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Exclusive: IGNITE tells staff to ignore campus press

The move comes amid a new communications strategy.

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IGNITE North Campus offices on Oct. 9, 2019. Eli Ridder/TAP

SPECIAL REPORT

IGNITE told its staff during a regular meeting at Lakeshore Campus last week that they should not speak to campus press under any circumstances, a source speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Avro Post on Wednesday evening.

The instruction to staff comes amid increasing media scrutiny as IGNITE makes significant changes to how the student union operates in terms of governance.

IGNITE has also made recent effort to improve its relationship with student journalists by starting monthly press briefings and re-opening a media request form online. A new communications director is set to start after Thanksgiving weekend and will likely contribute to the changes.

Also during the staff meeting, which took place on Friday, an individual said that Eli Ridder, editor-in-chief of The Avro Post, has a personal vendetta against the student union. Ridder has been covering IGNITE since October 2017 and has denied any such personal agenda.

IGNITE held a press briefing the same Friday where officials answered questions around incoming by-laws, outlined a new, more corporate future and held a discussion about changing the relationship between the student union and the student press.

The press briefing was largely held in response to inquires from The Avro Post and Humber Et Cetera regarding what appeared to be a new policy closing off Board of Directors meetings after a Post reporter was not allowed access to the first Board meeting of the semester in September.

During that Sept. 11 Board meeting, IGNITE put up a memo on their Governance page saying that, under provincial law, only directors have the right to attend the meetings. While the claim is legally sound under the Ontario Corporations Act, it raised questions over precedent and ethics.

It triggered backlash, including an editorial from the Et Cetera where the student newspaper slammed the student union over transparency issues, and lead to the press briefing where officials clarified that students could go to the meetings but not student journalists.

Despite Executive Director Ercolé Perrone’s claim that regular students could still attend, IGNITE still did not put up the room numbers of the Board meetings that were taken down sometime after Aug. 14, according to a website archive program.

At the time the October meeting’s room location was “to be determined”.

The Avro Post has reached out for comment from the student union. IGNITE represents students enrolled at Humber College campuses and at the University of Guelph-Humber. ■

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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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