The first forum of the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union 2022 elections was the Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ) forum. Conducted in-person at CSJ on March 2, the event was also accessible virtually through Zoom and an Instagram livestream.
Candidates gave their opening statements, and spent the next part of the forum asking and answering questions towards their opponents. The remaining time in the forum was spent answering audience questions, which were sent in both virtually and asked in-person.
Here is the TL;DR version of this forum:
- President: primary CSJ issues and previous advocating experience.
- Vice-president (operations and finance): accessible resources for CSJ students
- Vice-president (student life): inclusive communities on campus
- Vice-president (external): external outreach for CSJ funding
- Vice-president (academic): prerequisite courses completed at CSJ
- Board of Governors Representative: advocating for underrepresented students
- Alberta Public Interest Research Group (APIRG): resources and services accessible in French
- World University Service of Canada (WUSC): history as oldest referendum at the U of A
- International Students’ Association Fee (ISAF): how fee would benefit international students at CSJ
- Student Legal Services (SLS): accessible online services for CSJ students
Presidential candidates identify primary CSJ issues in opening statements, questioned on previous experience conducting advocacy for CSJ
In their opening statements, presidential candidates shared examples of past advocacy they have conducted for CSJ. Additionally, they expressed promises of future advocacy if elected.
Abner Monteiro, presidential candidate and current vice-president (academic) in the Students’ Union, touched on improving collaboration and communication between student representatives on North Campus and CSJ. He also identified past advocacy work he has done, such as addressing prerequisite courses completed at CSJ not being recognized at North Campus.
“Through collaboration with Association des Universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean (AUFSJ) we were able to start a pilot program with the registrar’s office to identify all the courses with such an issue, and rectified it immediately,” Monteiro said. “As students expressed there was only one academic advisor that was advising over 800 undergraduate students at CSJ. I constantly advocated all those of university administration, to make sure that this was an issue for them.”
Emily Kimani, presidential candidate and current vice-president (operations and finance), identified a need for greater collaboration between the Students’ Union and AUFSJ. Additionally, she noted a lack of accessible resources as a primary issue for CSJ students.
“La Centrale is CSJ’s community hub, where students [are] supported in all aspects of their student life,” Kimani said. “Because CSJ is severely underfunded, services like La Centrale often lack of proper resources that are needed to support students. This means that CSJ students are sent to North Campus to access the services they need — this is unacceptable.”
Haruun Ali, presidential candidate and current Students’ Union open studies councillor, identified budget cuts and a lack of sufficient funding as a primary issue for CSJ.
“This has been tough for a lot of students, especially for CSJ because of massive funding cuts, and really, we’re even seeing cuts to staff now too,” Ali said. “We need to be ready to work with all levels of government to ensure that CSJ is an important advocacy point at the next provincial election.”
A student in the audience asked candidates about their previous experience with CSJ advocacy.
“Clearly CSJ requires a lot of advocacy, and someone who needs to be a strong advocate for them,” they said. “What is your experience with successful advocacy in regards to CSJ specifically?”
Ali recognized having less experience with the Students’ Union and CSJ issues, and instead drew attention to advocacy outside in the greater Edmonton community.
“I haven’t been involved with the Students’ Union long — I just recently joined council — so I haven’t had any wins when it comes to CSJ,” he said. “However, I can talk about other wins I have had. I’m an activist in the community. I’ve organized several different protests against several different issues, whether it be about Black Lives Matter, cuts by the provincial government, or ensuring people feel safe regardless of their skin colour.”
Kimani discussed experience from her role as vice-president (operations and finance), including securing a menstrual product dispenser for CSJ.
“When I ran for vice-president (operations and finance) I had three things on my platform in relation to CSJ,” she said. “The first one was securing a menstrual product dispenser at CSJ… the second was meeting monthly with my [AUFSJ] counterpart, which I have… and the third was making sure our bylaws and policies were translated in French… all that is happening as well with the election packages.”
