Addressing the challenges of being a parent and full-time student

Re: “Students with children feel “invisible” at U of T”

Addressing the challenges of being a parent and full-time student

It is disheartening to know that anyone feels invisible in a community that usually thrives on inclusion and networking through various campus events and clubs. Personally, I hadn’t realized that there were students on campus who were struggling with raising children while studying at university. Finding a viable solution that can fix the issue is a priority in order to help students who are trying to handle being both full-time parents and full-time students.

Childcare services are already overburdened at the university. While this problem is being sorted out, one solution might be to offer parents additional structural support through the accessibility services provided at each U of T campus, in order to make it easier to take time off and care for children. The statement found on the Accessibility Services web page claims that “It is the University of Toronto’s goal to create a community that is inclusive…and treats all members…in an equitable manner.” Although having a disability and having a child to care for are fundamentally different circumstances, the stressors experienced by people in both situations might be similar. For example, students in both these positions might struggle to juggle essays and assignments with childcare or personal health responsibilities.

In Ontario, a maximum of 63 weeks of parental leave is granted to individuals who have children. But university terms continue on whether you have to care for a child or not. The only options new parents have are to try and balance childcare responsibilities with schoolwork, or to postpone their educations altogether. With this in mind, students with children should be given more support from the university so that they aren’t forced to put their degrees on hold.

Areej Rodrigo is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying English and Theatre and Performance Studies. 

From Ukraine to TO

The sacrifices made by my parents might be greater than anything I will ever have to do

From Ukraine to TO

Intersections is a new features sub-section exploring multiculturalism and diaspora in Toronto. Students consider how their cultural backgrounds have influenced their experiences, perspectives, and stories.

Ukraine reached the height of its conflict with Russia when I was 16 years old. With most of my family still there, in the middle of the fighting, I felt a mix of fear for their lives and gratitude for my own safety here in Canada.

During this time, I approached my father, feeling sentimental, and thanked him for moving my family to Canada 10 years ago. He looked at me, almost in tears, and informed me that my mother had been reluctant to immigrate here, and he had convinced her to do so by stating that one day her kids would thank her.

That conversation happened four years ago, and since then, I have learned more and more about the incredible sacrifices my parents made for my future. At 27 years of age, these two first-time parents chose to leave behind their families, their lifelong friends, and well-established careers for the chance of a better life in Canada. This one act is a testament to their incredible strength and bravery — a sacrifice greater than I have ever, or likely will ever, have to make in my life.

When we first moved here, my parents worked 40-hour shifts in a bakery to support my family of four. They worked alongside other immigrants who had moved here from various other countries, people guided by the promise of a better life, but who had failed to find one. My mother once described the despair that permeated the faces of every worker there, which made her and my father afraid that they would get nowhere in life. Instead of resigning themselves to a life of bitter regret and resentment toward a failed dream, my parents chose to persevere.

Once again, they sacrificed a steady, albeit difficult, job to enrol in a school that taught immigrants English. This got them unpaid internships at businesses that would potentially hire them in the future. Their incredible work ethic and the hope of stability for our future were able to gain them steady but low-paying jobs in the business world.

My father continued to go to school, eventually obtaining his Certified General Accountant degree, a program that many people who enrol in drop out of or fail to pass. Now, both of my parents are incredibly high up in their jobs, and they have never failed to provide my two sisters or me with anything we could possibly want.

Despite spending most of my life in Canada, my parents have ensured that my siblings and I are incredibly committed to and involved with Ukrainian traditions and cultures. We speak fluent Ukrainian, have studied Ukrainian dancing for seven years, Ukrainian literature for eight years and we volunteer at a Ukrainian camp to this day. Our family continues to celebrate Ukrainian Easter, Ukrainian New Year’s, and, my personal favourite, Ukrainian Christmas. Every year, on January 6, my family puts on traditional Ukrainian shirts, which are hand-stitched with intricate patterns, and sit down together for a meal made up of 12 specific dishes, such as pierogies, borscht, and kutya, a dish made up of poppy seed and honey, essential to the Christmas dinner table for centuries.

