Agreement and collaboration ensues after CRARR’s mention of lawsuit to ASFA
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) issued a press release on Oct. 3 asking the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) to revise their current mandate for a student-led task force. If ASFA fails to accommodate the conditions of the settlement, CRARR is permitted to seek legal action from the provincial Superior Court.
The task force is a settlement requirement of the Mei Ling case—in which allegations of sexual and racial discrimination by the former ASFA president and an ASFA executive were made by Mei Ling, a pseudonym for a former Concordia University student and ASFA executive. She filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission against ASFA under the pretences of discrimination and harassment in February 2015, with CRARR as her representative.
As the Nov. 19 anniversary of Mei Ling’s settlement approaches, CRARR wants to ensure that ASFA has not forgotten about the mandate or the need to assemble the task force, said CRARR executive director, Fo Niemi. He said the purpose of the press release is not to threaten ASFA. “We’re right now in October, and if things aren’t done by November, people are starting to then gear up for exams and likely people will wait for January,” said Niemi, adding that the winter semester can go by very fast.
He said CRARR is seeking to have a mechanism in place to ensure no problem is ignored and no one is left behind in cases of discrimination, racism, sexual assault and harassment. “My main concern is the way the task force was set up in May,” said Niemi. “It focused more on … sexual assault. You didn’t see racism as a stand alone issue.”
CRARR’s ultimatum was meant to motivate ASFA to make the necessary adjustments to the original task force mandate. Niemi said the focus of their current mandate focuses mainly on sexual assault, when the agreement talks about racism, sexism, discrimination and sexual violence.
Niemi said on August 30 he met with ASFA’s lawyer Michael Simkin, ASFA general coordinator, Andrea Krasznai, Sarah Oleil, councillor and social events coordinator for the Women’s Studies Student Association and another ASFA executive in the ASFA office and they were very receptive of CRARR’s demands.
However, Niemi referenced an article in The Concordian written on the last task force meeting. He said the meeting covered in the September 2016 article gives the impression that people are not set on or have understood that addressing racism must be part of the task force mandate. Niemi said since May, CRARR has been concerned with the fact that ASFA has not yet altered the mandate to comply with the spirit of the settlement.
Just hours after the Oct. 3 press release was published, Krasznai and Agunik Mamikonyan, community outreach and sustainability coordinator began working on an updated mandate to meet CRARR’s request. On Oct. 7, the revised mandate was sent by ASFA’s lawyer to CRARR for revision.
Mamikonyan said the mandate was re-written to not only provide solid steps on how they would take action, but they included the aspect of general discrimination.
Krasznai said once both the lawyer and the ASFA council approve this new mandate, the implementation process will begin. This includes an assessment of services to be provided for the task force, how ASFA decides who will be involved in the task force.
“Most likely I would assume that council will be more or less okay with the [mandate] because it’s things that were already in progress,” Mamikonyan said.
Niemi said CRARR is using a one-year mark to assess whether progress has been made and whether legal action needs to be taken.
“I don’t think that we will get to the point where they will have to sue us to a higher level or anything, because we’re really trying,” said Mamikonyan. “We think we can find a mutually agreeable solution.”
Approval of the revised mandate will be decided by ASFA council on Wednesday Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in room H-767 of the Hall building on Concordia’s S.G.W. campus.
Graphic by Florence Yee