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Tariq Khan withdraws Superior Court case against SSMU

Case cost SSMU $50,000 in legal fees

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has received confirmation that Tariq Khan has withdrawn the court case he had previously filed against SSMU, according to a statement released on October 10 by VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette. The Quebec Superior Court has accepted the withdrawal.

Khan filed the case in May to contest the April 1 invalidation of his presidential election by Elections SSMU, and his request for a provisional injunction reinstating him as SSMU president while the case was being heard was dismissed by the Superior Court on June 3. The full hearing of the case was to take place in the coming months.

In an interview with The Daily, Khan explained that financial considerations, as well as the decreasing timeliness of the case, motivated his decision. “It was putting on me a financial burden that I could not bear anymore […] and at the same time the second reason was that the hearing we were getting was in late December,” said Khan. “There’s no point [in] going for the case.”

“We were expecting a lot lower costs, but the costs got out of hand, and unfortunately I’m not able to bear it,” added Khan.

On the other side of the dispute, continuing to fight the case would have required an increase in SSMU’s legal budget, which, according to SSMU executives, is usually around $80,000 per year. With the case withdrawn, SSMU will not have to plan for this increase when it revises its budget later this month to account for increased revenue from the building fee.

“Now that the case is dropped, and since the budgets aren’t in yet, it will mean that we don’t have to add anything to our legal budget, which is great,” Moustaqim-Barrette told The Daily. “It’ll just mean that we can all continue with our projects as foreseen, and we’re excited to keep going.”

Moustaqim-Barrette noted that SSMU has spent about $50,000 on this case in total, with the cost being split between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years.

“It’s a relief for all of us to not have to deal with the case anymore,” she said.

In an email to The Daily, SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa said that “the case being dropped lowers the stress on SSMU’s legal budget,” but declined to comment further.

Electoral bylaw changes in the works

Despite withdrawing the case, Khan said that he still believes he was treated unfairly.

“[A court case] is very stressful, it’s not fun. But when you put me in a position [where] you accuse me of something, and you do not show me the evidence for it, and an entire election is just overthrown by one person […] what precedent has been set? The precedent that’s been set is that anyone can set anyone up, and it can be backed up by the system very easily,” said Khan.

“When I ran my election campaign […] I knew there was something fishy in SSMU, but I didn’t know it was to this extent,” added Khan. “I don’t think there is fairness inside SSMU; there is a lot of nepotism. […] There are some core issues that have to be seriously addressed […] and this is something we all need to do together.”

Khan described SSMU’s constitution, bylaws, and policies as “flawed,” but noted that he is willing to help improve them.

“Institutionally, there are a lot of things that can be done. All my work I would be willing to share if there is someone sincere enough in SSMU to want to make it better who is in a position to do so,” said Khan. “I would love to make it unbiased, I would love to make it more transparent, more accountable.”

Moustaqim-Barrette indicated that Elections SSMU is conducting a review of SSMU’s electoral bylaws, and is open to student input.

“I think it’s important that [SSMU] considers any member of the Society’s criticism,” said Moustaqim-Barrette. “The bylaws have been in review all summer, and there will be wide consultation with students. If he [Khan] was to provide input, of course it would be considered like any others.”