News | SSMU responds to Quebec elections

Concerns raised about Bill 101 and student diversity

The Students’ Society of McGill  University (SSMU) released a statement in response to the provincial election results and recent mandate announcements made by Marois’ Parti Québécois government. Uploaded by SSMU’s Communications and Publications Manager on September 11, the statement outlined the society’s concerns for expansion of Bill 101 and adoption of the Secular Charter to Quebec.

Bill 101, or the Charter of the French Language, defines French as the official language of Quebec. The new minority government under Marois seeks to strengthen the legislation and introduce a new bill to ensure that francophones cannot enroll in English CEGEPs.

In its online statement, SSMU announced that it “will remain vigilant…and advocate on behalf of our members in the face of measures which could negatively impact the ability of some to work, [and] receive services…”

In an email to The Daily, SSMU Vice-President External Affairs Robin Reid-Fraser explained, “since we have so many anglophone students, it could impact their abilities to get jobs.”

Reid-Fraser added that she maintains contact with the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and student associations at Concordia in order to work together.

“We all come from different Quebec-wide associations, or [some schools] don’t have one at all, but it may be a good time to form a sort of coalition of anglophone campuses to make sure our students are being clearly represented,” she said.

SSMU offers representation to the francophone population of the University through the Francophone Affairs Committee.

The statement also commented on the government’s potential adoption of the Secular Charter, which would restrict public display of all religious symbols with the exception of the Christian crucifix.

According to the SSMU Constitution, the society “commits itself to groups, programs, and activities that are devoted to the well-being of a group disadvantaged because of irrelevant personal characteristics that include but are not limited to race, national or ethnic origin, colour, [or] religion….”

“The diversity of our student body is important and we need to be sensitive to how government policies will impact students in different ways…. Advocating for students who are being affected by imposed secularism fits into [the constitution],” explained Reid-Fraser.

The statement was not discussed during the first SSMU Legislative Council of the academic year, which was held on September 13.

Former Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) representative Sean Phipps was not present. The AUS representatives, who hold three SSMU Legislative Council seats, are elected by the Arts undergraduate students in a general election. Article 12.15 of the AUS Constitution states that,  “In the event of a leave of absence by any member of the Executive Committee or Arts Representative to SSMU, Council shall have the authority, if deemed necessary, to appoint a temporary replacement from amongst its members.”

AUS VP External Brian Farnan stated that Phipps was not dismissed but submitted a friendly resignation to the AUS Executive Committee. “I must stress, to my knowledge, that AUS executives have received words [but] no reasons. It was friendly, everything was fine,” he said.

Regarding the pending reappointment of the new representative, AUS President Devon LaBuik said, “The AUS will reappoint a new representative as soon as possible. It shouldn’t affect the representation of AUS in a huge way but Sean’s resignation is certainly a loss.”

Phipps could not be reached for comments at press time.