These traditions are incredibly important to me because they provide a link to my family’s past, including the places they have left behind, the friends that they have not seen for years, and the family that I have not had the opportunity to get to know. Even though I only spent a quarter of my life in Ukraine, these traditions have ingrained ‘Ukrainian’ as the central part of my identity, and I still feel as if Ukraine is my home.

The ordeals my parents have endured for my family to come to Canada and achieve their dream of a better life for us have motivated my studies more than anything else. Their ability to succeed in a country where the language, culture, and people are all foreign motivates me to make the most of the opportunity they have given me and to one day repay them in any way that I can.

My work ethic in high school and now in university is fuelled by the need to prove myself worthy of their sacrifices. Being accepted into the University of Toronto was a big step toward making the most of what I have been given. Luckily, I find that U of T has many avenues for celebrating my heritage, such as a Ukrainian club. I am fortunate to be accepted among other students, some of who have incredible stories of immigration that are very similar to my own.

In conversation with Gabrielle Aplin

Toronto was the first stop on the British musician’s 2018 North American tour

In conversation with Gabrielle Aplin

The lineup for Gabrielle Aplin’s concert at the Velvet Underground wrapped around the block, while a second line of fans clambered for last-minute tickets to her sold-out performance. Last Wednesday’s show was the first stop on Aplin’s 2018 North American tour, also featuring John Splithoff and Hudson Taylor.

Aplin first gained popularity by posting videos to YouTube in the early 2010s. Since then, she has topped the charts at home in the UK with multiple hit singles and has toured internationally. Most recently, Aplin released her AVALON EP. A third album is in the works, which she hopes to release later this year. 

The Varsity caught up with Aplin before her show for a quick Q&A.

Aplin met up with The Varsity at Early Bird Coffee & Kitchen for a quick pre-show interview. GRACE MANALILI/THE VARSITY

The Varsity: How do you like Toronto?

Gabrielle Aplin: I love Toronto. I feel like I need to do more Canada as well. I only ever come to Toronto, and it’s only ever been when I’ve been going to the States. I would love to come back and just do Canada in isolation… The people are so cool. I’m from Brighton, and it’s really kind of independent and cool and quite a multicultural quirky place, and really creative. I feel like there are a lot of similarities between the two places.

TV: You sold out here!

GA: Yeah, this is the second time I’ve played here. The last time I played here, it was my first time here and my first show here. I was really nervous, actually, and the crowd was amazing. Usually I get really nervous, but I’m pretty excited for tonight.

TV: I saw that Hudson Taylor is touring with you. I thought that was very exciting because I remember back when you guys were in the YouTube days, and it was the whole group of you just jamming together. How does having that background, with an entire group of friends of musicians, affect your songwriting?

GA: I don’t know if it would have impacted my songwriting because that is kind of an insular thing, though I feel like it’s made us all great musicians and it’s made us learn how to play with people on the fly, and that’s what is really fun. I think it’s just really nice to have a musical community as well, groups of artists doing things together.

It’s something that happened for a bit in the ’60s and ’70s, and it kind of went away in the ’80s and ’90s most recently. And now, it’s kind of happening again — these clumps of musicians bringing each other up.

TV: Something I find very interesting about your songs is that you always capture the grey in relationships — like in “Please Don’t Say You Love Me” or even “Hurt.” It is a very different kind of relationship that you cover, and I think people can connect to that. What inspires your songs like that?

GA: Yeah! I’m just really nosy. I go into my friends’ relationships and write about them because I’m pretty solid and comfortable. I never really have anything crazy going on, so I really draw from my friends.

TV: I read in a past interview where you talked about how you like the other parts of your business, not just the music part. I have noticed that your music videos have gotten increasingly high in production quality. Could you talk more about your vision for your music videos?

GA: I love all the things that come along with a project. In a campaign, I think it is really important to have music but also the artwork for the music. When you look at it you have to know what the artwork is for it to be cohesive. I love it. I really get involved in my artwork — even my press photos and my press releases. Especially with the videos, they never got more expensive. They’ve actually gotten cheaper.

I guess I got more comfortable with experimenting and trying to put a different spin on things as opposed to just literally making a narrative that goes with the song. I try and do something fun. I love to play with colour and fashion and eras as well.

