Student Democracy Sprouts at the General Assembly! / La démocratie étudiante fleurit à l’assemblée générale!

Student Democracy Sprouts at the General Assembly! / La démocratie étudiante fleurit à l’assemblée générale!

[La version française suivra]

Tuesday night, we had our first General Assembly that met quorum, meaning it had the power to make decisions. Students could modify the agenda and propose a motion to strike down the executives’ 18% salary increase that was approved by the Board of Administration. This motion was adopted with an amendment limiting future salary increases to never exceed an amount equal or lower than a simultaneous increase for staff wages. Next came a period of clarifications on the decision-making power of the GA, since they were recently stripped of their status as highest decision making body of the SFUO by the BOA. They currently only hold political power, not legislative power. Dissent was palpable in the room, some people contested the legitimacy of the BOA’s decision (it had overturned a referendum result) and demanded that GAs regain their status as highest decision-making body. However, these statements were considered points of order and were set aside without a decision being made. There was a motion proposed already about the abolishment of the BOA where this would be further discussed. It was clear by the atmosphere in the room that despite the explanation about the GAs demotion, the executive and BOA bureaucrats’ authority was being put into question.

After this came the RSM’s first motion on the Vet’s tour. This motion demanded that the GA strike a committee tasked with investigating the event which would have access to all SFUO and federated body documentation about the Vet’s tour. Furthermore, this committee must be composed of students present at the GA and that would be elected during that time. Following our motivation of the motion a kind of unease was felt in the room and the question was immediately called. The motion was adopted by a majority.

Before the selection of the committee members could take place, many people left the room. Most of them SFUO and federated body staff and friends (people suspected of having participated in the event). After the walk-out, a recount of quorum was asked by a member of the BOA. The number had dropped from 287 to 221, 10 people under quorum. After quorum was lost, the executive began their reports and the room quickly emptied out, effectively ending the GA.

The Vet’s tour motion was only partly adopted. It was agreed that a committee would be created but it would not be chosen by the GA but by the BOA at their next meeting. However, the BOA had already formed a committee earlier in the year which had been inconclusive and that they would again be expected to investigate themselves is exasperating.

On a positive note, the first real General Assembly of the SFUO has given us an inspiring example of what a vibrant student democracy looks like. By mobilising students, it is possible to end corruption in the Student Federation and fight against rape culture on our campus. Without the sabotage orchestrated by bureaucrats, the March 14th General Assembly could have brought control of the SFUO back into student hands.

No more corruption in the SFUO!

End rape culture on campus!

Abolish the BOA!

 

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Mardi soir a eu lieu la première Assemblée générale avec quorum, c’est-à-dire que celle-ci a été en mesure de prendre des décisions. Ainsi, les étudiant.es présent.es ont été en mesure de mettre à l’ordre du jour et d’appliquer la révocation de la hausse salariale de 18% de l’exécutif qui avait été votée par le Conseil d’Administration. La motion  a passé par une grande majorité avec un amendement supplémentaire limitant les hausses salariales de l’exécutif à un taux égale ou inférieur à une hausse des salaires des employés. Ensuite est venue une clarification sur le pouvoir décisionnel des AGs, dont le CA avait remis en question le statut de plus haute instance décisionnelle de la FÉUO. Elles n’auraient désormais qu’un pouvoir politique, et non législatif. Un certain mécontentement s’est fait ressentir dans la salle, plusieurs membres ont contesté la légitimité de cette décision du CA (puisqu’elle renversait le résultat d’un référendum), et ont demandé à ce que les AGs regagnent leur statut de plus haute instance décisionnelle. Toutefois, ces prises de paroles n’étaient que des points d’ordre et furent rejetées, sans qu’une décision ne soit prise, car il y avait déjà une motion à l’ordre du jour proposant d’abolir le CA qui permettrait de traiter du sujet plus amplement. Toutefois, la grogne manifestée par l’assemblée lorsque le président a expliqué les limites du pouvoir des AGs, a grandement fait ressentir aux bureaucrates que sont l’exécutif et le CA que leur autorité était remise en question.

Suite à ceci est venue la première motion du MER portant sur le Vet’s tour, voulant que l’AG crée un comité pour faire une enquête de l’événement et que ce comité d’enquête ait accès à toute la documentation de la FÉUO et des corps fédérés, en papier ou numérique, qui porte sur le Vet’s Tour. De plus, ce comité d’enquête devait être composé d’étudiant.es présent.es et élu.es à l’assemblée même. Suite à la motivation de cette motion, un certain malaise a été ressenti dans la salle; la question préalable fut posée immédiatement, et la motion adoptée rapidement.

Toutefois, avant de pouvoir procéder à la sélection du comité, un grand nombre de personnes ont commencé à quitter la salle, principalement des employé.es de la FÉUO ou des personnes dans l’entourage du CA (personnes soupçonnées d’être relié au Vet’s Tour) et, à la suite de cet exode, un recomptage du quorum a été demandé par un membre du CA . Le nombre d’étudiant.es  ayant passé de 287 à 221, il en manquait 10 pour avoir le quorum. Suite à la perte du quorum, l’exécutif a procédé à son rapport administratif et la salle s’est vidée rapidement, l’AG a pris fin.

