Meeting marks third defeat of BDS motion at the U of O

On Sunday March 25, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) held their monthly Board of Administration (BOA) meeting, where they voted on motions that were presented at the General Assembly (GA) on March 13, and one motion that was not presented at the GA due to time constraints.

The BOA meeting was not live-streamed as SFUO vice-president communications and services  Kathryn Leblanc, who normally live-streams the meetings, was sick and not present.

BDS motion

The Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) motion, initially brought by SFUO vice-president equity Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi at the Nov. 5 BOA meeting, went through many amendments, and was proposed once again at the GA.

The motion read as follows: “Be it resolved that the SFUO support campaigns associated to the BDS movement, including the divestment of corporations complicit in occupation of Palestinian lands, until Israel respects international law, and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

“That the Section 47 of the SFUO policy manual be named BDS Movement and read: ‘The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa will support this movement as well as take a Pro-Palestine stance.’”

Another part of the motion called for the SFUO to “put pressure on the Board of Governors” of the U of O to support BDS campaigns by “reading a declaration in support of divestment of companies complicit in violation of Palestinian human rights at all meetings of the Board,” as well as calling for “the complete divestment and boycott of such companies and the implementation of investment guidelines that would prevent similar investments in the future.”

However, following the BOA meeting, U of O president Jacques Frémont released a statement condemning the motion, stating the university “will have no part of the BDS movement.”

Despite getting 241 votes in favour against 231 votes against, the motion failed at the GA for not meeting the two-thirds majority vote rule required when addressing constitutional changes.

The motion was brought up again at the BOA as the board had to ratify the decision of the students.

As explained by BOA meeting chairperson Anne-Marie Roy, votes at the GA are received at the BOA as a recommendation, giving the board the power to vote against them.

Another board member pointed out that “even though the votes don’t matter, (the board) should still take the students’ votes in consideration.”

The motion saw 6 speakers for and against, and the board voted by secret-ballot with a tie of 11 votes in favour and 11 against, and two abstentions. Since the vote was a tie and did not meet the two-thirds threshold, the BDS motion failed.

Online voting motion

The online voting motion was passed at the GA, and called for the SFUO to hire Simply Voting, a third-party company to run further elections online as of May 1, 2018. This motion was passed unanimously by the board.

Motion regarding the SFUO’s political campaigns

Another motion, which was on the agenda for the GA but did not get voted on, was in regards to the SFUO taking political stances, reading as follows:

“Whereas there has been serious concern about an endorsement of a campaign singling out Israel and Israel alone, including but not limited to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel.”

“Whereas there has been serious concern about an endorsement of aforementioned campaigns making many students on our campus feel attacked, unsafe, and marginalized.”

“Whereas, as a member and or ally of the community most targeted by hate crimes in this country, we know what anti-semitism is, and we know that campaigns including but not limited to BDS, breed it.”

“Be it resolved that this body will not consider any further campaigns that single out one state or place of origin above others, including but not limited to BDS resolutions, for two years.”

Some board members took issue with the highlighted two years in the motion, claiming that it was undemocratic to vote on something that could affect future students.

Moumouni-Tchouassi also touched on the debate, explaining, “we represent students on this campus that will be affected by these issues. I want to remind people that being a political organization means that we are allowed to talk about everything. When we take positions, we are also taking positions against certain actions.”

The motion was consequently defeated with a majority vote by the board.

The next BOA meeting will take place on April 8, at 1 p.m. in Tabaret room 083.