Alexei Simakov, former Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) presidential candidate, filed a petition on Thursday to the Judicial Board (J-Board), SSMU’s judicial branch. The petition calls for the J-Board to file sanctions against Kareem Ibrahim, incoming SSMU President.
“Alexei Simakov over the course of the campaign was libeled repeatedly both by members of candidate Ibrahim’s campaign team and by Ibrahim himself,” the petition reads. “We therefore request that sanctions and/or demerit points, with associated deductions towards candidate Ibrahim’s campaign budget cap, are issued with respect to the precedents set by [Chief Elections Officer (CEO)] during the election.”
J-Board Chief Justice Muna Tojiboeva confirmed that the case has been accepted.
“Alexei Simakov’s petition is within our jurisdiction so we have accepted the petition—we will be having a hearing,” she said. “We are following the standard J-Board internal rules of procedure with how we are processing the petition.”
According to Simakov, Elections SSMU’s CEO Rachelle Bastarache did not adequately address a slanderous post on the Facebook event page for Ibrahim’s campaign.
“[Ibrahim] responded by posting on his event page, accusing me of orchestrating the leaks—he accused me of violating his privacy and hacking his Facebook,” Simakov claimed, referring to screenshots of a private Facebook conversation discussing Tariq Khan’s candidacy for SSMU President in the 2014 SSMU elections.
Simakov added that Bastarache did ask Ibrahim to take the message down.
“[Ibrahim] complied with this request [… but] he issued no apology, no recantation of the statements,” Simakov explained. “The CEO took no disciplinary actions whatsoever, despite the fact that this is a clearly false accusation […. Bastarache’s] defence is that [Ibrahim] was in an exasperated state of mind after this leaked.”
Ibrahim stated that he had been sanctioned by Elections SSMU and highlighted the differences between his response to the leaked Facebook messages and an earlier incident during which Simakov was sanctioned after a member of his campaign team posted defamatory pictures on Ibrahim’s Facebook event page.
“I was sanctioned […but] I was not given any financial [penalties],” Ibrahim explained. “While [Simakov’s] campaign manager posted two inappropriate memes on my Facebook event […] I simply liked a post on my own event which read ‘Voting for you because the other guy is a stain. Keep on keeping on,’ which I saw as a message of support which I sought to validate. The magnitude of these infractions are evidently different, which is why […] I simply received demerit points.”
Bastarache stated that Elections SSMU had received and reviewed a petition for an invalidation of Ibrahim’s win from Simakov regarding this issue.
“After an informal consultation with [the Electoral Review Committee] members, we deemed that the action by [Ibrahim] did not warrant the consideration of invalidation of an election,” she said. “We felt that our prior actions in those cases were appropriate.”
Bastarache explained why the sanctions against candidates are not made publicly available.
“It should be known that the sanctionable actions and sanctions received do not become public knowledge until 12 demerit points are received,” she said. “No candidate other than Lola Baraldi has had their sanctions revealed to the public.”
Simakov added that he hopes this issue will be quickly resolved.
“We’re seeking that the J-Board […] responds to validate our reasonably clear concerns with a well-established basis […] and [rectifies] the situation,” he said. “This will give the student body faith that the elections office isn’t completely dysfunctional [….] Hopefully, they’ll respond positively, constructively, and we can have a very short J-Board [case].”