Pour ce qui en est de la motion sur le Vet’s Tour, celle-ci n’a été qu’adoptée partiellement. Il a été décidé de créer un comité d’enquête, mais celui-ci n’a pu être choisi par l’AG et sera donc sélectionné par le CA lors de sa prochaine rencontre. Toutefois, le CA a déjà formé un comité d’enquête qui n’a pas jamais produit de conclusion; laisser ces bureaucrates choisir les gens qui vont enquêter une seconde fois ne fait qu’exacerber les choses.

Sur une note positive, la première véritable assemblée générale de la FÉUO nous a donné un exemple inspirant de ce qu’est une démocratie étudiante dynamique. Par la mobilisation de la masse étudiante il est possible de mettre fin à la corruption de la FÉUO et de combattre la culture du viol sur notre campus. N’eût été du sabotage orchestré par les bureaucrates liés au Vet’s Tour, l’Assemblée générale du 14 mars aurait pu remettre le contrôle de la FÉUO dans les mains des étudiant.es.

Mettons fin à la corruption dans la FÉUO!

Combattons la culture du viol sur le campus!

Abolissons le CA!

Defend Our Democratic Rights! Defend Our General Assemblies!

On Saturday November 6th, the Board of Administration (BOA) of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) held its monthly meeting. It was at this meeting that the executive presented the results of a legal assessment of the organization’s constitution. Despite allegedly having had this assessment since June, neither Board members nor students were made aware of it before the meeting was announced. The assessment states that the current SFUO constitution does not comply with the Corporations Act of Ontario and that one of the reasons is the current structure of the General Assembly.

The constitution of the SFUO states that the GA is the highest decision making body of the SFUO, with control over finances, by-laws and elections (section 3.13.4). However, according to the executive’s reading of Ontario law, the current structure of the SFUO is in conflict with the fact that only elected representatives of faculties and the executive are considered directors and have voting rights on constitutional matters. The solution proposed by the executive was essentially to remove the General Assembly’s ability to exert democratic control over elected officials by removing the clause which states that the General Assembly is the highest decision making body. This attempt is anti-democratic in the sense that it removes the best avenue for student participation and control over our elected officials. It goes directly against a referendum decision, as well as the constitution, that states that the GA is the highest decision making body and therefore should not be able to be dissolved by a lower body. General Assemblies would then no longer have the ability to recall elected representatives or approve budgets. The General Assembly would also no longer be able to change bylaws or policy without approval from the BOA. No matter how the executive tried to portray or diminish the importance of this change, saying they had no choice or that the opinions of an assembly that essentially functions as a town hall meeting would be seriously considered by the BOA, the result is a huge step back in terms of the democratic rights of students and transparency of the SFUO. The RSM resolutely condemns the anti-democratic nature of these proposed changes.

By removing the section of the constitution that places General Assemblies above all other bodies of the SFUO, the General Assembly is effectively stripped of all its power. Without the ability to create policy and bylaw changes, review and approve the budget, or recall elected officials, the GA ceases to have a purpose and no longer allows students to directly control our union. Of course we are told that the General Assembly will still exist as a consultative body where students can voice their opinions, but without any authority, nothing compels the BOA to follow through on the wishes of students. What is the point of having a representative organization if it can’t be held accountable or even be modified to fit the needs of the students it represents? If the structure of the SFUO is built around protecting its bureaucracy and not as a tool for protecting the interests of students, who does it serve and what is its purpose?

Many possible solutions were brought up by BOA members, including setting up a constitutional committee tasked with coming up with a proposal for a later meeting that would comply with both the referendum and Ontario law. Another proposed solution is to add a section that requires the BOA to ratify decisions made at the General Assembly. BOA members, however, were told that waiting even a single meeting would open up individual BOA members to lawsuits, fines or jail time since they would be violating their “fiduciary duty”. Not only is this false, but it is a purposeful manipulation of BOA members by the executive. The sudden urgency of this situation seems odd given the fact that the report was conducted in July, leaving the SFUO many months to come up with a solution. The way BOA members were coerced into voting against their beliefs based on threats of looming legal action (which for many members implied the possibility of removal from their programs or even loss of their student visa) is completely outrageous. The BOA, as well as students in general, were never truly given a chance to understand or attempt to fix the problem, despite having plenty of time to do so. Ultimately, the motion was approved and will undergo a second reading in December. We now only have a short period of time to organise and defend our democratic gains.

General Assemblies have enormous potential to mobilize students and provide an avenue for real change. They are the best method of organizing towards a strike which is the only way for students to fight for free and accessible education. They also have the ability to launch investigation committees open to any student who could look into abuses of power by elected officials. This could include mismanagement of funds or unacceptable situations such as the events of the Vets Tour earlier this year. It is clear that General Assemblies have the ability to challenge the bureaucratic authority of the current SFUO structure and that we therefore cannot rely on it to defend GAs.

