Update on UBC Student Union complaint to the UN - Macleans.ca

Update on UBC Student Union complaint to the UN

Emergency Council meeting being set up to retract complaint, ask AMS President Blake Frederick to resign

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For the first update on the story, click here.

Amazingly enough, student councillors don’t like finding out that they’ve launched a formal human rights complaint to the United Nations over  press releases, and news stories, and tweets.

An motion to call an emergency meeting of AMS Council has been brought forward, with the following items being on the agenda:

1. That Council retract the complaint to the UN against the VC and Canadian governments, and direct the AMS Communications Department to issue a press release stating that this was not the will of the Society.

2. That Council prohibit the expenditure of any further AMS resources of any nature on this action.

3. That Council request that President Blake Frederick resign from Council.

4. That Council request that VP External Affairs Tim Chu resign from Council.

If the motion to ask for resignation passes, and Frederick and Chu choose not to resign, council will serve the two of them with notices of impeachment.

Why are they so upset? Well, filing an official human rights complaint with the United Nations is a pretty big deal. In their steps to do so, there was a pretty giant lack of communication.

— In March, the executive committee signed off on the following:

“The AMS will pursue a legal battle with the Province on the basis that the recent Education funding cuts are against the UN charter.”

— The AMS (meaning, Frederick and Chu) looked for firms that would take on the case. They decided upon Pivot Legal Society, which is pretty much a straight forward legal advocacy group for the disadvantaged.

— In October, Pivot Legal Society informed the AMS that the case was feasible, and they would go ahead pursuing the case with their consent. Frederick and Chu claimed that the executive committee agreed to go forward with the case, even though a specific motion was not passed. Two other members of the executive committee (VP Finance Tom Dvorak and VP Academic Johannes Rebane) disagreed that the question had even been brought up.

— The AMS collected affidavit from people concerned about high tuition rates, and gave them to Pivot Legal Society. They determined that Markle (who was no longer a student) had the best story—despite the fact Markle made upwards of $20,000 in 2008/2009 as an AMS Executive—and thus would be included in the complaint. The AMS is paying for Markle’s fees.

— The Communications Planning Group, which you would think would play a big part in this, was not notified of the press conference, the press release, or that this was even on the table. The student newspaper The Ubyssey wasn’t even informed of the press conference (other local media were). Nonetheless, the press conference happened. And the controversy began…

On the whole, it looks that at most 4–5 people within the student union knew what was going on, and that they deliberately tried to keep this decision as secret as possible. While it’s fair to argue that there were on-the-record minutes that said the AMS was investigating this, it seems absolutely preposterous that something of this magnitude (assuming you believe that the United Nations has legitimacy in the area of provincial post-secondary education, which is extremely questionable) would be kept so quiet, and never debated publicly. Oh, and the society is on the hook for thousands of dollars in legal fees. Given all that, don’t be surprised if a) This complaint to the United Nations is quickly retracted, and b) Blake Frederick’s reign as President ends within a fortnight.