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Items include referendum, making campus smoke-free and boycott of all forced labour products made by Muslim Uighurs in China

The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) Board of Directors (BOD) unanimously passed a motion on Oct.18 approving the agenda for its upcoming online Fall General Assembly (FGA) on Nov. 12. 

The agenda contains a total of seven student-prepared motions that will need to be voted on by undergraduate students. 

Within the UOSU constitution, there are two articles dedicated to the process of amendments and motions that are presented during the FGA.  

“Article 13.1 and 13.2 create two categories of amendments and they require different thresholds to pass,” said Babacar Faye, the UOSU’s president. 

“The difference with article 13.2 is that the amendments do not take effect until voted and approved upon at the next FGA. Those articles usually relate to a wider purpose either within UOSU or the student body.”

The motions

The first student motion calls on UOSU to hold a referendum on its mandatory anti-racism course stance. 

Nicholas Morin, a second-year software engineering student at the U of O, put forth this motion as “a guiding hand for UOSU.”

Back on Aug. 27, UOSU and nine recognized student governments formally offered their support to Carleton student Khadija El Hilali in demanding an anti-racism course to be a mandatory requirement for all undergraduate students.

“The letter did not explicitly explain how the mandatory course would be implemented so I found that answering two important questions in the form of a referendum was necessary to guide UOSU’s advocacy,” said Morin in an email statement. 

The motion suggests that the UOSU asks students in a referendum the following two questions: 

“Do you support a mandatory four-month anti-racism course for all undergraduate students?”

“Would you support a mandatory anti-racism course of a different form (i.e. class presentations, seminars, or 101-week events)?”

If most students voted no to the first question, Morin thought maybe they would support the second option which is why he proposed the two questions. 

However, if most students voted no then Morin believes “there’s no need for UOSU to advocate for a mandatory course.”

“I found it important to define whether students want the UOSU to advocate for a 4-month course because that has a large impact on program structures,” he said. 

However, UOSU advocacy commissioner Tim Gulliver criticized the motion put forth by Morin. 

“In my opinion, it’s an attempt to embarrass the Union and to try and shut down an idea which, although not fully finalized or perfected, is the work of activists to think of innovative ways to educate university students on the pervasiveness of racism in our society,” said Gulliver. 

The next student-proposed motion, presented by Cianne Larivière, demands that the UOSU call on the University to absolve students without in-person courses from the $119.40 ancillary fee for Sports Services. It also asks the UOSU to demand the reimbursement of all Sports Services fees that were paid for the fall 2020 semester. 

It also calls for UOSU to demand that the U of O automatically opt-out students that have no in-person courses from the U-Pass. 

“Many students are facing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are unable to access some University-run services in-person,” reads the motion.

The third item, put forth by Mélina Leclerc, calls on the UOSU to lobby the U of O administration to lower tuition fees during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I was thinking it was unfair to pay around $3,771 plus accessories fees for videos that professors would post on Brightspace. To be honest, I personally have an average of an hour of video which is supposed to replace three hours of class weekly and I know I am not the only one in this position,” said Leclerc in an email statement.

“The quality of education in the Fall 2020 semester has declined significantly due to the transition to online learning,” reads the motion.

“Students do not have access to the same physical spaces, including study spaces, that they would access prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I believe we need more than $250 in reductions for ancillary fees,” said Leclerc.

Furthermore, Leclerc believes that both the U of O and the provincial government have the financial resources to reduce such fees for students because Ontario has not invested into “proper programs to financially help students to pass through the pandemic.”

“We need to have some explanations about the [maintenance] of the same fees as last year,” said Leclerc.

Taking a stance to call on the U of O for a smoke-free campus is next on the agenda, put forth by Taylor Léveillé. 

“Students are less likely to smoke if they attend a school that prohibits smoking as part of a comprehensive smoke-free policy, and if they perceive smoking policies to be well enforced.” 

Then the following motion, put forth by Jason Tremblay calls for “the creation of a permanent Indigenous lead group of full-time Indigenous students, recognized by the UOSU, represented and led by Indigenous full-time law students.”

The group would be named the Indigenous Law Student Government (ILSG) and would be “recognized by the UOSU, represented and led by Indigenous full-time law students according to the current self-identification definition developed by the University of Ottawa, including students in the faculty of law.”

If passed, it is suggested that “the UOSU executive and the founders of the ILSG come to an agreement on a mutually agreed framework for the funding of the ILSG.”

The next item calls for the UOSU to stand in solidarity with Muslim Uighurs living in China and suffering at the hands of the Chinese government. 

If passed, the motion would push “the General Assembly [to] strongly encourage the Board of Directors to adopt a ‘General Policy’ providing for the boycott of any and all products made with the forced labour of Uighur Muslims in its businesses or daily operations.”

The final motion is a statement presented by Telfer School of Management BOD member, Tian Kun Chen, on the relationship between the former Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and the UOSU.

“I propose writing a formal declaration that would put an end to any ambiguous relationship between the SFUO and UOSU,” wrote Chen.

“We must focus our energy first and foremost on building and improving our new student union. The sooner we put an end to this ambiguous state, the better it will be for our unity among students. We must leave all burdens of the past in the past and walk proudly towards a better future.”

The UOSU’s FGA will take place on zoom on Nov.12 at 7 p.m. All U of O undergraduate students who wish to attend the FGA must register on eventbrite.