In the next month students and concerned board members will be working together to draw attention to this attack on democratic rights and independently come up with a solution. You can get involved by joining us at the General Assembly on Saturday November 12th at 2pm in Marion auditorium. Let the SFUO executive and your faculty representatives know that your voice matters!

If you want to get further involved, follow and contact us on Facebook (Revolutionary Student Movement UOttawa) for more news on our next GA planning meetings or send us an email at uomarxists@gmail.com.

 

Crisis in the SFUO and the way forward

There is a lot more than what appears on the surface concerning the financial crisis at the student federation (SFUO). As a militant anti-capitalist organization active on campus for 6 years now, we have been a part of, observed and struggled with the SFUO for some time and have noted what we have identified as structural weaknesses leading to an inevitable collapse as a center of power for students on campus. This is why the founders of our predecessor organization, the Marxist Student Association, broke with the politics of the core of left-wing militants who were struggling for power over the SFUO in the late 2000s and sought to lead a different way forward for the mass of students[1]. The current crisis is another sign that liberal politics are in decay at the SFUO and unfortunately it is afflicting students as well.

We’ll explain in this article how the crisis in the SFUO originated and how it’s negatively impacting us. We’ll also talk about how we can overcome this and organize ourselves to defend our interests not only as working-class students on campus but also to support the wider struggle for liberation from all exploitation and oppression.

The problem unfortunately runs deeper than this year’s budgetary situation. The current politics ruling over the SFUO are largely the result of a takeover by liberal, social-democratic student politicians with the support of radical militants in the late 2000s. The people who would later found the Marxist Student Association were then part of a wide coalition of militants organizing against tuition fees and in support of other progressive causes, such as opposing imperialist wars. One of the highlights of that time was when hundreds of students protested a planned talk by Ann Coulter in Marion Hall and forced her to abandon, in 2010. While never getting close to resisting the increase of tuition fees and other negative measures of the administration, the coalition did succeed in setting up a strong enough base to dominate student politics in campus over a number of years, and to get by referendum the SFUO to re-integrate the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a liberal student union with locals (including many in dispute) across Canada but mainly centred on Ontario. The radical, combative movement that made this push would then gradually shift to reformist perspectives and bureaucratic tactics, forming a layer of cliquey student politicians. At the same time, through the connection with the CFS, the leading student bureaucrats placed the SFUO into a wide network of liberal organizations, chief of which were labour unions like CUPE, and the New Democrat Party (NDP), turning the SFUO into basically a revolving-door / escalator for aspiring politicians. To put it in other terms, the SFUO was sucked into a bureaucratic machine, and its resources were more and more preyed upon by bigger organizations.

In more details, a certain faction from the initial militant core set out to expand the organization’s bureaucracy rather than focus on building mass support and democracy on campus. From their elected position as executives, they built up a network of bureaucrats throughout the various departments and service centers of the SFUO, which would become their support base to engineer the re-orientation of the SFUO as a stepping stone for the bigger liberal organizations such as the labour unions and the NDP. By adding more and more positions and hiring their supporters, with the promise of further advancement as everyone graduating through the SFUO executive seemed to be moving on to fancy staffing jobs at the CFS, at CUPE locals and with NDP members of parliament, they established an effective support base that was constantly working to uphold the politics in power and direct the SFUO’s resources and the militancy on campus toward those ends.

But to keep things going, the mechanics had to be sheltered from oversight. What little transparency and accountability there existed in student politics at uOttawa at the time, it was thrown by the wayside; one of the ways this was done was to declaw the union of SFUO staffers, CUPE 4943, to render it unable to defend employees from the politics of management. Exec sympathisers were promoted to union leadership and gradually allowed their friends to strip the collective agreement of its power to resist management, paving the way for them to manipulate hiring for their political advantage. A toxic atmosphere of liberalism and opportunism set in the SFUO, causing lasting damage among people there. Another way bureaucratic control was installed was through the creation of the executive coordinator position; this un-elected, permanent, cushy and seemingly unsupervised job was designed to keep the CFS’  liberal politics in command at the SFUO in case some exec positions still ended up being lost to opponents, generally self-assuming conservatives, during elections. This is a common tactic employed by the CFS throughout its locals to ensure its hold over them. Needless to say, this position was consistently staffed with supporters who had carried the torch for the organization and subsequently went on to other bureaucratic positions in the movement. Through this kind of approach, the social-democrats were able to maintain their hold over quite some time in spite of consistent opposition from the anti-CFS right.

Energy was also sucked out of the combative left-wing elements on campus to sustain the machinery. Any legacy of combativeness as well as autonomy was drained away from the service centers for women, for queer people, for disabled people, for international students and others. Those centers came into existence as a result of intense struggle from oppressed people who wanted a center from which they could build resistance, but they were over time co-opted into the liberal SFUO politics. Similarly, the climate justice movement that was burgeoning in the early 2010s was diverted to make bureaucratic gains, and the more recent victories arising from intense mass work, such as the U-Pass and the healthcare insurance, were treated as mere services that only required an “apolitical” management, serving to justify the straight-up bureaucratization. This partly explains why the gap between the dues paid for the health insurance and its costs was allowed to increase since 2011; the health insurance was no longer being sustained as a material interest for the mass of students that needed to be fought for constantly. In this way, the SFUO began losing effectiveness even in its basic delivery of services, especially to students who needed them the most. Each scandal that made it into the news was another sign of cracks in the machine, from the fireworks debacle to Yogagate, from the sudden mass firings of last April to the unprecedented waiting lines for U-Pass this Fall.

