Senate rep says social issues should be put to a popular vote.
By Sasha Mann
After initially delaying its support, the Kwantlen Student Association finally signed on to the Idle No More movement at its Jan. 16 council meeting.
When aboriginal student representative Melinda Bige asked the KSA to support Idle No More, two weeks earlier, she made it clear that it was a time sensitive issue. Bige’s first motion, raised at the Jan. 2 council meeting, was to send a letter to Ottawa, conveying Kwantlen’s support of the growing indigenous protest movement. Bige stressed that since Idle No More is an unfolding movement, it was crucial that the motion be passed quickly.
The majority of council decided otherwise, and pushed back the decision until their March 6 council meeting.
Senate representative Jared Penland said a delay was necessary to allow council to properly research their position. At the Jan. 2 meeting, Penland amended Bige’s motion, asking the KSA’s external affairs committee to research the issue and to consult with students.
Under the newly amended motion, Bige was still empowered to write a letter to the Canadian government expressing support of aboriginal rights, but not allowed to officially support Idle No More, or oppose specific government bills.
“It’s essentially the same structure answer that the federal government has been giving First Nations for hundreds of years, which is to bury them in paper work,” Bige said in an interview earlier this month with The Runner. She expressed her belief that council pushing back the decision was a way to “make it appear that they are in support of Idle No More when they are not.”
Bige believed that the council’s decision was a microcosm of Canadian colonialism and that they didn’t provide her the respect she deserves as the aboriginal constituency representative.
“The fact that they want to go through all these bills and legitimize what I’m saying is a slap in the face. And it’s essentially saying: ‘we’re going to do the same things that the Canadian government has been doing to first nations for hundreds of years. And we’re going to do it to you.’’’
“I probably shouldn’t be saying any of this stuff,” said Bige. “But I’ve had enough. I have had it with dealing with these kinds of issues.”
She further said that she provides information and momentum towards change only to feel “totally tokenized.”
After blocking Bige’s original motion at the Jan. 2 council meeting, Penland expressed his personal opinions on the KSA taking positions on social issues. “While I completely side with the Idle No More movement, I think making official endorsements for the society [sic] should probably be done by referendum.”
His desire for student input on certain issues wasn’t limited to native rights. “If we’re going to have an official position either on this movement, or on marijuana, or activism, gay rights, whatever, it doesn’t matter,” said Penland. “We ought to consult by referendum the student body.”
Penland declined The Runner’s request for an interview, but in an e-mailed statement said that if a referendum wasn’t an option, the next best thing is to have an “adequate committee structure in place.”
“It then becomes the task of these committees to thoroughly research policies (which they believe the students want) and make recommendations to the KSA Board to vote on. And this was exactly what happened at the last meeting,” he wrote.
Arzo Ansary, director of external affairs, told The Runner that her group was working quickly towards an endorsement of Idle No More in partnership with the aboriginal constituency group, and might be able to pass a decision much sooner than March 6.
“I definitely understand the need to do things by the books, because it has to be able to stand the test of time,” Ansary said. “But I also respect the urgency of the Idle No More movement.”
True to her word, Ansary’s committee met with Bige last week and quickly recommended a policy supporting Idle No More to council. That policy was then passed at the Jan. 16 council meeting.