The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO)’s drama has plagued students for years, and some may be relieved to forget about it once they finish school—but former student politicians don’t always leave the political arena once they graduate.
Hadi Wess landed in hot water while campaigning for city councillor just months after finishing his term as president of the SFUO in April of this year. He lost handily in the Barrhaven riding while facing the ire of a community paper after calling them “just another bias(ed) media source,” after they issued a piece about a harassment report against Wess.
But Wess’ relationship with student media has shown similar patterns. During his term as president, Wess also accused la Rotonde, the French-language paper on campus, of slander.
Anne-Marie Roy, who served as president of the SFUO from 2013-15, was recently involved with two local campaigns—one for the successful run of the NDP’s Joel Harden in Ottawa-Centre, and the other for mayoral candidate Clive Doucet as his communications aide.
Mayor Jim Watson himself is known for being the former president of the Rideau River Residence Association (RRRA) at Carleton University in the early 1980s. And new councillor-elect for Capital ward, Shawn Menard, also touts his CV as former president with both RRRA and CUSA (Carleton University Students’ Association).
Former radio personality Jian Ghomeshi faced allegations of sexual assault in recent years, and was president of the York Federation of Students from 1990-91. During that time, one former student and employee for Ghomeshi says he was fondled by the former president. Another former student said that residence advisors warned others of Ghomeshi’s behaviour.
Keeping our student politicians accountable is therefore an important task since many choose to continue their political careers after graduation, or move on to high-level executive positions in various fields. The character they demonstrate as student politicians can therefore be a snapshot of how they will hold future political office or leadership.
For some, university is a fond memory they use as reference for their political origins. Watson, for example, is known for re-visiting Carleton after election day and dining in the school cafeteria.
Wess cited his own experience as president of the SFUO on his campaign website saying—“he left his mark in not only the heart of each student, but also every brick at the University of Ottawa.” He goes on to say that “he supported students to unleash their full potential and be better contributors to enhancing the lives of others in the city of Ottawa.” (Some may disagree.)
So while some might pass campus politics off as trivial, it is important to keep an eye on student executives. You never know—they might one day take up other public office.