TV: Can you name a time or anything specific that inspired this change? The second “Home” video is very different from the first, and “Miss You” is very different from that.

GA: The first “Home” video, I was kind of making it on my own. Me and my friends, we did it for 50 quid. It was, ‘What can we do for £50?’ That is amazing. It doesn’t look like it was done for £50.

I think those funding limitations can actually push your boundaries to create an idea. Even “Miss You,” for example. I really like Wes Anderson, his less recent films, his analogue camera tricks, things he uses to create these weird distortions. I love doing that and using analogue things like prisms to put in front of my lenses to create something dreamy. I really like it being really DIY.

TV: It doesn’t look DIY at all!

GA: It’s really DIY; it’s just a really high res camera!

TV: You were a YouTube star and you broke into the mainstream. Do you find that things are a bit different, being someone who came from YouTube?

GA: No, not necessarily. I think I didn’t make it my only thing. Maybe. As much as I love it as a platform, I didn’t want to be a YouTube artist, I wanted to be a commercial artist. So as well as YouTube, I was using MySpace when it was still happening, just the tail end.

In the UK, we have BBC Introducing and they are amazing, so I used BBC resources for younger artists. They’ll get you playing at big festivals like Glastonbury on their stage, they will get you on their radio station — it was definitely a collaboration of all those things really. I don’t feel like [YouTube] pigeonholed me, and it allowed me to have success outside of it. I never lost opportunities.

TV: What do you think you did differently from people who did get stuck on YouTube?

GA: If that is what they want to be, then great! That’s amazing. I think for me, I never intended to be a YouTube artist. I put some videos up, before there were loads of YouTube artists that I was aware of, just thinking that I was going to share some videos because I didn’t have a way to record them just audio-wise. Otherwise, I would have tried to make them look a bit more professional; I didn’t try to be famous on YouTube.

TV: Following off the tangent of YouTube, now you have Instagram, Twitter — how has audience engagement changed for you?

GA: I think it has gotten a lot more quick, actually. The internet is just so fast. I think Twitter is amazing; it’s instant reaction and connection, and I think it is really important to say thank you to the people that are listening to and buying your music. I feel like Facebook has kind of tailed off a little bit. It’s become harder for artists to reach out to fans on Facebook because there are things like, you have to pay to reach your fans, even though they follow you. It’s made it less genuine in that sense.

TV: One last question. As a woman in music, have you found that more difficult?

GA: I like to think I’ve never been not given an opportunity just because I am female, but I don’t know if that is because it’s been hidden from me or not. I always have a great time. I work with lots of older men who I’ve gotten on with, who don’t talk to me like I’m a young girl — they talk to me like I’m the same as them, and that is great. I know that isn’t the case for everybody.

I would say I’ve worked with at least 40 or 50 writers and producers, and two of them have been female, in my whole time I’ve been doing this. So I definitely think there is a disproportion between male and female producers or writers, but I don’t think that’s because there are less of them; I just don’t think that they’re getting the opportunities that men are, maybe.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Dealing with depression

A U of T student grapples with mental illness

Dealing with depression

Content warning: descriptions of suicide attempts and self-harm

There’s something uniquely haunting about your first panic attack. For me, it was in my dorm room at Whitney Hall in 2015. It’s truly something I cannot forget. I remember shaking vividly, gasping for breath with tears pouring down my face, and taking one sleeping pill, two sleeping pills, three sleeping pills, and then four. I did anything to snap myself out of how I was feeling. Yet, with all that I remember, the reason for the attack remains a mystery.

Coming to U of T

Attending the University of Toronto was supposed to be my dream come true. I saw it as a rigorous academic environment that would challenge my ideas and help me grow stronger as a person. Living in residence was meant to boost my social game beyond where I was in high school. I was excited to meet people. I looked forward to my classes. I had a bulletin board full of postcards from student groups I wanted to join.

I did not expect that my mental illness would take these experiences from me. I did not expect to be lonely and isolated — hell, the idea of being average was terrifying to me. Yet there I was, in first year, student 1001166285 and seemingly nothing more.

