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How an election panel at the University of Guelph was cancelled

The story behind the cancellation.

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Controversy has flared up after a federal election panel discussion was cancelled at the University of Guelph over the presence of the contentious People’s Party, sparking a fiery debate in the community over freedom of speech and how to best regulate it.

As is common on post-secondary campuses across the country, the panel was put together in an effort to engage and inform students ahead of the Oct. 21 federal election. Students will be part of the largest voter block on voting day, according to political analysts.

Organizers of the panel, the Central Student Association and CUPE 1334, did not initially invite the People’s Party candidate. However, on Sept. 27, a faculty or staff at the university let Mark Paralovos know there was an upcoming panel that did not include the PPC candidate.

Paralovos told The Avro Post that at this time he contacted the CSA requesting to join in. He received a response from the student union, who apologized for the oversight in not inviting him and said that he could attend as a federal candidate in the Guelph riding.

After the People’s Party candidate was confirmed for the debate on Friday, there was backlash in the community and several individuals, including some known left-wing activists, started placing pressure on the Central Student Association and CUPE to uninvit Paralovos to the debate, encouraging those interested to email the unions to complain.

On Monday, Paralovos was informed by the organizers of the panel that his invitation was rescinded. He responded inquiring why, but there was no response from the CSA or the workers’ union, who were silent until releasing a public letter on Tuesday evening cancelling the event entirely.

A PPC election sign in west Guelph, Ont. on Sept. 20, 2019.

Organizers said that because of the provincially mandated freedom of speech rules for post-secondary campuses, they would be obligated to include the People’s Party candidate in the panel or risk consequences such as the province cutting funding to the university.

There were rumours posted on social media on Monday that the University of Guelph was placing pressure on the unions to include Paralovos in the debate but both Paralovos and a CUPE spokesperson said the rumours were not factual, a development not previously reported.

CUPE spokesperson Jensen Williams told The Avro Post in an interview early on Wednesday afternoon that there was a second reason the debate was cancelled: the university had received threats from Paralovos that he would hold “a rally” and they were concerned it could turn violent.

Paralovos vehemently denied ever making such a threat. In a follow up later on Wednesday, Jensen said that the claim that the candidate was making such such a threat was incorrect.

Instead, she said, it was the university administration that assumed Paralovos and his supporters would protest the panel should he not be invited. The candidate denied that he would have protested, preferring instead to spend the time canvassing the residents of Guelph.

While the threat of protest claim was unfounded, there is precedent for protests involving the People’s Party to turn violent. A PPC event with leader Maxime Bernier at Mohawk College on Sunday drew over 100 demonstrators.

Some were supporters of Bernier but many were protesting his presence on campus, according to local reporting. Hamilton police ended up arresting four people, two each from the opposing sides of the confrontation.

Bernier was accepted in September to attend two official debates by the federal commission.

The debates with other party leaders will be broadcasted nationally and was seen as a major win for the PPC after Bernier, a former Conservative cabinet minister, appealed a decision blocking him from the debates due to initially not meeting certain polling criteria.

The decision was unrelated to party policy.


‘Mandate for hatred’

The Central Student Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees division at the University of Guelph laid out why the People’s Party of Canada would not be allowed under their respective mandates in an open letter on Tuesday evening.

In the joint statement, the unions said that they “operate under an anti-oppressive mandate and commitment to upholding equality and protecting marginalized groups from hate and violence on campus” and that their members needed to be protected from PPC ideals.

The decision was made not to invite the PPC candidate because the policies included in the platform of the party “discriminate against people in the University of Guelph community, particularly marginalized groups, and therefore contradict the work of the CSA and CUPE 1334 to make an inclusive campus for all students and workers,” the release said.

CUPE spokesperson Jensen Williams outlined several of the specific platform planks the organizers felt was a threat to those the unions represent, calling the party’s ideals a “mandate for hatred”. She said because of this, organizers were within their right to cancel the panel.

The PPC’s immigration policy states that immigration policy can only benefit Canadians “only if we welcome the right kind of immigrants”, saying it “should not be used to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of our country.”

In its “Canadian identity” platform plank, the party calls for an “end to official multiculturalism” and aims to repeal the Multiculturalism Act while cutting immigration by over half and up to over two-thirds.

When it comes to refugees, the People’s Party would, if elected, significantly cut refugee acceptance while clamping down on border security. The party would also declare the entire Canadian border an official port of entry to clamp down on illegal entry from the United States.

These and other PPC policies are directly in contradiction with the unions and their own mandate to eradicate hate and discrimination while upholding equity and equality”, Jensen explained to The Post on Wednesday.

“Our decision was based on [the] principles of our organization but it is also to set an example that hate should not be given a platform,” she added.


What now?

Mark Paralovos is looking into his legal options. He told the Guelph Mercury Tribune that he finds the statement released Tuesday “libellous” and would be “investigating his legal options”.

Organizers of the now-cancelled debate have directed students to head to the 100 Debate on the Environment on Thursday at Centennial CVI, or the Guelph Chamber of Commerce debate next Wednesday at Guelph City Hall — both debates will feature Paralovos.

