News | PGSS takes stand on Charter of Values at General Meeting

High healthcare costs also discussed

Correction appended October 7, 2013.

McGill’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its first general meeting of the academic year on September 19, during which members passed motions regarding Quebec’s Charter of Values, bylaw changes, and international student health insurance.

Quebec Charter of Values

Following the lead of McGill professors and of Principal Suzanne Fortier, PGSS addressed the Parti Québécois’s proposed Charter of Values.

The motion presented in the GM read, “Be it resolved that the PGSS oppose the Quebec government proposal to limit the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by state personnel.”

Two amendments to the motion were brought forward by Art History and Communications Studies Graduate Students Association (AHCS-GSA) representative Gretchen King. The first amendment was a resolution for PGSS to send a letter to Premier Pauline Marois expressing the Society’s opposition to the Charter. The second amendment was a resolution to notify post-graduate students in the event of any mobilizations against the Charter.

Both of the amendments were adopted, and the motion passed with strong support.

However, a third amendment proposed by King – for PGSS to mobilize post-graduate students in the event of demonstrations against the Charter – was rejected. As one attendee put it, “PGSS is a student society, not a trade union.”

Bylaw changes

Out of the 11 proposed bylaw changes in the first motion presented to the GM, two stood out as contentious.

The first bylaw change proposed to amend the composition of the appointments board – notably, the motion proposed that two members of the PGSS Executive would sit on the board.

This proposal was challenged notably by Economics Graduate Student Association (EGSA) representative Guillaume Lord, who argued that having two executive members on the board would reduce its useful role as a check and balance on executive power.

The bylaw change passed, however, after PGSS Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney explained that the proposed change was merely a matter of resolving contradictions between PGSS’s constitution and the Society bylaws.

The second proposed bylaw amendment aimed to modify Council seat apportionment. The amendment would reduce the size of Council, which currently stands at 131 seats.

Some students argued that a large council is more representative and should be kept as is, while others branded the size unwieldy, pointing out that PGSS’s council is far larger than SSMU’s council, which has 45 seats.

One student pointed out that if all 131 members were to attend the council meetings, they would not be able to fit into their designated room, and that the PGSS council dwarfs even the US Senate – which has 100 members.

The proposal was passed, and Council size will be reduced.

Health insurance

In a follow-up to this summer’s discussions with student union Fédération étudiante universitaire de Québec (FEUQ) regarding the affordability of international student health care, a motion was passed that advocated “expanding Quebec Medicare coverage to international students.”

According to the motion, although international students are treated as Canadians for tax purposes when working, a Quebec government directive forces hospitals to charge international students three times the Quebec Medicare rate. This has led to a skyrocketing of health insurance premiums, which PGSS denounced as “an obstacle to educational achievement.”

An earlier version of this article stated that passing a motion does not mean any action will be taken, but instead that the PGSS Council will vote on it at a later date. In fact, motions that pass at the General Meeting do not need to be voted on at PGSS Council for any action to be taken. In addition, The Daily stated that Guillaume Lord was a representative of the English Graduate Student Association. Lord is in fact a representative of the Economics Graduate Student Representation.