On Thursday January 24, the first SSMU Legislative Council meeting of the winter semester took place.
Potential for Creation of Student Housing
The meeting hosted guest speakers from UTILE, (Unité de Travail pour L’Implantation De Logement Étudiant), a nonprofit organization that works to promote affordable student housing in Quebec, often in collaboration with student unions. They noted that McGill has the highest proportion of students living in Montréal, and the lowest level of students living with their parents.
70% of the McGill student body lives outside of student residence, largely due to the fact that of all other Quebec universities, McGill has the highest percentage of out of province students. UTILE also noted that McGill students usually live downtown and in the Plateau, which are perhaps the most competitive housing areas in the city and have the highest rent. They proposed that McGill students are therefore more vulnerable to predatory real estate practices. The UTILE guest speakers proposed several options to expand affordable student housing for McGill students, including buying and converting buildings from Royal Victoria Hospital, or purchasing existing residential buildings. However, there are several potential obstacles to these endeavours, including legal difficulties with building allocation.
The most highly recommended option was the construction of a medium-rise building off campus. This would be the most feasible option in terms of finding real estate property, and is the choice with the lowest overall environmental impact (due to the wooden structures of medium-rises as compared to high rises).
SSMU representatives expressed concerns regarding the effects this would have on vulnerable housing populations, as well as the legality of building apartments that segregate students from the rest of the population. A proposal for the construction of this new type of student housing will potentially be brought to a SSMU referendum for a student fee levy vote this year. In the event that it passes, the new building would potentially be in progress as of 2023.
Solidarity with Unist’ot’en
Arts and Science Senator Bryan Buraga submitted the Motion Regarding SSMU’s Position on Solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Camp and Wetsuwet’en. This motion concerns the Unist’ot’en blockade in British Columbia against a national gas pipeline on their land. The BC Supreme Court allowed the RCMP to clear the blockade, and now the camp is asking for McGill’s support by signing their pledge and communicating with parliament and ministers.
SSMU voted in favour of this motion, after amending a clause in order to exclude language on direct opposition to the pipeline company. This was done to accommodate comments made by engineering student representatives, who were concerned about the potential damage this may do to constituents’ potential future employment in this field.
Fall Reading Week Committee and Other Motions
An ad-hoc proposal for the Fall Reading Break Committee is currently in progress. Committee membership is currently being solidified.
The Medical Students Society has also officially endorsed the SSMU campaign to change the “Redmen” name.
There was also a Motion to Donate to Kitabi On Behalf of the former McGill Moroccan Students’ Association. The McGill Moroccan Students’ Association raised $4,814.82 in order to financially assist disadvantaged students in Morocco. The club disbanded before the money was donated, and former members are now requesting that the money be donated on their behalf, instead of sitting idle in a bank account.