“The organizers of this event stand by the decision not to let the PPC candidate speak on campus,” the Tuesday statement from organizers concluded, adding that “we do not want to compromise the safety of students or workers by bringing this candidate and their supporters to campus.” ■

With files from Guelph
Politico and TAP.
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Andrew Scheer resigning as Conservative Party leader

He will remain as an MP.

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File photo of Andrew Scheer via Wikimedia Commons.

After failing to claim a win in the federal election and amid revelations that he used party money to pay for his children’s private schooling, Andrew Scheer said on Thursday he will resign as leader of the Conservative Party.

Scheer said he will remain as leader until a replacement is chosen in remarks to the House of Commons after the news broke, adding that he will ask the party to start the process of a leadership contest. He will remain the member of parliament for Regina–Qu’Appelle.

“In order to chart the course ahead in the direction this party is heading, the party needs someone who can give 100 per cent,” Scheer, who led the Conservatives in winning the popular vote. Because the Tory ballots were concentrated in prairie provinces, the party was unable to win the most ridings.

His resignation comes as a direct result of new revelations that he was using party money to pay for his children’s private schooling, according to Conservative sources who spoke with Global News. The money was spent without permission from the Tory fund board.

Though the decision to resign was not made lightly, Scheer cited conversations with his loved ones, and said he “felt it was time to put my family first”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Scheer for his service in parliament and said “I wish him all the very, very best in his next steps” while acknowledging the sacrifices made by the families of politicians. ■

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Once again, reporters barred from IGNITE Board meeting

The meeting takes place at Lakeshore Campus.

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IGNITE logo on a Lakeshore Campus building on Dec. 11, 2019.

Two student reporters from The Avro Post were told they could not enter a Board of Directors meeting at Lakeshore Campus on Wednesday evening by Chairperson Neto Naniwambote, once again breaking the student union’s own bylaws.

The bylaws state that Board meetings are open to members — all students — unless the directors then and there pass a motion to exclude the members from the meeting.

Because reporters arrived at what was scheduled to be the beginning of the meeting, it is clear there was no such vote for Wednesday. Minutes released from September and October show no such vote took place.

IGNITE broke its own bylaws when an official told a student journalist in September that she could not enter what turned out later to be a critical Board meeting and continues to do so each time it blocks students without a vote.

In October, four reporters from The Post attempted to find a meeting scheduled to take place in North Campus. Despite being early to the location of where they typically occur, the reporters were unable to find any directors

The November meeting was scheduled to take place in the University of Guelph-Humber. It appeared as though it was taking place inside a conference room on the first floor of the Atrium but reporters were unable to verify.

The organization also removed the exact times and meeting locations that were posted in the summer sometime between Aug. 14 and Sept. 11 — another violation of its bylaws that they have not addressed.

As pressure mounts from student journalists and those that follow student politics to create more transparency, IGNITE has been holding Board of Directors meetings without allowing access.

The Board meetings were set for 6 p.m. before the time was deleted from the IGNITE website. Room numbers were also given and can still be previewed via a website cataloging service.  ■

Reporting by Kristy Lam, Eli Ridder.
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Province appealing to restore Student Choice Initiative

An Ontario court ruled against the SCI in November.

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File photo of Premier Doug Ford.

The provincial government under the Progressive Conservatives is applying for leave to file an appeal against a ruling from the Divisional Court of Ontario that overturned the Student Choice Initiative.

A leave for appeal is a procedural measure that must be taken before an appeal is heard by the Court. Thus, the ruling of the Court stands and the SCI continues to be deemed unlawful.

The initiative, known as the SCI, was introduced earlier this year and came into play this fall semester. It allowed students to opt-out of paying certain “non-essential” ancillary fees that fund student unions, campus publication and other post-secondary organizations across the province.

The mandate came from the university and colleges ministry and was not passed through Queen’s Park. PC Party officials insisted to The Avro Post that it allowed for freedom of choice, allowing students to pay only for services that they felt was worth their financial support.

In response, the provincial division of the Canadian Federation of Students and York University’s student union filed a legal challenge against the SCI, stating that they failed to consult with students and should not have interfered with the autonomy of student unions.

Judges ruled unanimously in November to throw out the SCI, an unexpected victory for student allies. They found that the government has “no legal power to control the universities even if it wished to”.

A brief filed by the province on Monday evening states that the ruling restricts the authority to attach conditions to the funding given to public colleges and universities, according to reports by student newspapers.

“Attaching conditions to government grants in no way interferes with university autonomy and independence,” the brief reads, adding that post-secondary institutions “remain free” to accept taxpayer dollars, subject to the conditions that come along with the funding.

Over $5 billion comes from provincial coffers to the province’s 21 publicly assisted universities and 24 funded colleges. The Progressive Conservatives argue that the introducing optional student fees is an attempt to allow students to save more financially.

The court ruling, however, pointed out that the optional ancillary fees are a small portion of what students pay in tuition and other fees. For students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber, there was only a charge of $55.95 compared to hundreds in overall fees.

The Winter 2020 semester starts in January and fees are due shortly. Some campuses are currently considering their legal options for removing the opt-out option for ancillary fees, The Globe and Mail reported.

IGNITE did not participate in the lawsuit against the province and did not offer support. The student union also refused to respond to the November ruling against the SCI until the government gave a statement. ■

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