By: Gabrielle McLaren, Editor-in-Chief
Elegant red posters with white text appeared on campus bulletin boards and on Renaissance coffee tables late last week: SFU students would be among the many across Canada to walk out in support of the Wet’suwet’en nation. It was a powerful event, as I’m sure everyone who stopped by Convocation Mall or saw footage on social media could sense. Love, time, energy, thoughtfulness, and respect were put into organizing and bringing it to life. So why exactly did the SFSS Board of Directors schedule a meeting at the same time?
The fact that schools across Canada — including SFU — were taking part in this decentralized action shouldn’t have been a surprise. The SFU Student Walkout Facebook page first announced their intentions on February 28, and the SFSS’s branded megaphone and “In Solidarity” sign were on loan at the event. Current Board members and election candidates were present at both the rally and the temporary blockade on Gaglardi Way. Students may have even heard the Board’s president speak and lead attendees in song.
Additionally, the SFSS as an organization published a statement of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en back in February, and was one of eight BC student societies to send letters to BC’s Premier and the Prime Minister on the day of the Walkout. Supporting the event should have been part of the activist mandate the society created for itself, especially since speakers described the event, time and time again, as one in support of Indigenous sovereignty and human rights. It seems incongruous that if the Board needed to hold meetings two weeks in a row that the timing would coincide with a peaceful demonstration it should have supported.
I understand that Society business has to get done at some point. Urgent business drops out of the sky at any given time and life happens. With election season just starting this week and a resolution to the SUB space conflict on the horizon, the Board is busy. I commend individual SFSS members and staff for their work, and appreciate the importance of whatever business they had to carry during that meeting.
Plus, if Wednesday afternoons are the Board’s regular meeting times it stands that any additional meetings outside of the regular schedule should happen during the same time. It may have been inconvenient, difficult, or impossible to find another time to hold a surplus meeting that week, but concerns about meeting attendance shouldn’t have stopped the Board. There are always Board members absent from Board meetings — looking at the minutes on January 22, three Board members were absent while one called into the meeting, as did someone else on February 5 when three Board members sent their regrets. I’m sure they all had good reasons; the point is that concerns about attendance shouldn’t have prevented an inconvenient rescheduling at the cost of solidarity.
Most importantly, nothing about what students did and stood for on Wednesday was about convenience. As the event’s media advisory noted, it was about solidarity and the unmet basic demands of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. The advisory further notes that “Our academic institutions are complicit in this violent violation of Wet’suwet’en sovereignty. Many institutions have declined to make a statement . . .”
Even if it was only through timing, what statement did the SFSS make by asking students to choose how to get involved on their campus?