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Senate representative says GA is constitutionally mandated by SFUO

Photo by Mico Mazza

Critics of the General Assembly’s (GA) creation said they were unable to prepare for the Nov. 25 referendum debates due to the event’s lack of publicity. 

The Marxist Students’ Association successfully petitioned the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) by gathering 1,700 student signatures in support of the referendum. The GA would be established as the highest decision-making body of the SFUO with control over a variety of the SFUO’s responsibilities, like finances, elections, by-laws, and policies.

Katya Moussatova, Board of Administration (BOA) member for the Faculty of Social Sciences, said the debates were not properly advertised and those who are opposed to the referendum were not told until they showed up to the debates that they would be able to argue their side.

“People were infuriated that no one had time to prepare, so of course no one went up,” she said. “A show was made out of this and a continuous commentary at the disorganization of students in the opposition was made via social media.”

The Facebook event for the debates was allegedly not made public until a very short time before the debates occurred, and several students expressed frustration because they were not invited nor informed.

“If the SFUO can’t communicate news of a referendum on a General Assembly to its members, how well are the General Assemblies themselves going to be advertised?” third-year economics student Julia Riddle wrote on the Facebook event page. “I’m all for democracy, but not if it only applies to the 400 privileged folks that get invited to a Facebook event like this.”

Other students, including Adam Strombergsson-DeNora, a student representative on the university senate, said the assemblies should have been held since the SFUO’s implementation.

“For a corporate organization that purports to represent all students in its union, they violate one of the key tenets in union rule, which is representing the opinion of the people in the union,” he said.

Current voting members of the GA are the existing members of the BOA. Strombergsson-DeNora said if the GA were not approved, the current model the U of O has would be problematic because the BOA is a political body.

SFUO president Anne-Marie Roy said the federation is “not breaking the laws in any way by not having General Assemblies.”

According to Strombergsson-DeNora, dissenting or minority opinions are not allowed within the current structure. He said students should go a step further than GAs and look at altering our governing bodies. He believes that students, as contributors to the SFUO, should petition for impartial committees with a judicial review to question the decisions of the SFUO.

Last election, Roy ran her campaign slate in favour of the implementation of GAs. A referendum is not necessary to implement GAs, but she believes there are benefits to holding one.

“There are a few advantages that come with having a referendum,” she said. “One, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to advertise that we’re going to be having general assemblies, hopefully before the end of the year.”

Roy also said a referendum mandates the BOA to implement GAs—if the minimum of five per cent of members are in attendance—which will allow for individual students to partake in decision-making policies.

However, Strombergsson-DeNora believes the SFUO “promotes this disconnect between its membership” and this issue needs to be addressed.

He said the referendum is a waste of time and money. Implementing a GA is a constitutional amendment, and the BOA has the authority to vote for and pass with a two-thirds majority vote.

The GA referendum will conclude Nov. 28.