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Pat Marquis and ICSSA agree to work together to promote a more accepting campus

Daniel LeRoy | Fulcrum Staff

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) dipped its toe in the pool of controversy this week when vp social-elect Pat Marquis was called out by the Indigenous and Canadian Studies Students’ Association (ICSSA) for a jab he made at the aboriginal community on Facebook.

Following in the footsteps of a previously reported incident with the Centre for Students with Disabilities in which the location for their “Let’s talk about mental health” conference was listed on Facebook as “taking place on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory,” the Engineering Students’ Society (ESS) recently listed an event as being on “ceded and surrendered Algonquin territory.” It was discovered that Marquis, current vp social of the ESS, was behind the location listing, and some students have decided they’ve had enough.

Stéphanie Vaudry, MA candidate in sociology at the U of O, commented on Marquis’ actions on Facebook and elaborated on her feelings in an interview with the Fulcrum.

“For me, what Mr. Marquis did [showed] first of all a total lack of respect towards indigenous people, which is supported by a huge lack of knowledge,” she said.

Vaudry stated that she believes these kind of comments are not benign, come out of a long history of ignorance, and perpetuate abuse toward the aboriginal community.

Not all U of O students agree with Vaudry; some students saw Marquis’ comment as just a thoughtless joke with no ill intent. A few people commented on the Facebook page that others should not take offense to posts they see on social media.

The ICSSA, who created a Facebook page called “Pat Marquis Respect Indigenous Students”, asked Marquis to either resign  as vp social-elect or agree to a series of reconciliatory measures. It was announced on March 24 that an agreement had been reached between the two parties.

“Three representatives from ICSSA, Michelle Crossman, the president of ESS and myself met for coffee,” Marquis said, “Our conversation went really well and we sorted out an agreement [and a way] to go forward with the situation.”

Zorga Qaunaq, central coordinator of the ICSSA, expressed hope at the outcome.

“We are proud to assist Mr. Marquis as he works towards accountability, responsibility, and respect,” she said.

Marquis also agreed to attend a meeting with aboriginal students later in April as well as the upcoming conference titled “Anishinaabe-aki: Introduction to Unceded Algonquin Territory.”

Qaunaq underlined how comments that undermine aboriginal students’ history and identity are still made in overwhelming amounts by other students, professors, and administrators.

For Qaunaq and the ICSSA, their pleasure at Marquis’ willingness to work with them is only the beginning; they believe that much more work needs to be done to address the stigma that exists toward aboriginal students on campus.