The SSMU Board of Directors (BoD) has decided to suspend all activities of the Judicial Board (J-Board) as of January 27, and to send the J-Board structure for review by the SSMU By-law Committee.
The determination came at last Thursday’s Legislative Council, when councillors discussed the potential legal liabilities of the current formulation of the J-Board.
Concerns over liabilities were brought to the attention of SSMU by the J-Board case seeking to invalidate the results of the fall 2011 referendum regarding the existence of QPIRG and CKUT.
The case, filed by former SSMU President Zach Newburgh and student Brendan Steven, was scheduled to be heard by J-Board on January 30.
The BoD decision does not throw out the Newburgh/Steven case, but suspends it until further notice.
Liability issues arose from inconsistencies between the SSMU Constitution and provincial law.
SSMU VP University Affairs Emily Clare explained to The Daily that the case is complex, because it could lead to violations of both the Quebec Corporations Act and the Accreditation Act.
Because SSMU is both a corporation and a student union, it is required to follow the Business Corporations Act.
“[J-Board is] in violation of Quebec law, and that’s because under Quebec law, the Board of Directors has to be the highest governing authority of the SSMU. That means that nothing can limit the power or overturn the decisions of the Board of Directors,” said Clare.
According to the SSMU Constitution, J-Board has the final authority on “the interpretation and legality of all procedures, questions and results of all referenda and elections,” rather than the BoD.
If J-Board had ruled to invalidate the QPIRG and CKUT referenda, it would have resulted in a direct contravention of what SSMU members decided in the referendum.
According to Clare, “Under the Accreditation Act, every member of SSMU is given the right to vote in referenda and have that decision to be binding. What the J-Board case did was basically putting forward the possibility of overturning a vote of the members, which effectively retroactively takes away that right, which is given under the law to SSMU members.”
The decision made by the BoD to suspend the activities of the J-Board followed recommendations of a resolution passed during Council.
The legislative body also advised the BoD to submit a reform of the J-Board to the ad hoc Bylaw Review Committee in order to resolve inconsistencies with Quebec law.
Arts Senator Matt Crawford pointed out the importance of not only suspending the activities, but also reforming the structure that led to the legal liabilities.
“There is a very important ambiguity that contradicts the general will of this Society, and that needs to be resolved immediately,” said Crawford.
Councillor Adam Winer echoed the sentiments, stating that to maintain a reputation of a “law-abiding organization,” Council had to solve the conflict.
The By-law Committee is set to meet this Monday to begin the process of reforming the J-Board.
-—With files from Queen Arsem-O’Malley