“150 for Whom?” tackles anti-racism on Canada’s sesquicentennial

Panel features CFS Chairperson Coty Zachariah, former UTSU Executive Director Sandra Hudson

“150 for Whom?” tackles anti-racism on Canada’s sesquicentennial

Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary, while widely celebrated, has also raised critical discussion regarding what it means to celebrate the past 150 years as seen through the lens of colonialism.

On November 11, the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies hosted a workshop and symposium event titled “150 for Whom, Canada? Colonialism and Indigeneity across Lands” at U of T’s Ontario Institute of Studies in Education.

The event included a panel discussion featuring Sandra Hudson, former University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Executive Director and co-founder of Black Lives Matter – Toronto; Coty Zachariah, current National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS); George Elliott Clarke, former Poet Laureate of Toronto; Eve Haque, associate professor at York University; and Jennifer Mills, a postdoctoral researcher at York. The event was moderated by Alissa Trotz, an Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies.

The discussion focused in large part on the ways that the panelists perceived Canada to have failed racialized and Indigenous communities, and how, as Hudson opined, Canadians should not be celebrating 150 years of conquest, violence, and settler colonialism.

“When I think about Canada 150, I’m thinking of 150 years of what?” she asked. “As a Black person, I don’t see myself reflected in anything about Canada 150 at all.”

The panelists also discussed the basis of Canada’s foundation, asking why Canadians are celebrating the past 150 years when the country’s history stretches far beyond that.

Zachariah, who is Afro-Indigenous, argued that the sesquicentennial celebrates the erasure of the history of Indigenous peoples who have been here much longer than European settlers. “When I think about 150 and 10,000, there’s just no comparison,” he said.

Clarke stated that it was also important to remember the original reason for Confederation, saying that “Canada is, in my opinion, the result of the British empire’s need to establish a bulwark against American manifest destiny, nothing more and nothing less than that.”

There was also discussion about the role of language in Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples.

Haque, who teaches in York’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, spoke about the “importance of language” and how colonialism has destroyed parts of Indigenous culture.

“It is also through the imposition of colonial languages and the violent expunging of Indigenous languages and other languages that are here that colonialism is trying to break Indigenous relationship with land,” she said.

Zachariah echoed Haque’s point, saying, “They stole your language and your culture and they charge you $10,000 a year to get it back,” referring to the tuition some students might have to pay in order to learn Indigenous languages.

When asked by The Varsity how he plans to use his position as CFS National Chairperson to educate students on these issues, Zachariah said that it would be “by having this conversation, by being open to talking to places like The Varsity about what it means and what it could mean, and how we can form better relationships moving forward.” He said his role as chairperson can be to help foster those conversations.

He also said that he was “very open to working with any school,” including U of T, despite the UTSU’s current anti-CFS stance.

Hudson declined to comment.

Former UTSU executive director Sandra Hudson hired as union staff representative at York University

Hiring process marked by delays

Former UTSU executive director Sandra Hudson hired as union staff representative at York University

Sandra Hudson, former University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) executive director, has been hired by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 3903. Hudson is to serve a six-month term as CUPE 3903’s temporary staff representative.

CUPE 3903 represents teaching assistants and sessional lecturers at York University. All three units of the union went on strike at York University last year, around the same time as U of T’s CUPE 3902. 

According to Maija Duncan, CUPE 3903 communications officer, the process by which Hudson was hired was delayed due to “a procedural question of whether or not the high number of abstentions at the meeting counted towards the vote total.”   

A CUPE 3903 statement on Hudson’s hiring stated that the hiring committee submitted its endorsement for a candidate at the January 7 General Members’ Meeting (GMM). An executive committee meeting was scheduled for January 12 in order to ratify the decision.

Before this meeting could take place, a member of the hiring committee told CUPE 3903 chairperson Jen Cypher that there were hiring committee members who wanted a final meeting to discuss their recommendation. This occurred a day before the executive committee was scheduled to meet. As a result, the executive committee meeting was postponed and Cypher was informed a few days later that the hiring committee would not be meeting.

The executive committee approved Hudson’s hiring on January 19.   

“We are hoping to learn from the complications and delays of this hiring process, and will form a committee to write a report and make recommendations in order to ensure that future hiring processes run smoothly and in a timely fashion,” read a portion of CUPE 3903’s statement. 

Duncan declined to comment further: “We are not willing to comment on the decisions of the hiring committee, which does its job under conditions of confidentiality for obvious reasons,” she said.

The minutes from the GMM at which Hudson’s hiring was brought to the union’s membership have not been approved and are not available to the public.

Hudson is currently in the midst of a legal dispute with the UTSU. Hudson served as executive director of the UTSU until her departure at the end of April 2015. The UTSU alleges that Hudson fraudulently obtained cheques for overtime hours, amounting to a total of $247,726.40. Hudson is countersuing the UTSU for $300,000 in damages, alleging that the UTSU had a plan to treat her harshly and to humiliate her once the new executives took office. 

UTSU settles lawsuit with former president Yolen Bollo-Kamara

Proceedings against former executive director, former vice president, internal ongoing

UTSU settles lawsuit with former president Yolen Bollo-Kamara

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) has settled its legal dispute with former president Yolen Bollo-Kamara. The UTSU announced in a joint statement with Bollo-Kamara that it is no longer pursuing the lawsuit against her, and that a settlement had been reached.

The UTSU’s Board of Directors approved the settlement on January 23. The settlement includes an affidavit from Bollo-Kamara, the contents of which are sealed. The joint statement, however, reveals some of the information from the affidavit.

According to the statement, Bollo-Kamara had sworn under oath that she “did not receive a financial benefit relating to the payment of Ms. [Sandra] Hudson.” The statement also claims that because of Bollo-Kamara’s close relationship with Hudson, Hudson was able to convince Bollo-Kamara — who is responsible for signing the cheques — that she was entitled to the payments. Furthermore, Hudson allegedly told Bollo-Kamara that she had sought legal advice on the Termination Agreement and other documents from DLA Piper, to which DLA Piper has denied.

“Therefore, from the position of the UTSU, Ms. Bollo-Kamara was following the direction of Ms. Hudson who she believed had property authority and had consulted legal counsel,” read a portion of the statement.

The terms of the settlement remain confidential. Whether any money was involved in the settlement remains unconfirmed. Bollo-Kamara’s legal counsel did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

In September 2015, The Varsity reported that the UTSU had initiated a lawsuit against its former executive director Sandra Hudson and former vice president, internal and services, Cameron Wathey, in addition to Bollo-Kamara.

The UTSU’s statement of claim alleges that in the time leading up to Hudson’s departure, Bollo-Kamara and Wathey fraudulently authorized 2,589.5 hours of overtime pay for Hudson, bringing the total of her severance package to $247,726.40, which roughly reflects 10 per cent of the union’s operating budget. This is despite the fact that Hudson had never claimed any overtime hours in the time that she had worked for the union.

Bollo-Kamara and Wathey filed their notices to defend in October

In December 2015, Hudson moved to countersue the union for $300,000 in damages. Hudson claimed that the overtime payouts were standard practice and that she had frequently worked long hours despite not filing for overtime. She also alleged that the new executive would have created a hostile environment for her and that the UTSU violated the non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses of the termination. The UTSU has denied these allegations.

Coleman confirmed that the proceedings against Wathey and Hudson are ongoing. He told The Varsity that he wants to see the money returned and that the union prefers a non-court resolution by means of arbitration or mediation.

“It’s really just about the resources that the UTSU had that left the door,” said Coleman. “So, ideally, we’d like it resolved in an amicable way.”