The morning after my first panic attack, I begged my residence don for help. I needed answers. Major depressive disorder is something I’ve dealt with since the sixth grade, but I didn’t think it would follow me into university. I had never really felt anxious before either. Experiencing both depression and anxiety together created an overwhelming cycle of not feeling good enough and restless with the possibility of not meaning anything to anyone.

These thoughts landed me in the Health and Wellness office in February of my first year. I was diagnosed, I was medicated, and I remained in relative peace for the eight months that followed.

My second year

Living as a student in Toronto started to take its financial toll. I had my part-time job as a work-study student for St. Michael’s College, but I eventually had to take a second job at a restaurant to help support myself. Collectively, these added up to nearly 25 hours of work per week on top of my regular course load.

As many students know, the toll this kind of load takes on our mental and physical health can be extreme.

In October 2015, I had started to develop a series of medical problems that the general practitioners at Health and Wellness were unable to diagnose. For two months, I cycled between blood work, new prescriptions, MRIs, CT scans, and new diets to see if anything would ease my symptoms. I was having trouble sleeping, keeping food down, and concentrating — these feelings were frustrating, scary, and distracting. I could feel a gradual resurgence of my mental illnesses, but with greater extremes.

By November, I actively started to plan for my suicide. I felt that the abundance of medications that I was prescribed would make it fairly easy to do, and there was nothing I could do to convince myself that my life was worth anything to anyone. I started missing almost all of my classes and was bailing on social plans because of work commitments. My medications were giving me terrible side effects, and the constant trial-and-error of these drugs made it impossible for my body to ever adapt. My entire life seemed so uncertain — except for my death. This was one area where I felt I had control.

On December 1, I overdosed on my medication in the second suicide attempt of my life. I woke up the next morning understanding that I had passed out, slowly coming to the realization of what I had done. I told my best friend, and he nearly forced me to tell my doctor. I walked to my doctor in tears, feeling betrayed by my friend for making me go. I felt humiliated. I was disappointed that it did not work. I wanted it to stay a secret.

When my doctor heard what happened, I was sent to the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital. After a series of tests of my vital signs, I was sent into a glass-walled room that was guarded by a security officer. Other patients were walking down the hallway making eye contact with me through the glass, wondering why I was under the supervision of security. Was I dangerous to others? Did they fear I would run away if I was left alone?

After six hours of waiting in Mount Sinai, I was transported to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), where I was required to spend at least two nights. I was forced to surrender all of my property, including the pens I used to write my homework, for fear that I would use them to hurt myself. I had to give up my phone, making it impossible for me to contact my friends and family. At CAMH, I met with a series of specialists who worked with me to make sense of what happened, while providing me with the resources I needed to keep it from happening again. After two incredibly lonely and isolating nights, I was sent out the door.

U of T administration and faculty

By the time I left CAMH, U of T was approaching the winter break. I planned to go home to see my family for Christmas, hoping to start fresh in the new year. To my surprise, I returned to deal with a series of concerns from the University of Toronto’s administration, who were apparently notified of my suicide attempt.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: removing suicidal students from campus is not new to the University of Toronto. Students have claimed to have been removed from campus for being suicidal before — this was an idea discussed by administrators as it pertained to my case.

The whole thing was very strange to me: I was called in to meet with my registrar, someone I had never met, who wanted to talk about my case. When I went, I learned that the university had struck a committee to handle my situation, which included a crisis counsellor and other people I did not know. I still have no idea how so many people learned about my suicide attempt, but the uncertainty of what would happen was terrifying. My registrar discussed the idea of me leaving for the semester, saying that the university had the option to force my departure regardless of what my decision was.

There’s something off-putting about a stranger telling you what is best for you. Despite good intentions, I was able to convince her that U of T was somewhere that I needed to stay. I needed the distraction of class and work. I needed the distraction of my friends, of extracurricular life, and of the joy I found in places like Hart House. I was lucky that this round of negotiations worked in my favour — many students in similar positions do not have that option or influence.

The discussions slowly faded. I was no longer on the university’s radar as a threat, but at the same time, I came to a position where I would never disclose that information to anyone, ever again.

