Legislative Council passes new Academic Wellness proposal and motion supporting immigrant workers

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On January 28, 2021, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council held its second meeting of the Winter semester. Councilors discussed the Students National Solution for a Fair Voting System, the Motion Regarding Dollarama Warehouse Workers, and Motion Regarding the Adoption of the Academic Wellness Proposal. 

Presentation of the Students National Solution for Fair Voting System

Garbeil Laurence-Brook, an Ecological Student from University of Ottawa, started off the meeting by promoting Sensé, a national student association lobbying for electoral reform in the provincial government. Sensé is a non-partisan association, acting in support of a mixed-proportional voting system, rather than the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system Quebec currently uses. Sensée is working to spark change in the Quebecois electoral systems, by working with students to promote a fair vote. 

Laurence-Brook noted that the current voting system “leads to strategic voting and political cynicism… which has deep effects on our political culture.” Sensé proposes a system that incorporates both Constituency MNAs (the current system in place) and Party-list MNAs to compensate for distortions in the current process. This would result in less ridings, with more weight attributed to the popular vote, discouraging strategic voting practices. Currently, all of Quebec’s political parties, with the exception of the PLQ, have agreed to put the proportional system in place. 

Motion Regarding Support of Dollarama Warehouse Workers

Ayo Ogunremi, Vice-President External Affairs, moved the “Motion Regarding Support of Dollarama Warehouse Workers,” which was then passed by the council. For over 10 years, immigrant workers working in Dollarama warehouses have been exposed to racialized work environments, dangerous conditions and salaries below minimum wage. Mostafa Henaway, a worker at the Immigrant Workers centre, noted “Dollarama represents a model of disposable racialized workforce that excels in a capitalized society”. The Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal has been working with Immigrants since 2000 to ensure their basic humans rights are met. 

The motion presented establishes SSMU’s support for Dollarama warehouse workers, aligning with SSMU’s Sustainability Policy and goals to “minimize systemic power imbalances within society and to foster a culture of anti-oppression.” Immigrant workers are prioritizing four main demands in their work: permanent and stable work, minimum wages of $15/hour, improved health and safety conditions, and more breaks. 

Mostafa Henaway presented the case of the warehouse workers, reminding the public that “When thinking about racism, it’s crucial to think about how inequalities shape structural racism.”

Motion Regarding the Adoption of the Academic Wellness Proposal 

Maheen Akter, Vice-President Student Life, moved the “Motion Regarding the Adoption of the Academic Wellness Proposal.” It was approved in favour of addressing the need for solutions to students’ mental health. Seconded by Libby Wiliamson, Arts Representative, the proposal was issued as part of the mandate of the Mental Health Policy and Three Year Plan, adopted last Winter. 

Both the Mental Health Commissioner and the Mental Health Advocacy Coordinator collaborated with students to create a Wellness Proposal that includes evidence-based recommendations on supporting students with mental health concerns related to academics. 

As stated in the motion, “post-secondary students continue to indicate academics as their top source of mental distress,” with anxiety developed related to academics affecting their day-to-day lives.

Adopting this motion indicates the addition of two appendices to the SSMU Mental Health Policy and Plan called Guiding Principle and Academic Wellness Proposal. Additionally, Student Senators of the SSMU will continue collaboration efforts with the Mental Health Commissioner and Mental Health Advocacy Coordinator, in the promotion and implementation of the recommendations outlined in the proposal. They hope to present their findings to the Senate before the end of the Winter 2021 semester.

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