Council receives presentation on Iranian solidarity

Council also revisits conversation with Indian Residential School Survivors Society

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This photo is of the SFU stadium at the Burnaby Campus. The stadium is empty but it is a sunny day.
PHOTO: Krystal Chan / The Peak

By: Pranjali J Mann, News Writer

Editor’s Note: The article was updated on November 3, 2022 to reflect the correct full names and titles of Peter Hance and Ayooluwa Adigun.

Open letter calls for increased support with Iranian community 

Yasamin Asadian from the SFU Iranian Club gave a presentation to The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) Council asking for solidarity with the Iranian community. She discussed an open letter addressed to SFU and University of British Columbia, regarding the issue of ongoing protests in Iran. This letter was formulated in collaboration with SFU Iranian club, students and faculty at SFU, and the UBC Persian Club.

After the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody, protests broke out in parts of Iran. They demanded an end of oppression against women in the Republic. Many cities across the globe including Vancouver, Paris, and Sweden have shown support by hosting demonstrations. 

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner also condemned the ongoing violence towards women in Iran, often leading to deaths. The experts noted that the decades of struggle against the “compulsory hijab rules and the violations of their fundamental human rights,” need to be heard now.  

Asadian noted many protestors are currently being “arrested and tortured in the prisons.” On this, she presented to the Council the letter which was based on demands and requests from the “community, whether they are Persian or Afghan, and other middle-Eastern.” 

According to her, the letter consists of three key parts: helpful resources for students, information on the office for student support, and “academic community support.” She highlighted the need of having “funding and spaces for public gatherings to have conversations and dialogues on the current women’s liberation movement.”

Further, in collaboration with the SFU psychology center, Asadian hoped to continue the mental health awareness and support events. She said, “We really appreciate their efforts. But we really wish to continue all of this because it’s an ongoing process and it’s not enough to just have a few sessions. I believe this is something that needs to continue for over a year or so.”

She also proposed appointing a specific “trauma therapist” to assist Iranian students, and increasing research avenues “by and for Iranian communities” at SFU. These propositions, along with increased teaching about the culture and language, were made in consultation with Iranian faculty and students. She called for greater flexibility in admission requirements, such as the International English Level Testing System (IELTS) score, application fees, and deadlines for new incoming students. 

The complete petition and open letter can be found on their Facebook page

SFSS discusses apologizing for harmful statements regarding reconciliation

A motion was introduced in response to a conversation that occurred at the last Council meeting on September 28. According to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Students Association councillor Peter Hance, it included “anti-Indigenous and colonial rhetoric” during a conversation about the SFSS’ financial contributions to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS). He noted the comments from the SFSS showed Council members’ “lack of empathy, respect, and understanding regarding truth and reconciliation.” 

Hance cited the chat from the last meeting. Pointing to policy IP-7 and SFSS’s goals to uphold Indigenous values and concerns, he noted the behaviours of Council should reflect the wishes of the student body.

He believes the Council engaged in “the defamation of the IRSSS.” In this light, he hopes the chair would intervene whenever such harmful conversations happen in the future and issue an apology for the matter at hand. He added, “It felt very disrespectful, how we were treated in that meeting and how Indigenous students were treated.” During the conversation, he explained, councillors called for more information on the organizations and their work in future, when making a decision to endorse them or give a donation. 

SFSS president Helen Sophia Pahou, said the IRSSS “is a legitimate organization,” and Council was poorly informed beforehand. She added, “CIBC donated $50,000 to the IRSSS as well. As councillors, it’s our duty to inform ourselves about this.”

VP external and community affairs Eshana Baran said, “We should be held accountable to what was said. Also, making sure in the future that it never happens again.” 

Science undergraduate society councillor, Ayooluwa Adigun, said, “Council should not be made to apologize [ . . . ] All the councillors here did was rightfully voice their worries.” 

Pahou added, “We are deflecting from accountability and if there’s something that all of us councillors have taken from last week, it’s that Council can do better.”

Citing the lack of clarity on the proposed donation to IRSSS, Council voted for the amended motions to open future avenues for members to have informed decisions. 

Pahou noted she felt the SFSS has “let down the Indigenous community.” Pahou said the Council still needed to do more than this motion, and choose to not vote in favour. 

The amended motion to hold informative sessions and workshops for councillors on Indigenous reconciliation did not pass. Thus, the apology was striked from the motion, and an avenue to have information workshops was carried over to be addressed at the next Council meeting.