The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council held its biweekly meeting on March 11, where members approved a motion to implement a policy on harmful military technology and introduced a new motion seeking to adopt an official harm reduction policy for substance use on campus.
The policy regarding military technology demands increased transparency about military research at McGill, and mandates SSMU to engage in meaningful advocacy against harmful military research. While the Legislative Council approved the motion at their Feb. 11 meeting, the SSMU Board of Directors rejected the motion and sent it back to the Legislative Council for further review. The Board of Directors also brought the motion to the Steering Committee to check the factual validity of the citations and potentially add new ones.
Despite that 22 councillors voted in favour of the military research policy at their Feb. 11 meeting, councillors debated it for nearly 40 minutes during the second round of deliberations, and seven council members voted “no” to the motion. Arts Councillor Alex Karasick critiqued the policy’s unclear scope, but many members, including Vice-President (VP) Finance Gifford Marpole and VP University Affairs Brooklyn Frizzle, argued that the chance to debate the scope of the policy had long passed, already having been debated and approved one month prior.
Maya Garfinkel, U3 Arts student and research coordinator for Students for Peace and Disarmament, explained how the policy relates to the recently approved Divest for Human Rights Policy and encouraged more transparent research on campus.
“If the Divest for Human Rights Policy [had] an external focus, this is more of an inward-looking policy that unpacks how the research apparatus at McGill operates,” Garfinkel said. “We really do want to focus on maintaining a strong foundation for research so that students in all faculties have the research opportunities that they expect when they come to McGill. We are more focussed on exactly who is controlling the research that students are participating in.”
The motion passed with 15 in favour, seven opposed, and four abstentions.
Next, Frizzle introduced a new motion regarding the adoption of a harm reduction policy for substance use on campus. Guest speaker Sarah Graham, vice-president of the Association of McGill University Support Employees (AMUSE), gave a presentation on McGill’s lack of resources for harm reduction regarding drug and alcohol abuse. The new policy aims to formalize a stance against de facto abstinence-only practices toward substance use in student residences and separates SSMU from Greek-letter organizations.
Frizzle affirmed the extensive student consultation and research on the harm reduction motion, which will be debated at the next Legislative Council meeting on March 25.
“Generally speaking, I do believe that SSMU has generally good practices around harm reduction,” Frizzle said. “Unfortunately, those practices do not find themselves in any policies or internal procedures [….] We believe it is more important now than ever to formalize this stance and show our support for efforts around harm reduction.”
“Every single month, it feels like [Gerts’ reopening] gets delayed by a month due to government restrictions. I am gonna say [it will open by the] end of April, but take that with a grain of salt because things are changing every day. The reason why I kept Gerts on this budget […] is just in case it does open. If it does not, then essentially there are no expenses and no revenues in the Gerts area. But [by the] end of April, hopefully—that’s the dream.” — SSMU VP Finance Gifford Marpole, on Gerts’ projected reopening during the question portion of the budget presentation.
Moment of the meeting:
SSMU President Jemark Earle called for a one-minute moment of silence to honour the victims of COVID-19.