SSMU Legislative Council discusses mental health policies

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council reconvened on Jan. 30 to debate new motions regarding communication between SSMU and the community, as well as new proposed health policies.

The second council meeting of the year saw the passing of the Motion Regarding Amendments to the Effective Committees Policy,  aiming to improve the communication between student groups on campus. The policy also affirms the role of SSMU committees and commissioners in discussing with groups that are involved with equity and community engagement. 

Ariana Kaye, SSMU Clubs Representative, expressed concern with the section of the motion involving the “Equity Caucus.” 

“The motion, as it currently stands, makes reference only to groups that represent a limited segment of the McGill student body, and there is no guarantee that other groups will be invited, represented, or consulted,” Kaye said. “Only one of the official member groups of the Solidarity Alliance of McGill (SAM), who was consulted, represents an ethnicity, while all others represent political opinions.”

SSMU Vice-President (VP) External Affairs Adam Gwiazda-Amsel, who proposed the motion, addressed Kaye’s concerns by clarifying the roles of certain committees. 

“This is a difficulty which needs to be addressed specifically within the Equity Committee and with the Equity Commissioners, [rather than] the Community Engagement Committee,” Gwiazda-Amsel said “There are certain groups that are generally not included in McGill conversations about equity. This [amendment] requires the Equity Committee, which currently has the problems you are citing, to [enter] into dialogue with those committees and work towards improvements.” 

The motion carried with 21 in favour, two opposed, and six abstaining. 

The council proceeded to discuss the Motion Regarding Adoption of the SSMU Mental Health Policy and Plan 2019-01-09, moved by VP Student Life Billy Kawasaki. The policy presents long-term goals for improving SSMU’s approach to student mental health and wellness. 

Kawasaki also proposed an amendment to the motion: Changes included the formation of a health and dental review committee, enhanced specialization of care for marginalized student populations, and the collaboration of the advocacy projects of mental and physical health of student groups. 

SSMU Mental Health Commissioner Olivia Frank gave an overview of the drafting of the policy.  

“We did a lot of work with various stakeholder groups across campus to try to create a policy that is as well-rounded, appropriate, and representative of what mental health is like on campus and what we hope it will be,” Frank said. “Most importantly, we amended the structure of what the mental health committee and commissioner would look like, as well as decreased it to a three-year plan, because mental health changes rapidly across campus and Canada.” 

The motion carried with 26 in favour, none opposed, and one abstaining.

Council will reconvene on Feb. 13 in McConnell Engineering 603 at 6 p.m. 

Soundbite

 “Historically, there has not been a commitment to representing the full diversity of the student body at this university within the equity circle. We need clarity to understand which [populations] will be included in these committees, and the assurance that this will not be used to represent certain groups of the student body and systematically exclude other groups.” – Ariana Kaye, on the proposal of an “Equity Caucus” 

Moment of the Meeting 

To mark the last SSMU Legislative Council meeting of Husayn Jamal as Speaker, Andrew Chase, Arts Representative to SSMU, distributed buttons to the council and members of the gallery to honour him.

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