UBC student union president faces calls for resignation over United Nations complaint

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      The president of a student union at the University of British Columbia is facing calls for his resignation after he filed a complaint to the United Nations on behalf of the organization.

      Blake Frederick announced yesterday (November 26) that the Alma Mater Society is asking the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to appoint an independent expert or special rapporteur to investigate human-rights violations in Canada’s postsecondary education system.

      Tomorrow evening (November 28), the AMS student council will consider motions urging Frederick and vice president Tim Chu to step down, as well as a third motion that would rescind the complaint.

      Matthew Naylor, an arts representative on the council and a former AMS vice president, told the Straight today (November 27) that he only found out about the complaint yesterday after the student union sent out a press release and Frederick held a press conference.

      “What council’s more upset about, I think, is not only is this complaint ill-advised, it has also been done in a way that pulled the wool over council’s eyes, that deliberately concealed this action from council, and has proved to be immensely embarrassing for the organization that they sit on the board of and ostensibly have some control over,” Naylor, a political-science student, said by phone.

      According to Naylor, the complaint has garnered an “overwhelmingly unfavourable” response from his fellow students and councillors.

      He said he plans to vote in favour of all three motions at tomorrow’s meeting.

      If Frederick and Chu, who were both involved in bringing the complaint forward, don’t resign, the council will serve them with a notice of impeachment, which would be followed by a hearing in seven days, Naylor said.

      The November 25 complaint—submitted along with former AMS vice president Tristan Markle, and with the help of the law firm Pivot Legal LLP—argues that Canada is violating the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which it signed in 1976, by not ensuring postsecondary education is accessible to all.

      Naylor maintained that not only is the complaint a waste of students’ money, but it’s also a waste of time for an international body that deals with the “most egregious” of human-rights violations.

      “Yes, I acknowledge that Canada ratified this treaty or this commitment,” Naylor said. “But that doesn’t mean that tuition has to go down right away. There are different ways to approach it. And I think that, for a number of reasons, this could be deemed completely invalid and will have proven to be a total waste of money.”

      Frederick told the Straight today that he called tomorrow’s emergency meeting, in accordance with the student union’s rules, after receiving a petition signed by councillors.

      Speaking by phone, he wouldn’t say whether or not he will show up to the meeting, which will start at 5 p.m. in Room 206 of the Student Union Building.

      “I know that council does have some questions over process, and I look forward to answering them when I can address council in a public forum,” Frederick said. “But I think the real issue here is that students are struggling with their debt, and they need to see some real action from their student union.”

      Asked whether he thought he will still be president of the AMS in a month or two, Frederick replied that it was “premature to speculate” before he meets with the council.

      “I have heard some frustrations from students,” Frederick said. “But I’ve also received an outpouring of support from students who believe very strongly that the government is not doing enough to make postsecondary education affordable for them.”

      You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.



      Sue Stroud

      Nov 27, 2009 at 5:19pm

      Bravo to Blake Frederick the Student Union President for doing this. It's about time more Canadians started taking action. All around us our democratic egalitarian society is being eroded. The longer we stand and wait the worse the damage will be. Thank you Blake!


      Nov 27, 2009 at 6:01pm

      Blake, you failed to act in a transparent and accountable manner. you failed to consult council, and the student body-at-large, before filing this complaint. you had neither the support or the approval of the AMS Council for this action. without authorization for such drastic measure, you have circumvented those you claim to represent, and have lost the right to call your power legitimate. As far as I am concerned, without support, approval, accountability, visibility, or legitimacy, you have filed this compliant on your behalf, as well as Mr. Markle's, NOT on behalf of the UBC Student body, or on behalf of post-secondary students in general.

      Duncan, a Cartographist

      Nov 27, 2009 at 9:39pm

      Good job, Blake and Tristan. You have already accomplished more than most AMS executives. I lived with one and he never got up before 1 PM, bless his heart. To preach a modest pace on these issues, as Mr. Naylor seems to, almost insures that nothing will get done in what is a 1-year-term position. Perhaps some people are jealous that they weren't as ballsy when they had a chance. And that is why they are still playing the big- fish- in-a-small-pond game 3 years on as they beef up their resumes for a career in the great Canadian partisan power play. Bring out the big guns! Bravo.

      message to students

      Nov 27, 2009 at 10:24pm

      If your process allows your elected officials to be impeached for standing up for students...look out, you could be next, this looks really bad on UBC and sends the wrong message to all wannabe UBC students, and the rest of us who is watching.


      Nov 28, 2009 at 8:53am

      If you want to hang out your President at least do it for justifiable reason, right now as I see it he is taking an important issue and raising it to a very high level.What this shows to the outsiders that getting in to the prestigious UBC, does not necessarily gaurantee you an education...you whiners have been too spoiled by mummy and daddy, actually thats not fair, if they saw your comments they would likely withhold your allowance!

      Janet Hudgins

      Nov 28, 2009 at 9:43am

      What's the problem with í…MS? Tuition is outrageous. Not the University or the Province or the feds take steps to alleviate the pressure they created on the students they expect to anti up. People resigned to this work at jobs where they won't get paid for their work, and the Province is adamant that they never will, and go into debt for years to become the adults with the education, and god knows, the drive and energy to run this country. If all our authorities won't help what's left? The UN! Good on ya, Blake, and a pox on them what gainsay you.

      Bruce Conway

      Nov 28, 2009 at 11:12am

      Well done Blake!
      Article 13
      (c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education

      Canada's interpretation appears to be:

      c) Higher education shall be made disproportionately available to those of superior pecuniary means and in particular by the progressive introduction of restrictive fees and laws to safeguard limited access.


      Nov 28, 2009 at 12:26pm

      I can't believe people are trying to impeach this guy - he's taking a hit for the team!!! Wow, what a bunch of milk toasts. ("There are other ways of approaching this.") Oh yeah - any other avenues getting as much as attention as this?

      I graduated from UBC in 1989 - undergrad tuition was still low. Thanks to others who fought for us during the 70s, we had a tuition hike freeze.

      Stop acting out of fear and support this man!

      Down with Blake

      Nov 28, 2009 at 1:01pm

      Wow, reading these comments and the ratings you really get a sense of the Straight's readership.

      If you're from outside the University, don't get tricked by Blake's radical partisan supporters. His actions were absurd and a complete embarrassment. This is why I dread paying student fees every year. Not because I'm strapped for cash, but because I know they are going to go fund junk like this. If the executive ran things with any sort of neutrality, planning or responsibility they could easily give students what they need on half the budget.

      Hey Mattu

      Nov 28, 2009 at 1:16pm

      back up and try and be objective, you sound like a fool, certaintly your crowd could of worked another way to take your president down, right now you hide behind your bureaucratic process to rationalize your actions.

      How your lot has proceeded has made you students look bad and UBC to a degree, perhaps the great majority of UBC students will come forward and restore some dignity on behalf of UBC student society and get on with supporting your president on this very important issue.