Perhaps most sadly, the liberal direction over the SFUO failed to provide the leadership to tackle emerging problems arising on campus. The ills of rape culture, sexual harassment and the attempts by a tenured professor to organize students in an anti-feminist, misogynist and trans-phobic group for example require more mass action. There has been a lot of good work by many individuals from within student associations on campus, which has led to the issue of rape culture and specific acts of sexual harassment and violence to attain wide public attention, but it has so far been left to the initiative of the university administration. The mass of students, and especially gender-oppressed people, need be empowered to defend themselves against these threats. That is why we advocate organizing to fight the aforementioned anti-feminist group known as CAFE which actively denies the existence of rape culture and labels feminists as threats, while harbouring militant islamophobes and white supremacists. As well, the shameful loss by the administration of the personal information of hundreds of students who used accessibility services is another matter that should be met with more militant response. Under the democratic control of the mass of students, the SFUO could be brought more effectively to use in such campaigns.

Similarly, when it came to fighting tuition, which is most often used to justify the existence of the CFS, any expectations there were also fell flat. The CFS strategy on this issue amounts to nothing more than plain lobbying of politicians, cloaked in progressive discourse and assorted with stunt actions every 2 or 3 years. At the most crucial times in recent years, the CFS and the SFUO execs made little to no effort to express solidarity with and draw lessons from the student movement in Québec, the only movement that has had any success in Canada when it comes to fighting tuition fees. In 2015, when another attempt was made to launch a student strike in Québec and was facing heavy repression, and while the RSM was organizing a day of action of solidarity, the CFS and its local hacks were too busy networking on Parliament Hill to even pay attention. At best, the CFS will organize a “day of action” every 5 years or so to prove its combativeness, but these efforts do nothing to undermine the power of the bourgeois government and university administrations. The fact that for an 11th consecutive year now, the university has increased its fees, including an exponential growth over the year for international students, should lead everyone to reconsider the approach that has been taken.

From the beginning, as the Marxist Student Association and then as the RSM, we called for a different path to be taken, for attacking the roots of the system. We realized that fighting against tuition fees was part of a wider struggle against our exploitation and oppression as a class; the terms set out by the oppressing state and its academic institutions are only meant to disempower and manipulate us. As working-class students, we have to connect with the wider struggle for our liberation, and within our context, we have to build up a counter-power to defend our interests and win victories.

This is why in 2013 and 2014 we campaigned for GAs to be established, which was successful, in spite of opposition from such mainstream groups as the campus associations of both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. It has been a struggle since then however to make effective use of the GAs, but we will continue to encourage students to use them and this year, more than ever, working-class students have a chance to turn things around in their favour.

The liberal politicians who ruled over the SFUO for all those years and who fooled so many militants into their trap are at their core a clique of petty-bourgeois students, attempting to draw power from their bureaucratic positions to go up while building themselves a nice base of loyal supporters. What is also interesting to note is that the first wave of these student politicians were overwhelmingly from white, settler backgrounds, while the next wave that succeeded them are in majority from racialized, colonized-nations backgrounds, who are left to pick up the pieces while a good number among the former are safely installed in their staffer positions further up the chain. Those petty-bourgeois politicians have caused enough damage, and they must never be allowed again to have leadership over left-wing organizing. More than ever, it is time for working-class students to chart their own path and organize their own power.

The MER-RSM will continue its efforts to organize students in this direction. If you want to participate in our initiatives, come to our general meeting on October 20, where we will discuss openly our plans for the coming year. This will include motions to bring to the GA to improve the situation and empower students with regards to the SFUO, as well as the continuation of our campaign to root out MRAs on campus, and participation in the planned day of action against tuition fees. There will also be other meetings and activities over the course of the semester. Nothing is lost! With mass work and organization, we can not only turn things around, but turn our student union into a powerful weapon at the service of the people!

[1] On this topic, you can read an in-depth analysis written by one of those militants in 2010, titled “Whither the student movement in Ottawa”

CITY OF OTTAWA GIVES PUBLIC SPACE TO MISOGYNIST ORGANIZATIONS!

CITY OF OTTAWA GIVES PUBLIC SPACE TO MISOGYNIST ORGANIZATIONS!

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In February of this year, following public outrage, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson voiced his opposition to the misogynist “pick-up artist” Roosh V and the Return of Kings meet up in Ottawa that he has called for to happen across the world. People organizing to protest this unacceptable event has caused the predatory, women-hating “pick-up artist” organizers to cancel their public meeting and effectively drove them underground. Despite all this, today the city allows another misogynist organization to openly organize to promote their anti-women views, grow their movement and use the Ottawa city hall to do so. Not only does this make the city complicit in the misogynistic organizing taking place, and in the Men’s Rights Movement, but it also makes the so-called progressive mayor Jim Watson complicit. The city of Ottawa and the Men’s Rights Movement are working hand in hand and we need to stop it!

