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ASFA, Mei Ling reach settlement

by Gregory Todaro November 24, 2015
ASFA, Mei Ling reach settlement

Mediation leads to undisclosed financial settlement and task force

Eight months after a local human rights organization filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission on her behalf, Concordia student and former Arts and Science Faculty Association executive Mei Ling—a pseudonym used to protect her identity— reached a settlement with ASFA on Thursday.

Mei Ling (right), who did not want to be identified, speaking about the settlement between herself and ASFA. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

Mei Ling (right), who did not want to be identified, speaking about the settlement between herself and ASFA. Photo by Marie-Pierre Savard.

The Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), which has represented Mei Ling since the complaint of discrimination and harassment based on her race and gender was filed in March of this year, agreed to enter mediation with ASFA.

“The reason that mediation was chosen between ASFA … and myself is because ASFA is a nonprofit organization, a student organization with changing leadership,” said Mei Ling at a press conference on Monday. “That means that there’s a very high turnover rate and new people, ideas and values come into ASFA every single academic year. We felt that there was a lot of potential there in order to really create these institutionalized changes and prevent future harm.”

During her mandate as an ASFA vice president, Mei Ling discovered a Facebook conversation between two male executives which used offensive, racist, misogynistic and sexually graphic and degrading language directed at her.

In the original complaint, CRARR was asking for $30,000 in moral and punitive damages. The settlement included an undisclosed amount of monetary compensation and an official apology from ASFA, but also required the establishment of a task force to review violence and discrimination against women and minorities in student associations and university bodies and the ways complaints on this topic are dealt with in the future.

While ASFA President Jenna Cocullo didn’t disclose the amount of monetary compensation for Mei Ling, she said that the amount wouldn’t cause any major financial problems for the organization.

“Even if [money] was a concern, our priority is getting justice for Mei Ling,” she said. “Also, since there was not that many executives this past semester, a lot of our budgets for the fall haven’t been spent so there’s going to be leftover money.”

Members of CRARR who worked on the case spoke about the importance of the outcomes of Mei Ling’s complaint.

“[We] believe that the outcome of our case will help change public debates and actions regarding sexual violence on campus in Quebec,” said CRARR community organizer Brandy deGaia.

“As a law student at McGill University, I hope this case affects the revision and finalization of McGill’s impending sexual assault policy and I know that it’ll possibly affect my school community as well,” said Yuan Stevens, who also worked on the complaint.

ASFA was given six months to create the task force. The mandate is to “address issues raised by this complaint,” and “develop and implement measures to ensure that members of the ASFA and Concordia community, and women in particular, can learn, work and be involved in campus life free of civil rights violations and violence in all its forms,” according to a statement from CRARR released Monday.

CRARR and Mei Ling said they want the task force to be made up of both members of the Concordia community and outside experts who represent Concordia’s diverse population.

“It’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about supporting an idea and a solution for this kind of problem.”

Since she launched the complaint earlier this year, Mei Ling told The Concordian that she hadn’t been contacted by anyone from the university since she filed her complaint. “The fact that Concordia hasn’t reached out to me to this day means they don’t really care,” she said.

While Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota couldn’t confirm if anyone from the university had reached out to Mei Ling, Mota said, “If we can, in any way, shape or form be involved [with the task force], it’s something we would consider.”

While this complaint against ASFA has been resolved with this settlement, the complaints against the two former executives is still under investigation by the Quebec human rights commission.

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