News  SSMU’s future with student roundtable uncertain

Language issues, instability plague association

Four years after its inception, the Table de concertation étudiante du Québec (TaCEQ) faces the possibility of dissolution, with two of its key members questioning whether the Quebec student roundtable is still a worthwhile investment.

Sherbrooke’s graduate student association, the Regroupement des étudiants de maîtrise, de diplôme et de doctorat de l’Université de Sherbrooke (REMDUS) will hold a referendum to decide whether to disaffiliate from TaCEQ later this month. With REMDUS gone, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) will lose its main ally within TaCEQ, leaving SSMU VP External Samuel Harris to consider leaving the organization.

“It’s very unfortunate, but this is the way it’s been going,” Harris said. “We are now looking into the possibility of quitting because it looks like the organization is in the midst of falling apart.”

Robin Reid-Fraser, former VP External of SSMU, believes the problem lies in communication and coordination between the associations. “Communication was tricky,” she said. “Having every association clearly understand what’s going on at the other ones and what their interests and capabilities are was an ongoing challenge when I was involved.”

“McGill is an anglophone institution with a lot of students from outside of Quebec,” Reid-Fraser said. “There isn’t necessarily the same level of involvement and interest in provincial issues from our part.”

There have also been disagreements on a number of issues between SSMU and other members of TaCEQ, including a failed attempt by ÆLIÉS, Université Laval’s student association, to bring forward a motion against SSMU for not contributing its share of $40,000 toward a court case that TaCEQ is currently involved in.

“Myself and the rest of SSMU are very disappointed with ÆLIÉS for trying to bring forward a motion on something that never happened,” Harris said.

TaCEQ is presenting a counter-argument in an ongoing court case in Quebec’s Superior Court. The case challenges the Quebec Act of Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Students’ Associations, which requires that every student in Quebec be a part of a student association.

According to Harris, SSMU has contributed $10,000. In addition, as a contingency measure, SSMU has reallocated unspent money from its TaCEQ budget.
The lack of English translations of the organization’s constitution as well as its website constituted other ongoing issues.

“It took an extremely long time to get an approval from other associations to get an English translation of the organization’s constitution and its website,” Harris said. “This was very frustrating and is mostly why REMDUS wanted to leave.”

However, Guillaume Fortin, TaCEQ’s Deputy Secretary-General for Communications and Internal Affairs, claims that they are in the process of acquiring the translations. “Translation of documents are on their way,” Fortin said, “We are waiting for a financial authorization from our board to proceed.”

Despite the aforementioned issues, Harris believes that TaCEQ hasn’t been a complete failure. “We are feeling good about the court case,” he said. “Assuming that it is successful, we will be protecting the existence of student associations. Furthermore, our relations with the government have improved greatly in the past year and a half.”

“TaCEQ, as a national student organization, has for [its] first mandate to give to SSMU and the other associations a national representation,” Fortin said. “Therefore, following discussions and decisions between the associations, we make sure that their interests are heard and known by the government of Quebec.”

“TaCEQ gives to the associations a decentralized structure that allows each one to have a lot of freedom,” Fortin said.

By leaving TaCEQ, SSMU would no longer be a part of any student association.

“I don’t believe that any of the existing national Quebec student associations suit the needs of SSMU members,” Harris said. “I would advocate building relationships from one individual association to another, as well as creating informal working groups that don’t have any bureaucracy or costs attached to them.”

Harris believes it is important for McGill to maintain relations with other student associations in Montreal.

“McGill is already perceived as a black sheep in the Quebec context,” he said. “That is why we need to make an extra effort to reach out to others.”

“Even if it doesn’t work out in the context of an official organization such as TaCEQ, ASSÉ, or FEUQ doesn’t mean that we can’t get involved in the Quebec higher education scene,” Harris said.

There will be no additional costs for SSMU to leave TaCEQ. However, according to Harris, it can’t be done overnight either. “We can’t just snap our fingers and that’s it,” he said. “There are a lot of bills to pay and legal responsibilities in regards to the board of governors and the TaCEQ corporation.”

There are no official rules regarding the decision making process for leaving TaCEQ. “There are a number of possibilities,” Harris said. “I would recommend a referendum. However, a council decision or a general assembly would do as well.”

“It sure would be a sad thing to have SSMU leave TaCEQ,” Fortin said. “They have been very helpful to our organization. It will be in the hands of the remaining student associations to decide what will happen next to TaCEQ.”