Budding international student politicos may soon be able to run for positions on the Governing Council at the University of Toronto, pending the approval of a key amendment to the University of Toronto Act by the provincial government. If passed, the amendment will facilitate the removal of the citizenship requirement for candidates wishing to sit on U of T’s highest decision-making body — a change that will affect students, staff, and faculty.

The University of Toronto Act is a legal document that regulates U of T’s Governing Council. The act is not set by the university, but by the government.

The lack of international student representation on the Governing Council has been a matter of contention for some time. Various student societies at U of T, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, and the International Students Association (iNSA), have campaigned for international students to be eligible to compete for a spot on the Governing Council.

In an interview with The Varsity, Mary Githumbi, iNSA spokesperson, says that she was happy about the proposed amendment: “[The amendment] means that international students are able to build a stronger platform to voice the issues they face like health care, housing inadequacy and mental health issues associated with living away from their home country.”

Githumbi states that she was pleased to have worked with Cameron Wathey, former vice-president, internal & services, at the UTSU. “[We] made a stance against a discriminatory law and now our voices have been heard,” Githumbi adds.

“The students’ unions had been pushing the university for years to make this change so it’s great to see that our activism bore real gains for students,” Wathey said in a press release.

The amendment passed its first reading at Queen’s Park on April 23 and had its second reading on April 30. It is the final item on Bill 91, the proposed law that also contains the enactment of the new provincial budget. The bill must be carried through one more reading. After it has been considered twice at Committee, it will need to be approved at the Royal Assent stage in order to be enacted.

Currently, non-Canadian citizens, including permanent residents and refugees, are forbidden from running in Governing Council elections. Earlier this year, The Varsity reported that Yelize Beygo, a second-year international student, submitted a nomination for Governing Council candidacy that she knew would be rejected in order to protest her ineligibility to run.