Monteiro noted consistent meetings with CSJ and AUFSJ members as an example of advocacy he has done for the CSJ community as vice-president (academic).
“I have had monthly meetings, if not meeting twice a month, with members of CSJ and AUFSJ to make sure we’re addressing issues and staying up to date on what’s happening,” he said. “I also think a very important part of my role this year is not just doing advocacy on behalf of the Students’ Union, but also empowering them to do advocacy for themselves and making sure they’re representing you.”
VP Ops Fi candidate discusses UASU Cares and period equity
During the CSJ forum the sole vice-president (operations and finance) (VP Ops Fi) candidate, Julia Villoso, discussed better support for CSJ and its students. Villoso is a third year bachelor of arts student and current Students’ Union arts councillor.
She emphasized the importance of CSJ and how UASU Cares, a wellness directory, can help students.
“CSJ is incredibly important to the U of A campus community… every single one of you pays for SU services and you deserve access to them,” she said. “That is why I specifically want to focus on UASU Cares and how to cater to CSJ students.”
UASU is a wellness directory that “enables all students to find all their resources they ever need.”
She added that “It should not be a struggle to access these services and I think they are the key to the link between [the] two campuses and supporting CSJ students.”
Villoso was asked if she supports and will continue the period equity project of free menstrual project dispensers.
“Period equity is a large part of my current platform, specifically in regards to environmental sustainability aspect… I really want to expand this project further in CSJ.”
Villoso was later asked how she would ensure monolingual francophones are able to access Students’ Union Building (SUB) services and businesses.
“This is a really important one… looking at all of our services and businesses to make available for CSJ students,” she said. “[To] try to get more French employees and try to hire more students who are French speakers I think it is a good idea to be brought up, and definitely something I’ll talk about when I’m in the role next year.”
VPX candidates discuss external outreach and securing CSJ funding
The vice-president (external) (VPX) race partially consists of outreach — something required for securing CSJ funding. This is something both candidates expressed concern about. Candidate Chris Beasley, a fifth-year political science student and current Students’ Union arts councillor, spoke first and gave his entire opening statement in French.
Incumbent Christian Fotang, a fourth-year biology student and current Students’ Union vice-president (external), followed up with a personal reflection on the struggles of CSJ.
Beasley spoke of his connection to Francophonie; he was born in Quebec and lived in Montreal for ten years. He spoke about the need to sustainably fund CSJ. He called this “un moment déterminant” — a determining moment for CSJ as the federal and provincial governments are in discussions about CSJ.
He said he wants to focus on the financial accessibility of university education, mental health, and additional funding for international students who want to study French.
Fotang, a Cameroonian anglophone, began by speaking about the Cameroon anglophone crisis. He said that what started out as a peaceful strike by an anglophone minority has escalated into a deadly secessionist movement and impacted his own family.
“Language symbolizes identity. It is the means by which culture and its traditions are shared, values must be conveyed and preserved,” said Fotang.
Considering his commitment to the fight for CSJ, Fotang added “my family and I have lost one home… I will not see the loss of another one.”
He finalized his pitch by highlighting his work as the incumbent in working with AUFSJ.
Fotang went on to ask Beasley what he would do differently than him if he were elected, suggesting he might as well continue the work he already started.
“I believe you outlined your plan to secure funds for CSJ and working properly with stakeholders to provide for AUFSJ, so what would you do differently than I would, and, if that’s your solution, why don’t I continue to keep doing what I’m doing?”
Beasley argued he should be the vice-president (external) because sustainable funding is present in his platform.
He proposed three possible ways to increase CSJ funding: moving Campus Alberta Grant funding to CSJ, increasing grants from the federal government, or creating a Western-Canadian fund for French post-secondary education.
“When it comes to who is going to be better prepared and better able to secure the sustainable funding — I think it is going to be me.”
Beasley went on to frame the race as a referendum on Fotang’s term as vice-president (external), suggesting he has not delivered the best possible.
