Commentary | Support QPIRG

KANATA explains why you should vote yes in the QPIRG referendum

As the referendum for QPIRG’s existence approaches, KANATA, McGill’s Indigenous Studies Community, would like to speak out about the importance of QPIRG’s activities.

As a working group, KANATA receives crucial support from QPIRG, which enables us to pursue our goal of establishing an Indigenous Studies community at McGill by providing interested students an inclusive space to learn about and discuss topics related to indigenous peoples and ways we can include  indigenous academic perspectives on campus.

With the support of QPIRG, KANATA is even able to host McGill’s very first student-run Indigenous Studies conference at the end of November. For those who are unfamiliar with our group, we also advocate for a minor program in Indigenous Studies and, most importantly, strive for the creation of a space and a medium through Native and non-Native persons can come together and build relationships of understanding, dialogue, and mutual respect on-campus, and with ripple effects off-campus. Universities are a place for a diversity of ideas and where students can come into contact with information that they otherwise may not. QPIRG is dedicated to social and environmental justice and to supporting student research in these fields while building ties with communities around and outside of McGill. Its existence is without a doubt an essential part of the student learning experience.

Without QPIRG’s presence on the McGill campus, there would be less learning opportunities and fewer ways to engage with the local communities of McGill and Montreal. For example, QPIRG McGill offers an excellent program for students to combine their academic experience with community engagement through Study in Action. This is a conference where students present research and gain knowledge of social and environmental issues while building ties with community organizations. At a school where internships are not mandatory in many departments and  in an era where levels of education are inflating and direct experience is integral to finding employment, Study in Action is an excellent opportunity of many offered by QPIRG McGill.

KANATA also supports a more democratic and informed opt-out system that renders fees refundable directly through QPIRG where students can be well informed about QPIRG and its activities, instead of by the campaigns of misrepresentation that occur every semester. In this referendum question, QPIRG is asking to return to the in-person opt-out form that was taken away from them with only three days notice from McGill administration. This was an under-handed move that continues to damage QPIRG as  blanket online opting out is increasing as students are merely opting out of any service they can, without considering these fees’ value to the student body and academic experience.

Of course, a few voices on campus claim that it is a more democratic choice to have an online opt-out system. KANATA strongly disagrees. Not only is this a lazy form of opting out, but it also encourages students to save a few bucks without informing themselves of the vast resources QPIRG offers to them on campus. Students will still be able to opt-out if they disagree with QPIRG’s work. This choice will not be taken from students. QPIRG upholds democratic choice at McGill and only wants to increase it.

We must remember that QPIRG only asks $3.75 of every student per semester. Yes you could save this money to buy a beer. But remember, it is also the price to access a library of resources that McGill libraries may not offer, the price to participate in an alternative frosh, the price to participate in Culture Shock Days, the price to support groups such as KANATA, to support initiatives such as Campus Crops, and several other activities QPIRG provides. Currently, the province of Quebec intends to increase tuition by $325 every year for the next five years for every in-province student. If reasons for voting against QPIRG’s existence are merely for individual economic benefit, KANATA asks students to re-think who they should be fighting against. If voting against QPIRG’s existence is based on what one hears from other groups and not actually from QPIRG, KANATA asks students to approach QPIRG, and to research their creation, formation, and activities on campus. See how their work encourages all sorts of groups on campus to continue to run. If voting against QPIRG’s existence is based on your disagreement with their mandate, KANATA asks students to realize the value and integrity of diverse ideas and approaches at an academic institution, especially when the leadership of that institution is increasingly stifling groups and activities that do not follow their particular goals.
All in all, KANATA – a group dedicated to improving relationships through dialogue and academic research – encourages students to pursue their own dialogue and research before this upcoming referendum. Research what this article has claimed. Research QPIRG and its benefits to the McGill community through research opportunities, environmental action, and support to a diverse array of student groups. Research what groups opposed to QPIRG are claiming and why. By pursuing an inclusive, democratic, and honest dialogue, KANATA hopes that you will know that QPIRG’s existence is an important aspect to student life, where a great portion of knowledge is gained outside the classroom.

Signed by KANATA – McGill’s Indigenous Studies Community