The events of the last two or so weeks have been a whirlwind in Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) politics. The General Assembly (GA) was a success; people I’ve never even met have come to me and praised my letter; someone even presented me with a “the answer to 1984 is 1776” poster at the GA (the fact that people on campus are using that phrase to describe the SFUO blows my mind).
What also blows my mind is how, on March 22, the SFUO’s Constitutional Committee took a pass when asked to decide on numerous electoral offences committed by both the Elections Office and the slate “United.” Not wanting to ruffle any feathers, the committee referred the matter to the BOA. Our system has checks and balances written into it, but it doesn’t work when the checks and balances are too afraid to check and balance.
I know what you’re thinking: the elections were like six weeks ago—get over it. In my case, it’s a little different. During the election cycle, I’ve had just about every accusation lobbed at me. I’ve been called racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, and homophobic (the last one really caught me off guard) all because I hold very anti-establishment views. Let’s face it, when you can’t attack the facts you attack the presenter.
I suspect these false allegations were the reason behind my disqualification. I say that because I’ve never actually seen the evidence against me, and I haven’t been told exactly what I may have said or done leading to my disqualification. At no time was I ever afforded my right to due process, as per Electoral Regulation 18.2.4.
In preparing my defence, I was twice denied the opportunity to review evidence against me. This was my motivation for withdrawing my final appeal—how do I have any chance of properly defending myself when I don’t even know what to defend myself against?
As I’ve alluded to before, Qussai Abu-Naqoos, this year’s Chief Election Officer (CEO), is a hatchet man for the SFUO establishment. Do you think he ever afforded me my right to due process? Well, he never interviewed me during his “investigation” nor did he even ask for my side of the story. I don’t know what kind of investigation you can conduct when you only seek out half the facts.
To his credit, due process is not defined in the Electoral Regulations—however, any neutral observer would agree that principles like the right to know the charges levied against one and the ability to challenge the evidence brought forward (at the very least, be presented with it) are all elements of due process. If anyone had any doubts as to the level of his incompetency, you can put it to bed.
When I appealed my disqualification, my right to due process was violated even further. The day before the hearing, I was alerted to the fact that two members of the Elections Committee, Caylie McKinlay and Mikayla Vattiata, had liked a Facebook post claiming I am racist and misogynistic, among a slew of other untrue things.
McKinlay (editor’s note: who uses they/them pronouns) especially seemed to have it out for me. They offered to reveal the nature of my disqualification to other students before I even knew what they were—all while claiming the entire process is to be confidential (total hypocrite).
Bear in mind, all this is happening before my appeal hearing. The fact that they would so willingly and publicly offer such information to a third party before offering it to the accused is beneath contempt and a complete violation of my right to due process.
The fact that neither McKinlay nor Vattiata recused themself is shameful. Even more shameful is that McKinlay had the nerve to go around saying how they were totally impartial throughout the entire process (people even called them out on that). Their claim that they were unbiased is so phoney it doesn’t even pass the laugh test. All this to say— due process SFUO, do you speak it?
FYI—if anyone wants to see the screenshots of all this, I’ll gladly provide them.
So why am I bloviating about all this? Well on April 2, the BOA is going to make the final decision on whether or not enough electoral irregularities occurred to warrant a new election. My story is just the tip of the iceberg. During this election, there were more violations than you could shake a stick at (I guess people in olden times shook sticks at things in large numbers).
I encourage students to write to their BOA rep and tell them to stand up to the corruption and vote for a new election. This is how we take our election back.
If you’re reading this, you are the resistance.
—Michele Di Franco, fourth-year economics and political science student at the U of O