Commentary | Editorial: Happy GA Day, everybody!

Like most before it, last semester’s General Assembly (GA) failed to reach quorum, meaning students get to debate an entire year’s worth of motions today. And with some students calling for the impeachment of SSMU’s Speaker of Council over today’s GA motion on Gaza, it seems that a certain divisive issue may just solve the forum’s persistent attendance problem. Here, we’ll give you our humble opinion on the three new motions, and suggest that you check our web site for last semester’s endorsements.

Bottled Water – Yes

This motion calls for SSMU to end bottled water sales in the Shatner building, and to push for McGill to do the same all over campus. It also calls on SSMU to educate students about sustainable alternatives to bottled water, including bringing their own bottle to fill with tap water, which actually meets higher purification standards than bottled water.

The environmental damage caused by the bottled water industry is too cumbersome to list here, but it’s huge. The Daily believes actions like these are long overdue and strongly supports this motion, as SSMU should no longer tolerate the privatization of the most essential resource on our planet.

Gaza – Yes/No/Maybe so

Assuming the Speaker’s interpretation of the SSMU constitution holds, this motion will call on SSMU to publicly condemn the bombings of educational institutions in Gaza and for the Society to financially support Gazan students. The Daily suggests that the latter clause be scrapped, since the reconstruction of educational institutions is not SSMU’s responsibility – it’s up to the destructees and the international community. Leaving this clause would raise further challenges over whether motions specifically impacting SSMU’s finances be permitted at GAs.

The Daily supports the specifics of this motion – such as the condemnation of the bombings of the Islamic University in Gaza – but this should not be extrapolated to our feelings regarding the larger, intensely complex issue as a whole. For instance, we also condemn Hamas’s bombings of Israeli communities, but these sentiments are not reflected in the motion, and adding them would significantly alter its spirit.

We urge you to turn up for this debate, as it will be the most contentious political discussion in a public arena this year.

GA reform – No

This motion calls for SSMU to abandon its regularly scheduled GAs in favour of an ad-hoc process, in which GAs would be held only when students feel they are necessary, rather than twice a year.

GAs are still young – only becoming semesterly affairs three years ago – and need time to mature. Students in and outside of SSMU have worked hard to improve the process’s accessibility, experimenting with times, venues, and advertising strategies. GAs are by no means perfect, but they have engaged hundreds more students with SSMU than any other political forum. Three years is hardly sufficient time to fine-tune a procedure that has potential to be powerful and important to students.

Those interested in breaking the Fall/Winter binary should remember that Special GAs are always a possibility – especially if SSMU execs orchestrate a walk-out during the regularly planned event. The Daily strongly suggests students vote against this motion, since we fear that the most likely result of an ad-hoc GA schedule will be no GAs at all.