RIGHT MINDED: Opting out of QPIRG

Opinion by

I refuse to hand over a penny of my money to the Quebec Public Interest Research Group.

The McGill chapter of QPIRG collects a student fee of $3.75 per semester from all McGill undergraduate students. They use those funds to support working groups who advocate for “social and environmental justice.”

Thankfully, however, students can choose to opt-out of the QPIRG fee and receive a refund through Minerva, and a coalition of McGill groups is advocating that we do just that. This coalition includes Free the Children McGill, PLQ McGill (an arm of the Liberal Party), and Conservative McGill (full disclosure: I am a member of Conservative McGill), among others. It’s a testament to QPIRG’s radical politics that two of McGill’s major political societies are so strongly opposed to it.

I decided to lend my voice to the opt-out movement after taking a glance at some of the working groups approved by QPIRG’s Board of Directors. Some questionable organizations receive student funding.

The organization Tadamon! is a “Montreal-based collective which works in solidarity with struggles for self-determination, equality, and justice in the ‘Middle East'” and is a working group of QPIRG. They explicitly ally themselves with organizations that are “anti-capitalist” and oppose the use of the term “terrorism,” which they say marginalizes “targeted communities in Canada and engenders a climate of fear.” They oppose the “Apartheid” policies of Israel, comparing the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel to South African Apartheid, a parallel that is inappropriate at best. QPIRG itself is one of the sponsors of Israeli Apartheid Week, featuring events “educating” the public on Israel’s “apartheid system” and advocating for the “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” strategy of direct action against the Israeli nation.

Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble is an anarchist drumming group. They organize on anarchist principles, they support an anarchist philosophy, and QPIRG gives them your money to do it. I have no fondness for the politics of anarchy, or its supporters; I am proud to say I support a limited political authority, and I don’t want to fund a group that says such authority shouldn’t exist.

QPIRG also sponsors the Coalition Justice for Adil Charkaoui. The aspect of this organization that disturbs me most is the first of their goals: they demand the “immediate release” of all five Canadian security certificate detainees, a group that includes an alleged agent for the Vanguards of Conquest (a radical wing of Islamic Jihad), an alleged senior Al Qaeda operative, and two suspected members of the Bin Laden Network.

QPIRG claims to use student money to work towards “environmental and social justice,” but in practice they support a number of angry fringe organizations. They themselves were the publishers of “School Schmool” – the activist handbook that detailed easy ways to vandalize advertisements and happily celebrated the invention of the pipe bomb.

Controversial groups like Tadamon! should go directly to McGill students to raise funds. They could hold a bakesale, ask for donations, or submit a referendum question asking for student funds. As it is now, I have a problem with letting QPIRG use student fees to fund groups whose radical politics would make many students cringe.

Let me be clear: I have absolutely no opposition to people expressing their opinions and goals. Many of QPIRG’s working groups have admirable goals. Groups like Greening McGill and the Global AIDS Coalition are extremely worthy of student funding. But unfortunately, QPIRG also lets a small number of misguided lobby organizations dip into our pockets indirectly.

I don’t want my money to go to organizations that I disagree with. That’s why I opted out.

If an Anarchist drumming group approached you on the street and asked for your money, would you give it to them? If not, then you should opt-out of QPIRG until they stop supporting such unworthy groups. If the only way a group can get funding is through the backdoor of QPIRG, then they don’t deserve it in the first place.