In a joint statement issued by the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and L’Association étudiante générale de l’Université de Rimouski (AGECAR), the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ) announced its dissolution on Jan. 26. AVEQ, the primary mandate of which was to represent students across Quebec by uniting their student unions and societies, was forced to dissolve following low student participation and poor financial management in recent years.
Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President Tre Mansdoerfer said he was saddened, but unsurprised, by the announcement.
“It kind of makes sense,” Mansdoerfer said. “I think the group had good values, but they just really couldn’t act on them very well. They constantly created poor briefs, there wasn’t really any transparency, and they struggled.”
In Feb. 2018, Mansdoerfer, then an engineering senator at SSMU’s Legislative Council, presented a report of critiques against AVEQ. The report detailed the experiences of then-Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) external affairs officer Jacob Lavigne during his observation of AVEQ meetings, which he described as disorganized and ineffective.
“AVEQ’s plans were bare and only consisted of a rubric with a timetable showing when they would be working on each item,” Lavigne wrote in the report. “While my objective at the start of my term was to have a referendum for affiliation to a federation during my term as [external affairs officer], I have realized over the past few months that this was not favourable.”
AVEQ’s financial troubles resulted in the organization posting a deficit of approximately $66,700 in its 2017-18 budget. Association members approved this budget in July 2018, with the stipulation that it be revised before their next congress in October. When AVEQ missed the deadline to balance its checkbook, the Mouvement des Associations Générales Étudiantes of l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (MAGE-UQAC), an association representing UQAC’s approximate 6,500 students, withdrew from the organization. Laura Daigneault, vice-president (VP) external of the AGECAR student association, said the withdrawal had a severe impact on AVEQ’s ability to operate.
“As [AVEQ] had to pay rent, our executives and our employees had […] to reduce our expenses elsewhere,” Daigneault wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “Because we were entirely funded by dues paid by student-members, the departure of MAGE-UQAC created a serious financial problem for us.”
A disruptive work environment may have also contributed to divisions between the association and its members, according to an article published by The Link on Jan. 27. The article cites accusations that an employee used a line of credit to pay for AVEQ’s hydro bill without consulting the executive team. Former association members have denied any knowledge of this or any workplace dysfunction.
Despite AVEQ’s dissolution, CSU External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator Camille Thompson expressed optimism for future student movements in the province.
“It is important to look at the current movement for unpaid internships,” Thompson said. “A lot of students are coming together, and maybe this movement will evolve into something new.”
Although critical of AVEQ itself, Mansdoerfer believes in the importance of amplifying student voices to influence provincial politics and points out that many of AVEQ’s ideals overlap with movements at McGill.
“I think [provincial student associations] are really important,” Mansdoerfer said. ”The price [to pay] is very [much] up for debate, but there’s definitely a lot of value in trying to bring students’ voices to the provincial government. As for McGill, we can’t really do that on our own [….] We don’t have that big of a voice compared to [the combination of] every school in Quebec.”