AVEQ had just two members left, including the Concordia Student Union
The Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ), the federation of student unions that has fought for the rights of Concordia students since 2015, will soon cease to exist.
On Jan. 26, the AVEQ announced that it had begun the process of dissolving that same afternoon.
The federation said the decision was motivated by “several administrative and financial challenges that contributed towards an overall lack of trust between the association and its members. As a result, over the past three years, the association no longer had the capacity to expand its mandate, and failed to increase its membership.”
The AVEQ said its dissolution “will mark the start of a new opportunity for better, more effective provincial representation for all students across Quebec.”
“In the beginning, when the AVEQ was created, the goal was to be able to represent student associations that have less visibility on the political scene, meaning religion students’ associations and student associations of Anglophone universities,” said Laura Daigneault, a member of the AVEQ’s administrative council. “These two groups, despite their differences, could align themselves on issues that concern all students at the university level across Quebec. These include the remuneration of internships and the decreasing student populations in the regions.”
Daigneault said the union advocated for its students by working with government organizations and other youth groups across Quebec. It also spearheaded campaigns against sexual violence, tuition hikes and unpaid internships, according to its website.
At the time of its disbandment, the AVEQ represented about 38,000 students: 35,000 in the Concordia Student Union (CSU), and about 3,000 in the Association générale étudiante de l’Université de Rimouski (AGECAR). Until last fall, the Mouvement des associations générales étudiantes de l’université de Québec à Chicoutimi (MAGE-UQAC) was also a member, comprising 7,000 students. However, the union voted on Oct. 23, 2018 to disband from the AVEQ.
UQAC’s student newspaper, Le Griffonnier, reported at the time that the administrative council, executive council and central council of the union all recommended the move, and that when the union’s members voted on the motion, it faced “little opposition. The AVEQ’s management practices and its internal climate seemed to be at the heart of the problem.”
The article further states that in the meeting, members criticized the AVEQ for failing to publish meeting minutes on its website, with the last documents dating to July 2017. Daigneault declined to comment on the issue.
Daigneault said it was in late November 2018, about a month after MAGE-UQAC’s departure, that the AVEQ’s administrative council began to discuss its possible dissolution. At the time, the council included members of the CSU and AGECAR.
“The announcement of AVEQ’s disbandment was not a surprise but it certainly saddens us,” MAGE-UQAC’s VP of Internal Affairs, Hélène Villeneuve, told The Concordian in a written statement. “Despite our disaffiliation from this organization in October, the fact remains that AVEQ’s demise creates an impact on the student political landscape and that, even if it wasn’t meeting our needs anymore, AVEQ contributed to improve Quebec’s students’ condition in its own way.”
“Our intention of leaving AVEQ was to respect the will of our members and to ensure their
representation, but not to induce its disbandment,” Villeneuve explained.
Villeneuve said the union is not currently looking to join another provincial federation.
“In general, the AVEQ did a good job in creating itself a place in the provincial political sphere,” said the CSU’s External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator, Camille Thompson. However, “a provincial association cannot only function with two or three student associations. It has to create wider solidarity.”
Thompson said this inability to attract new members created distrust between the CSU and the AVEQ. After MAGE-UQAC left the federation in October, AGECAR announced that it would also leave by early February, had the federation not dissolved by that time. “Therefore, last December, council took the decision to vote in favour of the dissolution of AVEQ if the motion was brought up in Congress by AGECAR,” said Thompson. This vote never happened, but Thompson said the CSU supported the AVEQ in its decision to dissolve.
Thompson said Concordia students will be most immediately affected by no longer having to pay their AVEQ fees. However, “when fighting for better and [more] accessible education, the effects are felt more in the long run than in the day-to-day.”
The AVEQ’s most recent publicly available financial report, for the fiscal year ending in April 2017, shows that the federation had a year-end surplus of about $63,600. However, the report said the figures had not been audited. Daigneault declined to answer questions about the union’s finances, except to say that they had been audited last year in accordance with the law.
Daigneault said the federation will hire a team of lawyers to assist in the dissolution and to ensure that the federation doesn’t have any hidden debt.
Graphic by @spooky_soda