The first Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) General Assembly (GA) of the academic year failed to meet quorum, a common pattern for GAs in the past few years. With 52 students in attendance at the peak of the GA, SSMU was unable to pass a proposed motion in opposition to the Quebec Charter of Values or approve a revised SSMU Constitution.
Quorum for a GA is defined as 100 undergraduate students from four separate faculties, with no more than half from a single faculty. If quorum is not met – as so happened – the assembly becomes a Consultative Forum. Votes are no longer binding, but act as ‘recommendations,’ and any motions passed are sent to the next session of SSMU’s Legislative Council.
However, the lack of quorum proved a unique challenge, as it was impossible to approve the nominations to the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD), or to greenlight an auditing firm for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Both of these approvals were tabled until the next GA.
According to SSMU President Katie Larson, the lack of a BoD will not affect SSMU policy presently; however, Larson conceded, “It’s truly a problem for future situations that may arise, when we’ll legally need the Board to pass decisions.”
New SSMU Constitution
A motion to amend the SSMU Constitution – to be more legal under Quebec’s laws, according to Larson – was proposed at the GA, but not without confusion. Clause 28.1 in the old Constitution states, “A general assembly may establish, amend or rescind any policy of any society except […] this constitution.”
According to Larson in an e-mail to The Daily, the Constitution was brought to the GA as the next best option because of the current lack of a legally acting BoD.
In addition, although the motion initially resolved for online ratification, Larson said that the SSMU Executive “realized after we submitted the motion to the GA that the clause asking the GA to approve and replace was out of order.”
The motion was amended to reflect a need for a referendum. Because of the lack of quorum, the vote that passed the motion was only a suggestion, and the motion was passed along to Legislative Council.
Proposed opposition to Quebec’s Charter of Values
The second motion of the GA resolved that SSMU adopt an official stance in opposition to the proposed Quebec Charter of Values, which VP University Affairs Joey Shea, one of the movers, called “completely discriminatory legislation.” The motion initially resolved for SSMU to send a letter against the Charter to Premier Pauline Marois, McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier, and multiple media outlets, in addition to creating a committee to campaign against it.
“Although [the Charter] is technically an external matter, it is something that will stand to directly affect students at McGill,” said Arts Senator Claire Stewart-Kanigan, who helped draft the motion.
Medicine Representative David Benrimoh also voiced his dissent, saying that he had talked to at least two people in his faculty who would be directly affected by this law.
“[This Charter] is intended to alienate people, it is intended to make people want to leave Quebec […] it’s not a Quebec for everybody, it’s a Quebec for certain people,” said Benrimoh. “This is racism, this is xenophobia, this is ridiculous. It is a stupid, ridiculous law.”
“Even if we could [opt out], having this law on the books is a slight to every [value] we hold dear,” he added.
Shea explained that although McGill can opt out of the proposed law as it currently stands, neither SSMU nor the SSMU daycare would be exempted.
The motion was divided, so the external resolved clauses – such as the letter-writing campaign – were not included in the motion passed along to council, as they could only be passed by a GA and not by a Consultative Forum.T