SSMU Legislative Council held their first meeting of the Winter 2022 semester on Thursday, January 20, where several motions were discussed, including motions regarding the creation of an anti-surveillance plan and progress updates on divestment and demilitarisation.
Motion Regarding the Creation of an Anti-Surveillance Master Plan with SSMU
Arts Representative Yara Coussa and Arts Representative Ghania Javed presented a motion to impose an anti-surveillance master plan created in response to concerns about McGill students and faculty experiencing racist surveillance. This online harassment includes posting student and faculty members’ personal information, blacklisting, surveillance, threats and intimidation.
Organisations including Canary Mission and Campus Watch are posting profiles of primarily minority individuals in an attempt to silence their activism. Those that have been targeted by this harassment include Arab, Palestinian and Jewish students and faculty engaging in pro-Palestine activism, as well as Muslim students and faculty since the implementation of Bill 21. Coussa and Javed explained that this online harassment can have serious consequences, potentially compromising the mental and physical health and safety of victims.
Member of the gallary Couture, in support of the motion, highlighted the potential of online harassment to threaten democracy by threatening freedom of speech and discouraging student involvement in activism. He claimed that a body that represents democracy on campus should be especially supportive of this motion as it tears down barriers to democracy. VP of University Affairs Claire Downie expressed her enthusiastic support for the motion, saying that “this is a very huge and very important step in changing the climate at SSMU and in student government generally.” The motion passed unanimously.
Motion Regarding Progress Updates on SSMU Divestment and Demilitarisation
A motion was unanimously passed ensuring that SSMU executives actively advocate for divestment and demilitarisation, as is outlined by the Climate Justice Policy, Policy on Harmful Military Technology and Divest for Human Rights Policy. This motion requires the VP University Affairs and VP Internal Affairs to produce and share reports on outreach, education and advocacy. As well, it tasks the VP Finance to present a report on investments and financial relationships with companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels and other activities which might harm the environment. VP University Affairs Claire Downie shared the importance of this motion to students who want to demand accountability.
Discussion on Moratorium
Discussion took place regarding the moratorium of ancillary fees that led to athletic divestment. This is a moratorium of fees for ancillary programs until McGill divests from specific investments related to fossil fuels. These cuts to funding will result in limiting services or increasing costs of services, which would decrease accessibility to all students. Athletics Representative Sedami-Habib Djossou called the moratorium “detrimental for the athletic and recreation community,” explaining that physical and mental health are linked to participation in athletics, making these services of high importance to students during the pandemic.
VP Finance Eric Sader commented that ancillary fees, like athletics, can be a useful tool for applying pressure to McGill, encouraging them to divest. However, Councillor Chloe Parsons disagreed, explaining that Athletics and Recreation is not in a position to take a stand on divestment. That considered, athletics is trying to be more environmentally friendly, taking on efforts Parsons described as “parallel” to divestment.
The council will be meeting monthly this semester and will reconvene over Zoom on February 17.