Technical difficulties, debates and controversial motions cause assembly to adjourn at 2:06 a.m.
The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) held its first online Fall General Assembly (FGA) on Nov. 12 over Zoom. The event was originally planned to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. but lasted over seven hours ending at 2 a.m.
Beginning 30 minutes after the scheduled start time, the FGA’s start was delayed due to a number of technical difficulties.
Once started, the UOSU’s executive all presented updates on their work. President Babacar Faye went first, Faye touched on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students. He detailed that his priorities as president include mental health and wellness, anti-racism on campus and in the U of O community as a whole.
Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s advocacy commissioner then delivered remarks on his ongoing advocacy work. Gulliver spoke about the UOSU’s campaigns to push for reduced tuition, to support international students, advocate for more mental health resources on campus, and fight against anti-Black racism.
Next was Amina El Himri, the UOSU’s student services commissioner, she spoke about making sure clubs have the necessary resources they need during the pandemic and make services accessible especially in these trying times.
Finally, Marissa St-Amand, the francophone commissioner of the UOSU, delivered updates on working with the Bilingualism Centre to promote bilingualism on campus and campaigns that are being run to inform students and profs on linguistic rights.
Following each member of the executive’s updates the floor was opened to students to ask their elected representatives questions on their work and the FGA.
The question period opened with a bang when Gulliver got into a heated exchange with a student over the UOSU’s registration method for the FGA. The union was asked if it was following the lead of the Republican party with its registrations methods.
“The question is absolutely ridiculous … the registration is to ensure attendees are members of the UOSU,” answered a visibly frustrated Gulliver.
Citing free speech issues, the UOSU was then asked why the FGA was held on Zoom, especially considering its status in China?
“Zoom accommodated the needs of this meeting best, of all platforms,” answered Gulliver in response to the question. “We are open to exploring other options that are more accessible to all students.”
There were a number of other questions, but none seem to draw as much ire from students and executives.
Moving on down the agenda, the next point was a motion presented by Faye to appoint a public accountant (Hendry Warren LLP). The motion was passed by a clear majority vote after a short question period.
Next was Faye’s motion to approve amendments made to Articles 13.1 and 13.2 of the Constitution. Those amendments were both passed.
The FGA then delved into the first student presented motion which was Nicholas Morin’s motion on a referendum in regards to the UOSU’s advocacy on a mandatory anti-racism course. After over an hour of heated discourse, motion 8.1 as it was known, was rescinded by a clear majority vote.
Motion 8.2 on the ancillary fees during COVID-19 called for the UOSU to lobby the University of Ottawa to reimburse ancillary fees, particularly for sports services to students who had online classes only. This motion passed with a clear majority vote.
Motion 8.3 on tuition fees during the COVID-19 pandemic called for the University of Ottawa and the Government of Ontario to reduce tuition fees until the end of the pandemic, as students felt they were not getting the same level of education as in previous years. This motion passed with a clear majority as students spoke at lengths about the drop in quality they have observed with online-learning.
A heavily-debated topic, motion 8.4 for a smoke-free campus was rejected by the assembly after a number of powerful speeches both in support and opposing the motion.
Many students thought it was unfair to make the campus a smoke-free place during COVID-19 as for many students smoking is a coping mechanism for stress.
Motion 8.5 for the creation of an individual Indigenous law student government was passed. This government will be created to support Indigenous law students at the University of Ottawa.
The UOSU moved to support the creation of this student government as well as officially name it the Indigenous Law Student Government (ILSG). The UOSU will also allocate funding to the new student government and ensure it is represented and led by full-time Indigenous law students.
The UOSU will work with the ILSG to design the funding framework for the new student government.
Motion 8.6 for solidarity with Uighur muslims was debated for over an hour and a half by a number of students who voiced their varying opinions on the topic.
“This is not a political issue, this is a human rights issue,” said Dawoud Najmudin to those opposing the motion.
A number of motions were brought to amend the motion and separate it but at the end of the debate, the UOSU officially adopted the original motion which states the following;
“The University of Ottawa Students’ Union stands in solidarity with the millions of Uyghur Muslims facing cultural genocide at the hands of the Government of the People’s Republic of China.”
“The University of Ottawa Students’ Union condemns the Government of the People’s Republic of China for committing a cultural genocide of Uyghur Muslims through state-sponsored internment camps, the committing human rights abuses, and the suppression of religious practices, among other attacks on Uyghur Muslims.”
“The University of Ottawa Students’ Union calls on the University of Ottawa to stand in solidarity with Uyghur Muslims and provide for the boycott of any and all products made with the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims in its businesses or daily operations.”
Finally, a discussion item was brought forward by Tian Kun Chen, to formally declare an end of any ambiguity between the USOU and the SFUO (Student’s Federation of the University of Ottawa).
The old student federation was disbanded in April 2019 after a series of scandals. The discussion intended to further solidify that the UOSU is a new, separate student government from the SFUO. After a brief discussion, no motion was presented and the discussion point came to a close.
The motion to adjourn was then put forth and seconded, and the Fall General Assembly for the UOSU officially ended at 2:06 a.m.
—With files from Leyla Abdolell