Legislative Council renews Indigenous Solidarity Policy, approves new Accessibility Policy

Photo courtesy of Evelyn Dom

On January 14, 2021, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council held its first meeting of the semester, during which it approved the “Motion regarding the Renewal of the Indigenous Solidarity Policy,” and a new “Accessibility Policy.”

Motion Regarding the Renewal of the Indigenous Solidarity Policy

The Legislative Council unanimously approved the “Motion Regarding the Renewal of the Indigenous Solidarity Policy,” submitted by Vice-President External Ayo Ogunremi.

During the winter 2020 semester, in consultation with the former Indigenous Affairs Commissioner, Thomas Jirousek, and the present Indigenous Affairs Commissioner, Jocelyne Couture, the Legislative Council passed and then amended the current Indigenous Solidarity Policy. This policy outlines the relationship between Indigenous student representatives and leaders and other SSMU representatives in order “to guarantee self-representation and consultation of Indigenous students,” regarding “the creation of services for Indigenous students and the Indigenization of existing services.”

The Indigenous Solidarity Policy promises continuous, respectful communication with McGill-based and local Indigenous groups, including an open invitation for dialogue at the beginning of each academic year and working to expand formal and informal opportunities for Indigenous student participation within the SSMU.

In addition, this policy requires that the Vice-President University Affairs and the Vice-President Student Life “advocate for University-run services to provide adequate support for Indigenous students, accounting for their unique perspectives and needs,” which includes targeted support for financial aid, housing and mental health support. The SSMU also advocates for more tenured Indigenous faculty and support staff members at McGill through “equitable and cluster hiring,” the development of a full Indigenous studies department, and an integration of Indigenous knowledge and history into existing courses in a “substantive and authoritative” manner.

Further, this policy “acknowledges the crucial responsibilities that the SSMU has to its Indigenous students and Indigenous peoples more generally, and provides specific resources to promote the social, cultural, and economic wellbeing of Indigenous peoples and to oppose colonial structures of exclusion and marginalisation.”

Motion Regarding the Adoption of the Accessibility Policy and the Creation of the Accessibility Committee

Brooklyn Frizzle, Vice-President University Affairs, also discussed the “Motion Regarding the Adoption of the Accessibility Policy and the Creation of the Accessibility Committee.” A previous iteration of this policy was approved by the Council on April 7, 2016, to “stand in solidarity with students with disabilities” and “operationalize the SSMU’s commitment to accessibility and the prioritization of the unique needs of students with disabilities.

Frizzle said that the 2016 policy was “absolutely unenforceable,” despite efforts to improve accessibility on campus. Therefore, they proposed this new policy with a focus on “expanding the mandate and enforceability of the policy to ensure that both executive officers and society more generally can be held accountable for their mandates under the policy.”

To achieve this, the policy would create the Office of the Accessibility Commissioner and the Accessibility Committee to support accessibility in the McGill community and guarantee that all elected representatives and staff of the SSMU are held accountable for the implementation of this policy. The motion will be brought forward for further discussion and voting at the next meeting, on January 28th.

Motion Regarding Vice-President (Sustainability and Operations) Position

The Council approved a motion presented by Arts Councillor Chip Smith, titled “Motion Regarding Vice-President (Sustainability and Operations) Position.” This position involves “overseeing the development and use of the University Centre, overseeing the management of the Society’s business operations, and to operationalise the Society’s commitment to environmental sustainability and physical accessibility.” 

This position was removed in 2018, due to structural issues and any further elections suspended in 2019, following which, the position’s responsibilities were divided among the other Executives. However, due to the Judicial Board’s decision in Miller vs. SSMU (2020-09-02) and the subsequent failure of the 2020 special referendum, this position was reinstituted into the constitution. Smith explains that without this motion’s approval, the upcoming 2021 referendum may require the election of this position for the 2021-22 academic year.

Board of Governors x Student Forum

President Jemark Earle mentioned the meeting of the Board of Governors during which it planned the Student Forum to take place on January 28th. The forum is “a chance for students to voice their concerns to the Board of Governors,” explained Earle. There will also be presentations from various groups, and more information will be distributed by SSMU closer to the date.

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