The Canadian Association for “Equality” (CAFE) is hosting its first conference on September 17th, 2016 at the Ottawa city hall. CAFE is a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) group, their work consists of acting as a moderate front group for the wider MRA movement. CAFE founders and members have repeatedly voiced their misogynist, racist and homophobic views all under the pretense of “Men’s Rights” and free speech. These views ultimately harm the safety of women and other gender oppressed people as well as the safety of the men they claim to represent. Far from standing for “Men’s Rights”, they are exclusively an anti-feminist organization rallying angry and violent misogynists. CAFE uses legitimate issues in our society like murdered indigenous men, and men’s high rates of suicide and depression as a tool, using the hardships of men, often the result of oppression from other factors like race, class, indigeneity, or ability, to spread their hatred of women and other gender-oppressed people by blaming all these problems on feminism and women having too many rights.

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The Revolutionary Student Movement has repeatedly confronted CAFE when they attempted to hold meetings on the University of Ottawa campus. Janice Fiamengo, a leading member of CAFE Ottawa, is a tenured professor at the University of Ottawa, and has been using this position to try to give legitimacy to CAFE as an organization, which only thinly veils the hate-speech of its members, herself included. We recognize that MRA groups gaining a foothold on campuses puts women and gender-oppressed people in danger. This is equally true of a place as public as City Hall. We refused to let them organize on campus, and we oppose their organizing here.

The Revolutionary Student Movement denounces all anti-feminist and MRA movements, we stand in opposition to CAFE and all their organizing. We are outraged by the city of Ottawa and Mayor Jim Watson’s decision to allow this hate group to hold events at the city hall, a central public space.

We demand that CAFE and all other MRA groups be banned from using public spaces for their events!

We demand that CAFE have their charity license revoked!

We demand that the University of Ottawa bans CAFE and all other MRA organizations from booking rooms and organizing on campus!

We demand that the University of Ottawa fire Professor Janice Fiamengo for her leadership of CAFE and her racist reviews!

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Join us on the ground wherever CAFE tries to organize, growing the strength in our numbers is the only way to stop them!

Let the mayor’s office know that you think hate groups such as CAFE cannot be allowed in our city

Email: Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca

Phone: 613-580-2496

The Revolutionary Student Movement is dedicated to the fight against misogyny and MRAs in Ottawa and all around the county. Join us in our campaign to stop CAFE from organizing Ottawa!

COME TO A DEBRIEFING MEETING TO GET INVOLVED IN THE CAMPAIGN

September 24, 2pm Room UCU 215 University of Ottawa

Find us on Facebook: MRAs Off Campus /// Masculinistes Hors Campus

Revolutionary Student Movement UOttawa

 

Dare to struggle!

Dare to win!

Police Rush to Defend MRAs! Statement on RSM-uO’s Protest of CAFE

Police Rush to Defend MRAs! Statement on RSM-uO’s Protest of CAFE

Ca5HgiYUAAAqxp3Last night, February 10th, the RSM participated in protesting a meeting of misogynists under the guise of “men’s rights activism” on uOttawa campus. As a result, this event, which was organized, led and attended almost entirely by retired and tenured professors and other non-students, turned into a totally inappropriate, disgusting, and illegitimate show of repressive force against students.

First, campus security threatened student protesters with expulsion, a criminal record, unhireability, and homelessness. When these transparent attempts at intimidation were rightly ignored, they called the police, who had planned and prepared to make arrests in collaboration with event organizers ahead of time. No fewer than seven police officers immediately brought a cruiser and a police van to campus and swarmed the Arts (Hamelin) building, forcing the protesters to scatter. These police forces continued to patrol and sweep campus until the event was over.

Why is our campus playing host to events like this, whose organizers are explicitly conspiring beforehand with cops to use repressive force against nonviolent student protesters?? How is it that, only days after Ottawa’s mayor and police force were basking in praise for their condemnation of the violent and reactionary misogyny and hate speech of Roosh V and the Return of Kings meetup planned in Ottawa, the same police force is aggressively defending CAFE’s “freedom” to misogyny and hate speech?

