On Sunday, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Courtney Ayukawa released her and Speaker of Legislative Council Rachel Simmons’ defence factum in response to a recent Judicial Board (J-Board) case, in which petitioners Zain Ali Syed and Nadir Khan call for a special General Assembly (GA) to discuss the Palestine solidarity motion, which was postponed indefinitely at the October 22 SSMU GA. The case will bypass a mediation session and go right to a hearing.
The two petitioners have claimed that, at the GA, the indefinite postponing of the Palestine solidarity motion and Council’s failure to adopt a simplified version of Robert’s Rules constituted infractions of SSMU bylaws. Ayukawa is acting on behalf of Council in the case.
“Consistently not following the bylaw and then turning around and calling it ‘convention’ doesn’t magically make it okay.”
Khan and Syed’s factum has been revised since the case was first accepted by the J-Board in order to include a more detailed argument. The addition highlighted examples that indicated that students who spoke at the GA were unfamiliar with Robert’s Rules.
The revised version does not contain the original’s request to have the use of indefinite postponement declared unconstitutional, instead claiming that it should be overturned due to SSMU members’ lack of resources relating to Robert’s Rules – particularly in regard to motions that could have been used to counter the motion to postpone.
In their factum, Ayukawa and Simmons note that a simplified version of Robert’s Rules for a GA was only adopted once in the past three years, in 2012, most likely as a way to increase participation at the GA.
The factum argues that because the level of participation was not a concern to Council this year – there was evidently much interest in the motions being discussed, and quorum was not an issue – “[neither] the Speaker nor the Council was required to establish special standing rules for the General Assembly.”
It claims that this practice is convention at SSMU, and that, because no specific rules were drafted, the use of regular Robert’s Rules was in accordance with “official procedure.”
Syed and Khan refuted SSMU’s interpretation of their bylaws. “Consistently not following the bylaw and then turning around and calling it ‘convention’ doesn’t magically make it okay,” Khan and Syed told The Daily in a joint email.
“Bylaw I-5 article 5.2 clearly obliges them to adopt standing rules, so students can actually understand the procedures,” they continued.
Khan and Syed also claimed that the failure to adopt simplified standing rules for the GA was also a violation of article 5.4 of bylaw I-5, which requires that students “be given the opportunity to debate and amend each resolution,” arguing that students were not aware of the procedural tools available to fight the motion according to Robert’s Rules.
However, SSMU’s factum claims that the Speaker did not violate article 5.4 because it is stated in Robert’s Rules that, as soon as the question is stated by the Speaker, it is in the hands of the Assembly. “Once debate has been opened, the chair must recognize points and motions on the floor,” reads SSMU’s factum.
The declaration also notes that the Simmons, “recused herself from the position of Speaker for the Motion and was replaced by Mike Tong for the Motion and its proceedings,” meaning that Simmons was not acting as Speaker when the Palestine motion was postponed.
According to the email from the petitioners, Khan and Syed decided to forego mediation because there is limited time left in the semester and could not see any “meaningful solution” to the case outside holding a second GA.
Khan told The Daily that he has met with Ayukawa to discuss the alleged bylaw infractions. “Ultimately, we disagreed on the interpretation [of the bylaws]. The bylaws clearly oblige Council to adopt standing rules to make debate accessible,” said Khan.
The date of the hearing is yet to be determined, Ayukawa told The Daily in an email.
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