The Quebec Superior Court ruled against issuing the interim injunction filed by Tariq Khan that would have restored Khan as the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) President, following a hearing last Friday. Because the President’s term began on June 1, the interim injunction was filed in order to decide on the President position until the full hearing can occur in the months to come, potentially in July.
While a full hearing will be reviewed based on the merits of the case, the interim injunction was reviewed under four criteria: Clear cause of action, irreparable harm, balance of inconvenience, and urgency.
According to Khan’s motion, he was denied the rights to due process by Elections SSMU and denied the right to a fair hearing due to the Judicial Board’s (J-Board) decision not to disclose the evidence in full. The motion also states that irreparable harm was incurred due to the amount of time and energy Khan spent on his campaign and that the Superior Court is “the only available remedy to Mr. Khan to be reinstated as the validly elected President”.
“The balance of inconvenience clearly favours Mr. Khan as he will otherwise suffer serious prejudice caused by SSMU Elections’ and the Judicial Board’s failure to honour his basic rights to a fair hearing and to a full defense,” his motion states.
The Superior Court ruled that while the criteria for irreparable harm and urgency were both met, certain conclusions requested by Khan, such as the suspension of his invalidation, were not clearly supported by these rights.
“The Court determines that there is no proof of any procedural irregularities sufficient to support the suspension of [Khan’s disqualification],” reads the judgment from the Superior Court.
The Court ruled in SSMU’s favour with respect to the balance of convenience based on the need for SSMU to operate normally in the upcoming months “to meet its ongoing obligations of the members”.
“The membership [of SSMU] must be able to rely on the [SSMU] to function normally and provide services for which […] all students are obligated to pay,” the judgment reads.
One month after the Judicial Board (J-Board) ruling to uphold Elections SSMU’s decision to invalidate his presidential win, Khan filed for an interim injunction in the Quebec Superior Court, seeking to overturn both the J-Board’s ruling and Elections SSMU’s decision. Khan alleged that he was given insufficient evidence of the allegations against him, and was therefore unable to exercise his right to due process at each step of the investigation into his campaign.
SSMU—one of the named defendants in the Superior Court case—countered in the Friday hearing that Khan was given sufficient notice of the allegations against him, and that a temporary injunction restoring Khan to the presidency would incur substantial costs upon the organization. These included re-running the extensive, month-long training that incoming executives undergo, and possible staff displacement.
Khan argued against the idea that reinstatement as president would be disruptive to SSMU or transition activities.
“SSMU has an administrative and a political role and the administrative staff need to do their jobs impartially,” he said. “As for the executives, once I step into the office, we need to be professional. I would be keeping my personal opinions and what I think aside, and I would be fulfilling my mandate and doing my job, and I would hope that others would do it.”
According to Jonathan Mooney, former Secretary-General of McGill’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS), this case could have repercussions for student unions across Canada, as provincial courts are rarely asked to intervene on a matters specific to student association elections.
“The lawyers for both sides could not find any caselaw where a court had been asked to intervene in a student union [election],” he said. “There were only cases with labor unions and private associations [….] In that sense it is a very interesting case because it could have serious implications for how student union elections are run.” According to a press release posted on SSMU’s website, a final hearing has not yet been scheduled. “The parties are now seeking to schedule a court date for a hearing on the motion for a permanent injunction,” the press release states. Although the date of the full hearing has not been set yet, Khan has stated that he intends to fully see the case through after the interim injunction ruling. “The injunction had a limited context [and] limited information,” said Khan. “By getting or not getting this injunction, it doesn’t prove that my claims are right or wrong. We are going forward with full passion and motivation [with the full hearing].”
This article was updated June 5, 2014.