CAFE, the so-called Canadian Association for Equality, is a men’s rights activist (MRA) organization which preaches misogyny, antifeminism, and rape culture. Although it is registered as a charity under the Canadian government and presents itself as concerned about men, this is only a cover. CAFE is explicitly not interested in providing social services to men, or with equipping them with tools to deal with the real issues that they face in our capitalist, patriarchal, white-supremacist and colonial society. Instead, CAFE’s “charitable work” consists entirely in “public education” and “raising awareness.” This means, in practice, that they work to spread a misogynist, antifeminist ideology that despises the gains feminism has achieved through long and hard struggle for women and gender-oppressed people’s equal right to bodily autonomy and self-determination. CAFE is on record as denying the existence of rape culture, the importance of consent, and the ongoing oppression and exploitation of women, especially women of colour, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, trans women and transfeminine people, queer women, women involved in sex work, and all intersections thereof. It is a hate group that builds its base of support upon the bodies of these women, denying that they face oppression and in fact maintaining that they are the oppressors – of privileged white men. CAFE tries to convince men that feminism has brought about their oppression in modern society, and that men need “to take back their power and their pride,” to quote directly from a recent Youtube video by Janice Fiamengo, CAFE’s primary organizer on campus. Fiamengo, who is a tenured University of Ottawa professor, is also known for her viciously racist and Islamophobic co-publications with her partner David Solway. It is clear that although CAFE tries to distance itself from less “respectable” groups like Roosh V and Return of Kings, it represents the same thing – a toxic, hateful, violent, and reactionary force that has no place on any university campus.

The RSM-uOttawa stands with students in universities across Canada in opposing CAFE’s incitement of hate, ignorance, and misogyny. CAFE’s lectures have been protested across the country. At Ryerson, CAFE has been decertified as a group and banned from campus. This is an important precedent, as an expression of the collective will and political power of students. We understand that this same will and potential for political expression exists at our university. For hours prior to the event, we participated in leafletting around campus, engaging students about the issue. Many knew about the hate and violence of MRAs already, but were not aware that an organization like CAFE was hosting events on our campus with the apparent blessing of university administration and security and police forces. Some of the students we engaged wanted to take multiple leaflets with them, so that they could deal them out to even more students in their classes. It is clear that CAFE’s message and agenda are opposed to the values and interests of students at this university.

The RSM invites University of Ottawa students to organize with us in opposition to MRA misogyny and hatred on and off campus! In weeks to come, we will have an opportunity to clearly express our opposition by attending the upcoming General Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the students of uOttawa, to vote for a motion to decertify CAFE. We will demand that the SFUO push to have CAFE banned from campus, and challenge the unacceptable anti-student police presence in our halls that comes with hateful and reactionary events like MRA meetings. Together, we can make our voices heard in a clear and unified call:

Down with rape culture!! Down with the police presence that defends misogynists and reactionaries instead of students! NO COPS ON CAMPUS!! NO MRAs ON CAMPUS!!

Why Strike?

To Undergraduate Students of the University of Ottawa,

Last year UOttawa made history when we became the first campus in Ontario to have General Assemblies as the highest decision making body of our Student Federation. We achieved this victory with a referendum that ended in 1968 students voting YES to GA’s. This clearly showed us that students not only wanted but embraced new structures and methods, but that students are also willing to get engaged in ways that the SFUO has previously not presented them. In light of this fact, among many others, the Revolutionary Student Movement is calling for a strike in spring 2015 to challenge both our ridiculously high tuition fees and the new code of conduct that the University is quietly introducing this year. This letter will further expand on these issues and hopefully answer a lot of questions many students may have about the strike.

1) Is Tuition really that big of a deal?
Yes, our tuition has risen every year for the past 9 years. This year tuition fees went up 3% for domestic undergraduate students, 5% for domestic graduate students and those in “professional programs”, and 10% for international students. Despite rising fees, we have not seen a significant improvement in our quality of education. In fact, our quality of education has decreased. We have extremely large class sizes, many of the buildings on campus are inaccessible, and courses and programs such as journalism are being cut. Students do not have access to adequate study space and are paying way too much for residence. Many students work part-time or full-time jobs (sometimes more than one) to put themselves through school. Tuition is a significant burden for many students, and potential students.

2) Don’t we have student representation at the Board of Governors?
In theory yes. However, students have only 3 out of 31 seats on the Board of Governors. In the past, students have been prevent from voting on measures regarding tuition fees due to a supposed “conflict of interest”. The other 28 seats on the Board of Governors are filled by the university’s upper administration and representatives from large corporations. To quote from an SFUO Membership Advisory that was released earlier this year: “Undergraduate student representative Vincent Mousseau motioned to include a tuition freeze in the budget for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year. Undergraduate student representative Myriam Whalen proposed a motion for the Treasury Committee to draft alternative budgets next year, including one that considers a tuition fee freeze. Both motions were overwhelmingly defeated. This disheartening defeat solidified the reality that the Board of Governors will not consider alternatives and refuses to work with students.” This quote shows overwhelmingly that the university is unwilling to work with students and that the structures which supposedly give us input in actual fact do not. The SFUO has used the same tactics of presenting motions and protesting student fees year after year with no successes. Ultimately, these measures have been exhausted. On the other hand Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in the country and a consistent history of winning those victories in strikes. If we want to successfully lower tuition and create an education system that is open to working-class students, we need to consider striking: a strike is our greatest asset.

3) Striking seems extreme, why not use other tactics like demonstrations or petitions?
Striking is a last resort. Other tactics and actions have failed on their own in the past. However, if they were to take place in the context of a strike they might be more effective. Striking necessarily has to incorporate a variety of actions in order to be effective. These actions can be marches, sit-ins, artistic events, vigils; no tactic should be overlooked but all should be in service of the strike demands and agreed upon by the students. The actions should also escalate over the course of the strike to be most effective.

