Government consultation efforts
On Jan. 12, the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) released a statement in collaboration with the Association pour un Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ) in response to government consultations regarding sexual violence. Kristen Perry, AVEQ coordinator of Mobilization and Associative Development/English language media relations, said that AVEQ decided to release the statement after receiving an invitation to attend a discussion on sexual violence hosted by Minister Hélène David. Perry said that invitations much like the one received by AVEQ have been sent out to various groups including student associations and university administrations.
According to Perry, one vital component that was lacking is consultation with survivors of sexual violence.
“The thing [that is] very important when talking about sexual violence is that we’re listening to the people who have been most affected by [these assaults] and have the experience with which to advise how we can move forward with the processes that we have at our universities,” Perry said.
Possible affiliation with AVEQ
In the Winter 2016 referendum period, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) put forward a motion to affiliate with AVEQ. The motion, which proposed the creation of a $3.50 non-opt-outable per-student per-semester fee, passed council with 17 votes, five opposed and two abstentions, but the referendum question failed to be approved by the student body. SSMU has continued to sit-in at AVEQ meetings despite the motion’s failure and is still considering affiliation with AVEQ, according to Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Erin Sobat.
“AVEQ is a bottom-up federation that takes direction from its member associations, via regular members' assemblies,” Sobat said. “Decisions are largely based on consensus and SSMU is not bound by the positions of AVEQ.”
2015-2016 Arts and Science representative to SSMU Matthew Satterthwaite was opposed to joining AVEQ. Satterthwaite currently represents Graduate Neuroscience students in the McGill Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and continues to speak out against AVEQ.
“AVEQ isn’t doing so well right now,” Satterthwaite said. “Members of SSMU decided against joining AVEQ last year and the same thing happened with PGSS [….] This has left AVEQ struggling both financially and with their influence. It’s hard to be taken seriously by the government or any other group you try to lobby when you represent so few students [and] schools.”
According to Satterthwaite, joining AVEQ would be costly for students and have little effect on SSMU members. However, Sobat believes that affiliating with AVEQ is still a worthwhile investment for SSMU members.
“While McGill students chose not to affiliate last year, AVEQ has matured extensively since that time and I think it is shaping up to be an extremely promising opportunity for provincial representation,” Sobat said.
Perry explained that AVEQ takes a more feminist approach to matters of sexual violence and strongly believes that this kind of perspective is needed, given the sexual assault policy implemented at McGill and other university campuses. Perry emphasized that including and empowering survivors is crucial.
“The point of this release […] was to make sure that we could push for the inclusion and the support for the inclusion of sexual violence survivors, so that their voices can be brought to the forefront,” Perry said.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the SSMU motion regarding affiliation with AVEQ failed at its Feb. 11 2016 Council session. In fact the motion passed with 17 votes in favour, five opposed, and two abstentions, and so the question on affiliation proceeded to the Winter 2016 referendum period, where it failed to be approved by the student body. Further, the previous version included a quote that said that Concordia and the Université de Montréal had not affiliated in AVEQ. In fact, Concordia students voted to affiliate with AVEQ in its November 2015 by-election and the Université de Montréal has had no association with AVEQ.