Close to 50 students gather in UCU to protest SFUO executives named in police report

At 12 p.m. on Sept. 6, students gathered for a protest co-organized by student groups Un-Tied SFUO (Student Federation of the University of Ottawa), the University of Ottawa New Democratic Party (UONDP), University of Ottawa Greens (UOG), University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives (UOCC), and University of Ottawa Young Liberals (UOYL).

The protest was held in response to an ongoing controversy that began with an August police report made by former SFUO president, Hadi Wess. The report laid allegations of fraud against current president Rizki Rachiq, and executive coordinator, Vanessa Dorimain, with mention of vice-president operations Axel Gaga.

Following the allegations, a Board of Administration (BOA) meeting was held where a motion to suspend Rachiq with, and without pay failed during the in-camera portion. Additionally, the BOA passed a motion to keep the results of the University of Ottawa’s independent forensic audit private.

According to organizers, the crowd averaged at around 40 students. Chants such as “the students united will never be defeated,” “where’s our sunglasses,” and “rigged elections,” were heard throughout the hour-long protest.

One first-year political science student in attendance told the Fulcrum about his reasons for attending.

“One of the big reasons I decided to come out against corruption really is because my family comes from Brazil which is a place that is currently embattled by many corruption scandals,” he said.

“I am kind of sad that my university, one that I chose because they care about their students, because they want the best for everyone here, they want to give them opportunities, is headed by students whose only intentions are to steal from the people and I think that is just disgusting.”

A student’s sign reads “my tuition is not for your accessorizing.” Photo: Marissa Phul.

A fourth-year student, whose sign is pictured above, said “it has been going on since even before I came here.”

UOCC president, Michael Giesbrecht, told the Fulcrum that the collaboration between the different partisan political groups on campus has been easy.

“We’re very friendly with one another and this isn’t an issue where ideologies collide. We all believe in transparency and accountability and that’s not how the SFUO was behaving.”

Following the formation of this partnership, Moe Abu Rouss, U of O student and leader of the Un-Tied campaign, reached out to the group for help with his organization’s impeachment campaign and accompanying petition. They decided to team up using the protest both as an event to raise awareness but also to garner signatures for the impeachment petition. In an email to the Fulcrum, Jeremy Leite, co-president of the UOG said, “this protest and the movement behind it are a great opportunity to not only hold our SFUO executives accountable for their actions, but to galvanize the student body to take a more active interest in student politics.”

Abu Rouss also spoke with the Fulcrum in anticipation of the protest, saying “private actors like myself and the Un-Tied movement team can do what is best for themselves and their community even if a court of law has not weighed in.” For him and his team, the petition for impeachment is “not just about these recent allegations but about removing systemic corruption.”

In a message to the Fulcrum, UONDP vice-president communications, Francesco MacAllister-Caruso, stated “we believe it is in the best interest of the students, and the SFUO’s reputation, that the alleged members be impeached as soon as possible.”

The UOG voiced similar support in an email to the Fulcrum, as well as calling for the publication of the forensic audit results, and Giesbrecht expressing the same, saying, “at the very least suspension is necessary pending results (of the forensic audit), and if those results come back showing that the allegations are true then I would fully support impeachment.”

Dorimain was in the SFUO office at the time of protest, however, she refused to provide comment to the Fulcrum citing advice from her legal representation.

Rachiq and Gaga had not responded to media inquiries at the time of this publication.