4) But aren’t strikes just a thing that Quebec does? We don’t have that culture here…
We don’t have that culture yet. The strike culture in Quebec is not something that arose spontaneously. It has been continuously building since 1968 when a series of strikes took place in support of giving working class people access to post-secondary education. There have been a series of strikes in Quebec throughout the past 50 years, and this trend continues to this day with preparations for a strike in Quebec in the spring of 2015. Unlike Quebec, we have the history of Quebec strikes to look to for guidance, and in turn our struggles will help students in Quebec and across Canada win victories.

5) Will the strike go on forever?
The strike lasts as long as students decide for it continue. Ultimately strikes only work when the masses of students are mobilized and standing in solidarity. Students can vote to end a strike at any time or vote to extend the strike for a particular length of time. Ultimately we as students control when it stops, not the university.

6) Won’t this make it harder for me to finish my degree?
Yes, this can delay you finishing your courses and getting your diploma. However, so can debt and rising tuition fees. Many students drop out of school several times before finishing a degree in order to work to pay for tuition. Striking is a way for us to fight back against rising fees and mounting debt.

7) What does this mean for graduate students?
Since graduate students are organized under a different student union (GSAED), they are not bound by our strike vote. However, we should strongly urge GSAED to strike alongside us. A campus united can never be defeated.

8) Aren’t we just being selfish and greedy?
No, none of the students on this campus have had a say in any of the tuition fee increases we’ve faced. Most of us would rather be saving up for the future since, let’s face it, there are not many jobs waiting for us. This is not about greed: it’s about survival. Accumulating debt hurts students; many will never pay off their student loans despite hard work and perseverance. Furthermore, if tuition fees continue to increase at this alarming rate, our generation will not be able to afford to send our children to post-secondary education. This is not about saving a few bucks or haggling for a good deal, it’s about the fact that this is not a sustainable model of education. We are not only fighting for ourselves, but for all students across Canada and for the future.

9) I can afford tuition, why should I care?
Your generation’s children may not be able to say the same; even your younger siblings are going to have a tougher time paying if we don’t start lowering fees. Furthermore, you are letting down your classmates and anyone else who may want to come to university but cannot afford tuition.

10) What happens if the strike fails?
Failure is always a possibility, but there is also the possibility of victory. If the strike fails we will keep trying until we have eliminated tuition fees and have achieved open access to education for everyone. We will keep trying until we win.

Today we have the opportunity to make history and become the first school in English Canada to strike against tuition fees. Let’s not miss the opportunity. Vote yes to investigate the possibility of a strike in the spring of 2015. We have nothing to lose but our fees, we have a world to win.

In Solidarity,
The Revolutionary Student Movement (MER-RSM)

RSM-UOTTAWA CONDEMNS ISRAEL’S RENEWED ASSAULT ON PALESTINE

University of Ottawa Revolutionary Student Movement in association with OPIRG denounces the unceasing attack on the people of Gaza perpetrated by the State of Israel that to this hour has resulted in more than a thousand Palestinians killed, thousands wounded, overwhelming majority of them civilians – children, women, the elderly and men not affiliated with any armed group.

As we write this statement, we want to reach out to the Palestinian people to express our solidarity with their struggle for freedom in their own homeland, liberation from colonial oppression and an end to ethnic cleansing. We express our condolences and deep sorrow to the families of victims of this horrifying bloodshed initiated and carried out by Israel.

For more than three weeks the State of Israel has indiscriminately massacred Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel historically has been a force at the service of Western and particularly American imperialism, therefore U.S., Canadian and European governments shamelessly provide diplomatic, military and financial backing for these atrocities.

The international community too stands idly while Israel violates international law and continues the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can only express the institutional timid position: “The people of Gaza have nowhere to run. They are trapped and besieged on a speck of land. Every area is a civilian area…” he announces, but an international action led by the UN is nowhere to be found; the UN shines for its ineffectiveness and lack of real commitment.

The Israeli government has cynically used the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers in the occupied West Bank in order to launch a devastating attack on the people of Gaza, while no connection to Hamas or Gaza has been established by the Israeli Investigators. The actual reason behind the attack is the outrageous refusal of Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This attack is aimed at breaking the recently established unity government between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the occupied West Bank and it once again demonstrates that the current Israeli establishment is only interested in continuation of oppression of the Palestinian people.

In the mean time, the bourgeois media has been working hard to justify the genocidal acts of Israel by appealing to Israel’s “right to self-defense”, a right not equally granted to the historically oppressed Palestinian people. This “right”, however, is used by Israel as a justification for bombing hospitals, schools, residential buildings and even UN shelters in Gaza, killing innocent civilians who seek refuge from the carnage. This latest assault is just one more chapter in the mission of the Israeli state to enforce apartheid and complete ethnic cleansing on the Palestinian people. The ruling class in Canada and other Western countries, through its media, has expressed its support for these bloody ambitions. For them, the war on the Palestinians is just another good business opportunity.