The nights spent in CAMH continued to haunt me. These services are necessary and can be helpful to a lot of people, but it’s hard to view them fondly when you’re forced to go. If I entered on my own terms and could leave when I felt it was necessary, perhaps I would have viewed the situation more positively.

In March 2016, I had a series of panic attacks the night before my linear algebra midterm. I was up throughout the night contemplating suicide, I was self-harming again, and the majority of my night was spent curled up in a corner of my bedroom. As soon as Health and Wellness opened the next morning, I went to tell them what happened.

I obtained a medical note indicating that I was completely unfit to perform academic obligations. This note was rejected by my professor on the basis that I appeared healthy. If he could have seen me a few hours earlier, I’m sure the outcome would have been different. Mental illness is good at hiding itself behind a smile. It’s easy to nod and say that things are okay.

The media

My story attracted media attention from news outlets, with comments expressing both support and suspicion that I wanted to get out of an exam or that I was seeking attention. The story was picked up through a series of venting tweets. I wanted people to know what happened so that they could see how ableism manifests itself on our campus, particularly as it pertains to mental illnesses. I did not want special treatment — hell, I didn’t even expect the media to see or care. But when they messaged, I responded, because it seemed like a good way to raise awareness.

These experiences formed an integral part of my life on campus. I would not express them positively by any means, but they are things that taught me valuable life lessons and completely changed the way I view my mental illness. These are no longer experiences I try to hide. They affect my life every single day in a vast number of the decisions I make. I will acknowledge that they are a major part of who I am. But adapting to them is a process, and one that most certainly takes time.

Growing as a student, growing as a person

I am now in my fourth year of university. The past two years since my medical note was rejected have not been easy, but I’m learning to cope. I’m still experimenting with Health and Wellness services to see what the most appropriate steps are for me to take. I’m still experimenting with different medications and treatments. I’m still trying to find the right psychiatrists to help me along the way. I have friends who have learned to recognize the onset of my symptoms and know what it takes to help get me back on track. For this, I’m eternally grateful.

It’s not easy to deal with mental illness as a student on campus. It’s especially difficult to be a suicidal student on campus. From time to time, the thought of ending my life still comes to my mind, but it’s greatly surpassed by the idea of how much more my life has to offer. I’m 21 years old now. There’s a lot I have left to see, a lot left to do, and a lot of love and friendship to build along the way. Sharing my story helps me cope, but it also serves as a reminder that the university is not always friendly to students with mental illness. It’s approximated that around 20 per cent of Canadians struggle with mental health problems, and these numbers are even more amplified for racialized and marginalized people. We must do more.

Sure, I’m still student 1001166285. I’m also a student with major depressive disorder and suicidal tendencies. I’m a student who can get very bad panic attacks triggered by my academics and social relationships. But I’m also a student who is getting better. I’m a student learning to cope. I’m a student who has once again found interest and excitement in my life. I’m a student who still struggles from time to time, but I’ll keep on moving on.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with depression or suicide, information and resources can be found at

UTSU to hold referendum on student U-Pass

Students will get opportunity to vote on proposed U-Pass fee during UTSU spring elections

UTSU to hold referendum on student U-Pass

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) passed a motion to hold a referendum for UTSG members to establish a new U-Pass fee of up to $322.50 per session, or approximately $80.60 per month, at a Board of Directors meeting on February 24.

UTSU President Mathias Memmel confirmed the fee would be no higher than $80.60 per month, compared to $116.75 per month for a Metropass. Should the referendum succeed, the fee would be established at a TTC board meeting on March 20.

The motion approved the referendum question, which requests that the UTSU board be authorized to increase the fee by up to five per cent per year to account for increases in administrative and transit costs.

Students would not be able to opt out of the fee. UTSU Vice-President External Anne Boucher said the union pushed for that option but was unsuccessful in securing the choice. “We’d even suggested a distance-based opt-out, but there was no take,” she told The Varsity. “It was made very clear to us by TTC stakeholders that an opt-out would not be possible if U of T students wanted a U-Pass.

“It’s a price some of us will have to warm up to, but given all factors, it’s the best price we could have ever hoped for.”

