Former VP External Criticizes CAQ, Sparks Student Debate

On October 2 in a Facebook post, then-SSMU VP External, Marina Cupido, characterized the newly-elected Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) as a, “racist, xenophobic, far-right government with documented ties to white supremacists.” Some McGill students, including some Quebecois, expressed dissatisfaction with this characterization of the CAQ in the Facebook comments, and on a Reddit thread. Debate ensued throughout the social media sphere, and on October 10, Cupido resigned from their position as VP External, citing mental health concerns.

Arts & Science Senator and Senate Caucus Representative, Bryan Buraga, was quick to voice his dissatisfaction with the statement, remarking: “I don’t think it is [in the best interest of SSMU]…to pre-emptively shoot ourselves in the foot and start our relationship with the [Quebec] government on a bad step when they haven’t really done anything yet. It’s bad optics and damages not just our relationship with the CAQ government now, but [will do so] in the future.”

Others were more supportive of VP Cupido’s statement, including SSMU President, Tre Mansdoerfer. He stated that while he and the Executive Council disagreed with the statement, “It’s important to know that we don’t work one on one [with the provincial government, but] the Union Étudiant du Québec (UEQ) could. I don’t think the impact will be that big when it comes to working with the provincial government.”

Those who applauded the statement also included the SSMU-affiliated Socialist Fightback Club which stated, “this government will be the most bigoted, anti-immigrant government in recent memory…We are co-sponsors of the Rally Against Racism as well and will be organizing a Socialist contingent to go there, so we are happy that the SSMU VP External has shared that event and that they are encouraging people to attend.”  When asked about their Facebook statement and the discussion that followed, Cupido said, “I was horrified that so many of the replies to my post regarding the election result consisted of racist hate speech by far-right trolls, though I can’t help feeling that it’s somewhat telling that such people showed up to defend the CAQ.”

On September 27, at the SSMU Legislative Council meeting, Cupido pushed for the postponement of the Motion to Adopt a Policy Against Affiliation with Far Right Groups. This motion would give the VP External the power to “update the list of Far Right Groups active in Montreal,” pursuant to Council approval. The postponement was approved due to a concern expressed by several members on the Executive and Legislative Councils, including Cupido, that the motion was poorly written and gave the Council broad powers to bar students perceived to be associated with the far-right from participating in SSMU-affiliated groups.

In response to the backlash generated by the post, Senator Buraga introduced a motion in the Legislative Council in order to, “make sure that any statements that are put out by high ranking officials or committees…SSMU affiliated social media account[s]…[are given] the proper authorization.” The Motion Regarding Responsible Representation defines and restricts the content of official SSMU social media accounts can post as well as establishes a system of arbitration for students to file complaints.

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