By supporting Israel, the Canadian and other Western governments support one of the most backwards and violent elements in the Middle East. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank suffer daily humiliation of military checkpoints on every road, Israeli violation of basic human rights and unaccountable violence. Palestinian workers are exploited by the Israeli bourgeoisie that operates industrial plants on the occupied land, paying the Palestinians extremely low wages and not providing any rights to them. Not only is support given to the State of Israel perpetuating the decades-long brutal oppression of Palestinians, it also deprives most of ordinary people in Israel of peace, security and hope in the better future.

Israel must immediately cease its attacks on the people in Gaza, lift the illegal blockade, stop the apartheid in the occupied West Bank and recognize the right of the Palestinian people for their homeland, from which they are being relentlessly expelled by Israel since 1948.

Stop the massacre of the Palestinian people! Stop the Israeli occupation and oppression!

CHAIRPERSON OF UOTTAWA SECTION OF THE RSM ON THE MEN’S RIGHTS FASCISTS

After the uOttawa RSM was successful at shutting down a men’s rights fascist event in Ottawa, the organizers of the action were approached by The Fulcrum, uOttawa’s English language newspaper, for an interview (available here). Given the increased interest of this event in recent days, and that The Fulcrum’s article omitted much of the political content contained in the interview, we are reproducing the interview in full below.

How and why did the Revolutionary Student Movement come to the decision to protest the event on Friday?

A number of Equality Canada’s posters had been deliberately posted over Proletarian Feminist Front posters, a community organization our club is informally associated with and a number of our members and friends of the club felt that the event was misrepresenting feminism and would make our campus less safe. We are not the only campus that has rejected this type of event, it is clear that other campuses also feel the ideas being put forward by Men’s Rights Activists are dangerous and hateful. An example of the type of hatred these groups promote is of course the recent assault on a feminist at Queen’s University. Although equality Canada denies any connection, it is clear she was assaulted for standing up to a MRA group on her campus and we do not want that type of group here. It was brought to a vote at our general meeting the day before and we decided to attend the event.

Why did the RSM decide to protest in the way they did? In other words, why enter the room and make noise as opposed to protesting with signs at the door or some other form of protest?

We feel that these ideas have no place on our campus and refuse to legitimize them by allowing MRA’s space to organize. As was demonstrated, campus security will not protect our community from events that are harmful to men, women and transpeople in the community so we decided to stand up for what we feel is right.

The term “hate speech” was used a lot by both sides on Friday night. What is your definition of hate speech and do you think either side engaged in it at the event? In what way?

We define hate speech as comments, ideas or opinions, which incite or legitimize further violence against an oppressed group.  We do believe there was hate speech coming from Professor Fiamengo as she made it clear that she did not feel the recent threats made against Anna-Marie Roy were a big deal, stating there was a difference between fantasizing about rape and committing it. This legitimizes rape whether the threat was carried through or not.

Organizers of the event accused members of your group of censoring them. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

As students of the campus and community members we have a right to decide what does and does not happen here.

Any other comments you’d like to add?

We support gender equality between all genders, not just cis-gendered men and women and believe that an essential part of this struggle for equality is recognizing the systemic oppression of women and transpeople. The liberation of all genders ultimately includes fighting for an end to the capitalist system.

 

SOME NEWS FROM COMRADES AT UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA

The uOttawa Marxist Students’ Association has been actively involved in the creation of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) since the RSM’s initial conception. Over the past year our movement has grown in ways that we did not expect, both in Ottawa and across Canada. We’ve expanded the RSM to new provinces, seeded organizations on new campuses, and have built our own capacity at uOttawa by an incredible amount. It’s been a good year.
However, given that the Marxist Students’ Association has a different name than other sections of the RSM, as we begin to look at the concrete steps necessary to formalize the RSM as an organization (i.e. move away from a series of independent and autonomous organizations towards a more overarching structure, politics, and approach to work), we are continually asked about the nature of our relationship to the broader RSM. While the uOttawa Marxist Students’ Associaton has consistently been in favour of building a formal RSM, our own organization has existed since before the effort to establish an RSM was underway; hence the difference in naming conventions between the two organizations. Also, the name “Marxist Students’ Association” reflected a different tactical approach to student organizing than is now practiced by our organization; at the time of the Marxist Students’ Association’s creation, we were far less focused on action and far more focused on study. This line has been corrected through our engagement with the building of a Canada-wide RSM.
       The Marxist Students’ Association wishes to end all ambiguity as to the nature of our relationship with the broader RSM. As such, we are formally re-naming our organization the Revolutionary Student Movement: uOttawa Chapter. We do this to reflect our better approach to organizing. We do this to stand united with other RSM sections in Montreal, Quebec City, Guelph, Toronto, and even here in Ottawa at Carleton University and Algonquin College. But most of all we do this to show that we are unequivocally in favour of the construction of a pan-Canadian united revolutionary student movement, and that we have full confidence in the process already underway.
We invite everyone that wishes to be part of these efforts to organize themselves and attend the Third National Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students, to be held on March 1-2 in Montreal.
See you in March!