Faculty of Medicine Director Donald Wang was critical of the motion to hold the referendum. Wang asked how the board could ask students to vote when the UTSU has not yet come to an official agreement with the TTC regarding the exact cost of the U-Pass. Memmel confirmed that there is “no scenario” in which the UTSU would begin collecting fees without having a contract in place with the TTC.

“It’s not a perfect situation,” said UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh during the meeting. “In a perfect situation, we’d have a full contract drafted.”

Wang also worried that the agreement with the TTC would not be in accordance with the UTSU’s Bylaw XIX.b on Autonomy, which states that the UTSU “shall not enter into any perpetual agreement that cannot be terminated by a vote of the Board of Directors.”

Memmel claims that the contract with the TTC will not be perpetual and will be fully compliant with UTSU bylaws and policies.

Beginning next week, the UTSU will be updating its website, postering, and publishing ads ahead of the March 5 deadline to give notice of the referendum. Memmel told The Varsity that, before voting, students can expect to know how U-Pass distribution will work, what expenses will be incurred, and what arrangements can be made for students in “unique situations,” including students in second-entry professional programs.

Students can also expect more information regarding the U-Commute survey, which ran from August 28 to September 28 last year. Boucher confirmed that some of the information gathered in the survey includes that 74.32 per cent of U of T students use transit to get to class, 84.63 per cent of U of T students use transit for other travel, and 98.25 per cent of U of T students use the TTC.

The UTSU, along with student unions from Ryerson University, OCAD University, and George Brown College, has been in negotiations with the TTC since summer 2017. The TTC board voted unanimously in favour of a U-Pass on December 11, 2017.

U of T to enter provincial mediation over building plans at Spadina and Sussex

Mediation to consider community concerns about proposed student residence

U of T to enter provincial mediation over building plans at Spadina and Sussex

U of T succeeded in getting provincial mediation in an attempt to settle an agreement over the buildings on the corner of Spadina Avenue and Sussex Avenue. A Pre-hearing Conference (PHC) on February 16 followed the January decision to go into mediation.

The February PHC set dates for a follow-up conference, which is to occur in September 2018. In the meantime, mediation with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is set for March 1 and 2, with the actual hearing expected to be scheduled for some time in 2019.

Sue Dexter, U of T Liaison for the Harbord Village Residents’ Association, said that a settlement reached during mediation would make the follow-up PHC in September redundant. However, Dexter added that this would “require agreement on serious issues among multiple parties.”

In addition, one of the buildings on the site is subject to its own review by the Conservation Review Board, as the city has made the building a heritage site.

The corner lot has been considered by the university for years as a site where they hope to construct a new residential building for students. Since the university’s proposed plans for the building became public, there has been resistance from City Council, some community members, and neighbourhood associations in the surrounding area.

Provincial mediation was agreed upon by all groups, as concerns held by the surrounding community could be addressed on a more individual basis. Noise and safety issues, the density, height and scale of the building, and the effect of the construction on the area’s “green space” are among the concerns that both sides of the mediation hope to address with the help of the OMB.

Ceta Ramkhalawansingh of the Grange Community Association, another party recognized by the OMB on this issue, hopes that the mediation will result in the university responding “positively to the issues that have been identified and [making] changes to their proposal.”

CFS broke own bylaws in lawsuit against BC student union, UTSU VP says

Federation sued Selkirk College Students’ Union without approval of National Executive

CFS broke own bylaws in lawsuit against BC student union, UTSU VP says

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) National, the country’s largest association of students’ unions and a group of which the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is a member, may have violated its own bylaws in pursuing litigation against one of its member student unions, according to UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh.

On March 21, 2017, CFS National filed a civil suit against the Selkirk College Students’ Union and its Executive Director, Zachary Crispin, claiming that Selkirk failed to properly follow the process of holding a referendum on membership. This suit, however, was apparently not approved by the National Executive, the body representing both federal and provincial CFS leadership, prior to being filed, according to Jenelle Davies, British Columbia representative on the executive. This contravenes CFS Bylaw IV.2.1, which stipulates that the National Executive “shall have exclusive authority” to initiate legal action on behalf of the federation.

