continue sitting at both tables, just AVEQ, or just UEQ?’ And there was a clicker vote which overwhelmingly said to stay at both tables.”

Leaked report leads to allegations

Chin brought up certain allegations regarding a “lack of transparency” in Boytinck’s involvements with the two federations that was brought to his attention via a Facebook message sent by an anonymous source who is neither a McGill student nor affiliated with either of the two student federations.

According to Boytinck, this person had sent some of the councillors an unpublished report in French, drafted by the Federation étudiante de l’Université de Sherbrooke (FEUS), which has decided to leave the negotiation table of AVEQ.

The FEUS report alleged that SSMU, and therefore Boytinck, were being biased toward AVEQ, despite being directly involved in both federations. The report characterizes this as “problematic.”

According to the report, AVEQ had hired a general coordinator, who was then placed on SSMU payroll. Because of the large size of SSMU, the association has more flexibility when it comes to adding or removing individuals from its payroll. Thus, the AVEQ coordinator was allegedly placed on the SSMU payroll, though they were actually being paid by the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and L’Association générale des étudiant(e)s de l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (AGE UQTR).

“We feel deeply disturbed by this manner of doing things, because it seems that SSMU could proceed with hiring an employee for a provincial association without keeping its members up to date. […It was done] in a biased manner to one of these two [student federation projects],” the report said in French.

“If there was an issue I would have hoped that [councillors] would have brought that up five months ago. And all I’ve been doing is attempting to work on both associations […and] that’s what [Council has] been telling me to do this whole time.”

The report also accused SSMU of doing translations internally for AVEQ, but not for UEQ. The report said, “We consider it an injustice that translation expenses were assured by CSU and SSMU internally, only for AVEQ.”

Details of the FEUS report were discussed in a confidential session, minutes from which are yet to be made public.

In an interview with The Daily, Boytinck explained that she believed that none of her actions were out of order and that she had reported on all these matters in her previous reports to Council.

Boytinck said, “It was […] sort of a slanderous accusation of an association trying to make drama out of this – ‘CSU and SSMU did translation internally!’ and there was no secretiveness behind that, although our translation budgets should be open.”

Boytinck also said that when she first heard about these allegations, she sent an email to councillors. Regarding the allegations, Boytinck said, “These [allegations] are true, but I reported on them. So if there was an issue I would have hoped that [councillors] would have brought that up five months ago. And all I’ve been doing is attempting to work on both associations […and] that’s what [Council has] been telling me to do this whole time.”

On February 11, Council will decide which of the two federations should appear on a referendum question, which will be posed during the referendum period between March 7 and 18.

This article has been updated following the proceedings at Council.