Walking through the Quebec Public Interest Research Group building is like stepping into a different world. Posters entitled “No Olympics on Stolen Land,” “No to Canada-U.S. Imperialism,” and Middle East maps without Israel deck the walls of their hallways.
QPIRG is a student-funded organization that collects tens of thousands of dollars in fees from McGill University students. It is supposed to be pursuing the “interests of students on issues of public concern.” But QPIRG doesn’t focus on mainstream issues of public concern. Instead QPIRG takes stands on issues that the majority of McGill students either oppose or are indifferent to.
This is especially true for QPIRG’s interest in foreign affairs, which manifests itself in support of groups that commit violence and terrorism. For example, QPIRG funds “Tadamon!,” an anti-Israel organization that supports de-listing of Hezbollah, which has pledged to annihilate every single Jewish man, woman, and child on Earth, as a terrorist organization. QPIRG also funds “Students Taking Action in Chiapas,” an organization which actively supports the violent Mexican Marxist Zapatista rebel movement, and seeks to bring “the struggle back home” to Canada.
But QPIRG does not stop there. QPIRG also considers Canada an apartheid state and marks “Anti-Canada Day” on July 1 as well as FLQ bombings in its published “School Shmool” organizer (printed with student money).
There are currently two sets of rules for student political organizations at McGill: one applies to QPIRG, and the other to everyone else. For the latter category, campus political groups such as Liberal McGill apply for funding through SSMU. They are accountable to SSMU equity policies, and receive a few hundred dollars. Each political group gets approximately the same funding. However, QPIRG operates by different rules. Instead of having to apply for funding, they are able to directly levy students and raise over $125,000 for their own campaigns. They are not subject to SSMU equity policies, and are not accountable to anyone but themselves. This allows them to outspend every single other political group by a ratio of 100:1. If QPIRG was truly a student group, the levy could be justified; however, considering that they are an explicitly political organization that uses student money to conduct fringe political campaigns, it is wrong for them to directly levy students.
None of this is to say QPIRG does not do any good in the world. They do provide support to the gay community, for example, and that is an effort that should be commended. But they undermine all the genuine good they do by abusing their mandate to pursue the petty political causes of their directors and motivated interest groups.
If QPIRG wants to undermine the Opt-Out Campaign, don’t rip apart their flyers. Don’t attack their tables. Instead, be a student organization for all students. Commit yourselves to academic debate; not one-sided propaganda events like “Culture Shock,” which refuse to entertain opposing views. Stop funding extremist groups and get back to what really matters: support for charities, support for students who feel marginalized, connecting McGill students to the city of Montreal, and support for truly academic research.
Spencer Burger is U3 Joint Honours History and Political Science student. He is currently the Arts Councillor to SSMU, and a member of the Opt-Out Campaign