The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council assembled on Jan. 28, where they passed several motions and reviewed the Financial Committee’s Investigation into SSMU’s Student Fee Policies (I.S.S.Fee.P). The meeting hosted an organizer from the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) who presented on the labor conditions in Dollarama warehouses and attempted to gain the Councils support given McGill’s investments in Dollarama. The Council also passed a motion to approve the Academic Wellness Proposal.
Finance Commissioner Sebastien Duckett presented the results of SSMU’s investigation into its existing student fee policies. The report outlined five main issues with how SSMU’s fees are levied and administered, including a lack of due diligence and transparency on the underusage of ancillary fees, the process for fee approval, and information surrounding how fees are spent. Duckett detailed the report’s five recommendations for addressing these issues, which includes consolidating all SSMU fees into the SSMU Membership Fee.
“Just looking at the bill and seeing all the lines of fees, irregardless of how much money it adds up to, that in and of itself seems to be something that has a negative perception among the community […],” Duckett said. “It makes sense to show students how much it actually costs to run our organization and provide the services we do by reflecting that in one simple number.”
Next, Mostafa Henaway of the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) presented on the working conditions of some Dollarama employees to gain SSMU’s support for Dollarama warehouse workers, given that McGill has investments in the chain. Henaway highlighted the importance of spreading awareness of the company’s treatment of its workers among McGill students.
“We’re trying to put pressure on people who have [invested], because if Dollarama is not going to listen to workers or us, maybe they’ll be afraid of other investors,” Henaway said.
He detailed the IWC’s campaign to help workers, many of whom are racialized immigrants, gain better labour conditions. Currently, workers are not hired by Dollarama directly but by an outsourced temporary placement agency where they do not have union protections.
Following the presentation, the council voted unanimously to approve the motion, mandating the Office of External Affairs to support student solidarity with Dollarama warehouse workers organizing to demand better working conditions.
Councillors also passed a motion to condemn the effect of Quebec government’s pandemic response on marginalized communities, with 26 votes in favour and two abstaining.
The last motion to pass regarded the adoption of an Academic Wellness Proposal. Mental Health Commissioner Julia Caddy spoke on the need for increased support for students’ mental health. The proposed solutions include expanding mental health resources that are paid for by McGill, such as embedding WellnessWorld, a digital wellness platform, into MyCourses.
“The general idea and focus here is to take the upstream approach to the state of mental health [of] our students,” Caddy said. “[This reflects] studies that continue to show that academic pressures and expectations are the number one cause for distress, and that [this is] being exacerbated amongst the McGill population.”
“We have encountered a lot of students who, especially for marginalized groups, don’t see their needs met at the Wellness Hub [….] Our hope is by having WellnessWorld embedded within McGill, and if [it is linked] directly on MyCourses so that it is on the forefront of student’s academic life, that they can more easily access the resources that will cater to their specific needs.”
—SSMU VP Student Life Maheen Akter on the need for expanded mental health support regarding the motion to adopt the Academic Wellness Proposal.
Moment of the meeting:
During the presentation on Dollarama workers, Gaurav Sharma, an IWC organizer and former Dollarama warehouse worker, shared his experience with the council. He detailed the challenges he faced at Dollarama, including sustaining an injury on the job and Dollarama’s lack of medical aid for workers.