The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD) convened on Sept. 9, voting on a motion to investigate the legality of enforcing a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for SSMU employees. The board also approved a budget for purchasing new office furniture.
Claire Downie, SSMU vice-president (VP) of university affairs, who has been vocal in her demands for McGill to adopt a university-wide mandatory vaccination policy, requested a last-minute addition to the agenda to discuss the feasibility of implementing such a policy for SSMU employees.
“Certain workplaces are saying that they think it is legal to have a vaccination mandate,” Downie said. “I know before, the concern was raised that this was not legal, [but] people on the [BoD] seemed generally receptive to having such a policy at SSMU. So given the potential of legal change, I just wanted to bring this up again and see if the board would be interested in looking into the legal logistics […] of having such a policy.”
Board members agreed that a hybrid model for the policy would need to be adopted to accommodate those who preferred not to get vaccinated. One such model might include seeing those unvaccinated undergo COVID-19 testing twice a week. Éric Sader, SSMU VP finance, mentioned that people may have religious reasons for not being vaccinated, or may not feel comfortable sharing their health records.
“If an employee, for example, has a medical reason or a sincerely held religious belief, we would not really have an option to force them to get vaccinated,” Sader said. “Then our only path forward if they refuse is termination, which would be termination for religious discrimination. I am not against contacting legal on this, but to me, this is a little dubious moving forward, especially given the fact that we have been stressing in the past few months that this was not the direction we want to go.”
Benson Wan, Legislative Council Representative on the BoD, suggested that SSMU implement a policy mandating their employees to be vaccinated or agree to bi-weekly COVID-19 testing to enter the workplace, or represent SSMU in other public settings.
Sader raised concerns about the financial feasibility and logistics of conducting twice-weekly testing, to which Downie clarified that the motion was limited to only looking into the legality of a vaccination mandate. Beatrice Mackie, BoD member at large, echoed Downie’s sentiment that such a policy would be SSMU’s way of acting in accordance with their recent protests for a safer campus. The motion was passed unanimously.
Next, Sacha Delouvrier, SSMU VP external affairs, introduced a motion to approve an expense under the General Administration budget for new furniture and fixtures for the SSMU building. The money would go toward replacing the furniture in the SSMU office, the student lounge, and the building’s cafe. SSMU building manager Wallace Sealy addressed directors’ concerns regarding the need for such an expense.
“We are at the point now where we are in our five-year plan [and] things are not going to get better the further we move along,” Sealy said. “So if we do not take decisive action soon, we are going to be in a situation where […] people will want to come back to the office at some point [but] our area will [not] be able to support them.”
The motion to allocate approximately $20,000 of the General Administration budget to replacing the SSMU office fixtures and furniture was unanimously approved.
A previous version of this article incorrectly named ‘Ben Wan’ as ‘SSMU Medical Students’ Society representative.’ In fact, his name is Benson Wan, and his title is Legislative Council Representative on the BoD. The Tribune regrets this error.