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First SSMU meeting of the year

Mental health, representation of student associations both discussed

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) held their first Legislative Council meeting of the year on Thursday, discussing representation at the provincial level as well as the improvement of mental health services at McGill.

TaCEQ speaks on reform and accreditation

SSMU’s first guest speakers both came from its external student lobbying representation, the Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ). Both TaCEQ’s Secretary-General, Paul-Antoine Cardin, and Vice Secretary-General Internal and Communications, Guillaume Fortin, spoke at Council.

After trying and failing to work with several other student federations, SSMU joined TaCEQ – in English, the Quebec Student Roundtable – in 2009. TaCEQ’s primary role is to lobby the government on issues such as university funding, legislation on tuition and ancillary fees, and other issues regarding higher education.

Although there are several characteristics that set TaCEQ apart from other associations – such as optional fees, a lack of a self-interested and centralized executive, and non-partisanship regarding provincial politics – it has faced criticism in the past from SSMU councillors. Cardin explained at the meeting that reform was one of TaCEQ’s main and most immediate long-term goals.

Although a congress was scheduled for October to discuss the possibility of reforming TaCEQ, Cardin claimed it was cancelled after the Association des étudiantes et des étudiants de Laval inscrits aux études supérieures (ÆLIÉS) – the graduate student association at Université Laval – claimed that they were not given enough time to think about it.

Cardin said that the biggest problem TaCEQ faced was how to represent their 70,000 members when “people don’t feel that they’re members of TaCEQ.”

The TaCEQ speakers also discussed their upcoming defense of the Act respecting the accreditation and financing of students’ associations. This past January, Université Laval students Laurent Proulx and Miguael Bergeron challenged the Act, criticizing the mandatory student association fees and perceived monopoly of student associations in Quebec. Instead, Proulx and Bergeron argued, students should be allowed to opt out of the fees and membership of the associations.

TaCEQ will go to trial in defense of the Act  – because it “lets [TaCEQ] exist,” according to Cardin – along with the provincial government and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), another major student union. The date of the trial has not yet been set.

Committee on mental health aims to connect disparate groups and services

VP University Affairs Joey Shea presented a motion to convene an ad-hoc committee – meaning it would exist for only a year – on mental health. The committee, under VP Shea’s portfolio, would be composed of councillors, student executives, students-at-large, as well as representatives from different groups on campus.

“The idea behind the motion was that, right now, there’s a bunch of different mental health groups at SSMU and McGill that are working at similar aims, but are not necessarily connected to each other, or [are not] working well together or efficiently,” Shea said.

To “help make the mental health community stronger,” in Shea’s words, the committee’s end goal would be to draft a mental health policy by the end of the academic year.

According to Shea, improving mental health services at McGill was a key priority of all of the recent campaigns of the current SSMU executive. The committee was created after the motion passed unanimously.