As students, we are supposed to be able to trust our elected student unions to advocate for student issues, rights, and interests when no one else will. But in the case of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), it is unfortunate that it has failed to fulfil the role it was elected to do.
Just like their predecessors, the Board of Directors this year has shown that the laws only apply where it sees fit. Having already dealt with an attempt by the SCSU to have me removed from last year’s election, I can attest firsthand that the SCSU attempts to intimidate students from challenging them. In this year’s election, I was elected by UTSC students to serve as Vice-President Operations. But on February 26, the board chose to illegally refuse to ratify my election.
The basis for the refusal was my presence in a group chat in which I supposedly condoned another individual’s transphobic comments, even though my only comments were “Good God” followed by “I hope this chat is never leaked.” One individual publicly described me as a “good racist” on social media.
The blatant attempts to skew what was said and defame my character were aggravating enough. But when another board member admitted to me in a private message that they were aware of the context behind the statement and understood that I was not to blame for someone else’s transphobic comments, and yet still chose not to communicate this context to the board in my defence — that is what has convinced me that this ratification process was one conducted with malice.
Ultimately, the board’s decision was made with incorrect interpretations of SCSU bylaws. There is no way that our student union is so ignorant that it is not aware of the laws, especially when it is its job to understand them. Its decision was made on the basis that candidates cannot be deemed elected until they have been ratified by the board. However, as per the Elections Procedure Code itself, there are only two circumstances in which the board can refuse ratification.
The first is if the board refuses to accept the entire report by the Chief Returning Officer (CRO), on the grounds that the election was deemed to be conducted illegally, for instance, through vote manipulation, tampering, or demerits. The second is if a recommendation to refuse ratification is made by the Elections Appeals Committee, which may only make a judgment based on the violations ruled on by the CRO.
Having approved the CRO’s report, the board has formally provided its consent that its findings were legitimate, and that there was no tampering within the election, eliminating its grounds for the first circumstance. The CRO found no evidence of violations by me, as per his report, and since there were no appeals, the Elections Appeals Committee could not advise the board to refuse my ratification, eliminating the grounds for the second circumstance.
What this means is that the board either does not know its own bylaws or is willingly breaking them. But it does not end there. In addition to breaking its own bylaws, the board has incidentally broken provincial law too. As a corporation, it must follow the Ontario Corporations Act (OCA).
Consider Section 127.1(2), which states that directors and officers of corporations subject to the OCA, like the SCSU, must act in accordance with the bylaws of their corporation and the OCA. As per the Elections Procedure Code, officers are elected by a plurality of votes and the voting members — the students — are the ones who cast the ballot. This does not grant the SCSU the authority to dismiss the results of the ballot without recommendation from the Elections Appeals Committee. The SCSU’s lack of due process for intervening within a democratic election is a clear violation of the law.
Also consider Section 127.1(1), which confirms that the SCSU board must act in good faith. Failure to ratify the democratically elected VP Operations on illegitimate grounds, refusal to allow candidates to make their case to the board, defamation of candidates, and disregard for its own bylaws does not demonstrate the diligence, prudence, and care that is required from our representatives on the board.
In sum, the SCSU has broken multiple laws — both its own and those of the province. I am offering the SCSU the opportunity to own up to its own mistake. Ratify me as is legally obligated and, on behalf of the students, admit that you messed up and do the unthinkable: apologize.
Indeed, all SCSU board members at the ratification should publicly apologize for trying to subvert the law behind false pretenses, for defaming me and my colleagues, and apologize to the students for continuing the SCSU tradition of breaking the little trust we have toward our union.
Rayyan Alibux is a third-year Political Science and Business Economics student at UTSC. He was elected SCSU Vice-President Operations but his election was not ratified by the Board of Directors.