News  Post-grads discuss freedom of association

Society’s purpose reconsidered at annual general meeting

McGill’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its annual general meeting (AGM) on March 12, during which members discussed various amendments to the Society’s bylaws and the approval of a new auditor for the past fiscal year.

Titles of PGSS officers

A motion to amend the bylaws to change titles of officers could not be discussed, as it was subject to approval from PGSS Council, which had voted against it during its meeting just before the AGM.

Under the Quebec Companies Act, corporations like PGSS need to have a president of the Board of Directors, according to Graduate Law Students’ Association (GLSA) president and PGSS’ GLSA councillor Juan Camilo Pinto. Currently, the secretary-general of PGSS acts both as the president and the secretary-general.

“You have the title secretary-general – slash – the president. I don’t know about you, but it sounds confusing to me. Especially because one is a legal term, and the other one is a term that was brought as a way of saying [that] we don’t have a hierarchy in the PGSS, but in fact we do,” Pinto told The Daily.

“It is a very weird thing to have a dual title,” said PGSS Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney in an interview with The Daily. “On the one hand, almost no other group within McGill uses the term secretary-general, which looks a bit odd. On the other hand, it’s used in the francophone associations. So there are arguments in favour of both.”

Expanding the purpose of PGSS

Another motion concerned expanding the purpose of PGSS to include the promotion of “freedom of association within the student movement.”

Presenting the motion, Mooney explained that the amendment to the bylaws was a statement directed at the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), with which PGSS has been in legal conflict since 2010.

“It’s our purpose as a corporation to promote freedom of association, and we want to work with all the student associations across Canada to make sure that they have a right to choose who they affiliate with,” Mooney said at the AGM.

Guillaume Lord, PhD candidate in Economics and former PGSS councillor, said in response that the wording of the motion would make PGSS sound more like a purely political association than a student association.

Some attendees proposed to amend the motion, so that the wording could be made clearer. Rachel Schwartz, the speaker, explained that since the motion was approved by Council, the AGM only had the power to ratify it, and could not amend it.

The AGM finally voted to refer the motion back to Council.

“I didn’t like how this motion was set out because it wasn’t about the members,” Lord told The Daily after the AGM. “It was about the general purpose of defending freedom of association. Now that, without debate, is a good purpose. We need to keep in mind that we are an association that is here for members, not for defending some various political virtues.”

“Now, I understand where the [secretary-general] came from, and that we are in a context of fighting a legal battle against CFS,” Lord added. “Actually, I am in favour of making a strong statement about this, I just don’t think this is the appropriate way to make it.”

Mooney admitted that the motion may have been too broadly defined.

“I think that what we’re going to have to do is to take a look at all the different issues that were brought up, and try to find a wording that more appropriately reflects the principle that we’re trying to achieve,” Mooney said to The Daily.