CFS Executive Director Toby Whitfield indicated the suit was discussed in camera at a National Executive meeting on March 23, two days after the claim was filed. Davies claimed she was unaware of this meeting.

If the National Executive had approved the claim, it would have been marked on record, which is not reflected in the minutes, said Davies.

Although the suit has been dropped by CFS National, the Selkirk College Students’ Union cannot administer a referendum without CFS cooperation.

Santanna Hernandez, chairperson of the union, said that Selkirk College students filed a second petition for a referendum on terminating membership with CFS National in November 2017, after they indicated that they would like to leave the CFS in a plebiscite. This petition has been verified by CFS National, but a referendum on the union’s membership has yet to be scheduled.

CFS National did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

Former UTSU Executive Director Sandra Hudson sought additional $100,000 in damages during lawsuit

Hudson filed claim against UTSU, President Mathias Memmel during lawsuit, alleging breach of confidentiality

Former UTSU Executive Director Sandra Hudson sought additional $100,000 in damages during lawsuit

Former University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Executive Director Sandra Hudson filed a lawsuit claiming $100,000 in damages against the union and its President Mathias Memmel while legal proceedings for a previous lawsuit filed against her were still taking place. Hudson alleged that the UTSU and Memmel breached a mediation agreement after Memmel disclosed information about the then-ongoing lawsuit at an April 29, 2017 Board of Directors meeting.

The UTSU’s lawsuit against Hudson, which was settled in October 2017, alleged civil fraud.

Hudson’s statement of claim, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on May 31, 2017, states that the two parties attended a mandatory mediation on October 6, 2016, after which the UTSU, Hudson, and other attendees signed a mediation agreement. Memmel, at the time serving as UTSU Vice-President Internal and Services, signed the Mediation Agreement on his own behalf.

This agreement contained a “confidentiality provision,” which states, “All written and oral communications made in the course of mediation will be treated as confidential and without prejudice.” All those who signed the mediation agreement were bound by the confidentiality provision, including Memmel.

At an April 29, 2017 Board of Directors meeting, a motion was passed to discuss whether or not to drop the union’s lawsuit against Hudson. Members of the Black Liberation Collective were present in the room to protest the lawsuit. When Memmel’s efforts to move the meeting in camera were met with protests, Memmel publicly went into detail about the lawsuit after consulting with the UTSU’s legal counsel, Andrew Monkhouse.

Hudson’s statement of claim alleges that Memmel breached the confidentiality provision in the mediation agreement when speaking in support of continuing the lawsuit. “In so doing, Memmel referred to the [UTSU’s allegations], and then proceeded to make selective disclosure of confidential discussions and offers allegedly made at the mediation… notwithstanding that members of the public were present and that the Meeting was being video recorded.”

The statement of claim further alleges that the information disclosed by Memmel was “highly prejudicial” to Hudson, and that Memmel tried to make it appear as though Hudson had committed the misconduct for which she was being sued.

“The malicious, high-handed, arrogant and outrageous conduct of the Memmel [sic] and UTSU warrants an award of punitive damages to ensure that they are appropriately deterred from such conduct in the future,” continues Hudson’s statement of claim.

The UTSU and Memmel, as joint defendants, filed a statement of defence in which Memmel denied having disclosed confidential discussions. The statement of defence states that the information disclosed at the meeting was in reference to non-confidential negotiations and therefore not protected by the mediation agreement.

The statement of defence further claims that Memmel’s answers to questions “were a direct result of a major protest, which was organized and encouraged by Ms. Hudson for the purpose of putting pressure on the UTSU executive regarding her other lawsuit.” The statement calls Hudson’s alleged encouragement of others to ask questions and subsequent decision to sue based on the answers to questions “inappropriate.”

“It’s always been our position that all of Hudson’s various claims were and are baseless, and that was clear from the start,” said UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh. “They didn’t factor into our decision to settle, and they’ve all been resolved to our satisfaction.” Singh added that Memmel recused himself from negotiations and did not personally contribute to the union’s decision to settle or the terms around the settlement.

The Varsity has reached out to Hudson for comment.