“Anytime an incumbent is running, it’s a referendum on the record and a referendum on what they’ve done,” Beasley said. “I think a question that has to be on all students’ minds is why haven’t you done [your promises] already?”
Fotang argued he has worked “incredibly hard” to collaborate with stakeholders to get temporary funding for CSJ funding.
“In terms of my record, I’ve worked incredibly hard with AUFSJ and key stakeholders and a lot of people within the federal revenue to make those partnerships to get CSJ the money they needed, and we did that this year.”
VPA candidates discuss prerequisite courses completed at CSJ
Vice-president (academic) (VPA) candidate Gurleen Kaur, second-year arts student and current Students’ Union arts councillor, noted her experience in student governance as a teaching opportunity on academic issues.
“[Through] student governance I came to know about the academic issues students have been facing… I want to advocate to prevent further regression of programs or courses at CSJ and improving program quality for our francophone students.”
During his opening statement the second vice-president (academic) candidate Milan Regmi, a third-year music and education student and current Students’ Union senator, noted the impact of government budget cuts on CSJ.
“Government cuts to funding has… decreased the quality of education and services provided in French,” Regmi said. “I want to ensure that all services… are able to provide French language services for those who require it. I’ll also do my best to ensure that the Students’ Union communicates announcements and important information [in French, so] French students can receive more information.”
Regmi asked Kaur how students could trust her commitments, as she did not present a platform prior to the CSJ forum.
“You talked about improving academic access. You talked about increasing [options] online and making sure things hybrid, but we don’t know what your plan is because you haven’t released a website on your social media page and you haven’t started releasing your platform yet on your social media as well.”
Kaur responded that this was because she “decided to run quite late.”
“I will be posting everything on my Instagram platform and I’ll make sure that students get to know what my strategies are because we still have a full week left, and I’ll make sure that I reach out to everybody and I’ll make sure that they know what I’m going to do and they can decide,” Kaur said.
A staff member from The Gateway, asked what candidates would do to address issues regarding prerequisite courses completed at CSJ.
“A specific issue for students at CSJ has been specific courses that are done here at CSJ have sometimes not been counted as prerequisites for advanced [level] courses at North Campus and other parts of campuses… if elected what would you do to address these concerns?” they asked.
Kaur said, if elected, she would make sure governing boards such as GFC make this issue a priority.
“I would make sure [governing boards] would keep this [as a] priority instead of pushing it to the side, but the main post is advocacy for all,” she said. “I would regularly report the progress that we make on said issues.”
Regmi said, when considering the issue, it is essential to “include everybody” in the advocacy.
“We need to include everybody, it doesn’t just depend on those in big faculties. It also depends on those in smaller areas and profiles,” he said. “That’s something I would do, reach out more to smaller groups with CSJ to make sure as many things as possible are being done.”
VPSL candidates discuss normalization of French across campuses, supporting LGBTQIA2S+ community
Vice-president (student life) (VPSL) candidates discussed how to ensure Students’ Union policies are inclusive of marginalized communities at the U of A, including both francophone students at CSJ and LGBTQIA2S+ students. During their answers, both candidates discussed how their promises are informed by their lived experiences — Rowan Morris as a non-binary student and Joannie Fogue as a CSJ student.
Morris is a third year elementary education student and current Students’ Union education councillor. Fogue is a third year political science student and current Association des Universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean (AUFSJ) president.
A member of the audience asked Fogue about what her advocacy for LGBTQIA2S+ students will look like, specifically in relation to ensuring sexual violence education is inclusive.
Fogue spoke to supporting LGBTQIA2S+ students while not being part of the community herself. During the forum, all of Fogue’s responses were in French.
“I’m firstly going to say that I’m not in a position to respond to and represent a community I’m not a part of, because I don’t think that’s respectful at all,” Fogue said. “All the points in my platform, concerning sexual violence, I mention I will advocate for this community. Policies surrounding sexual violence will be renewed November of this year.”
In response to the same question, Morris spoke to how they plan to continue advocating for the LGBTQIAS2+ community on campus.
“I’ve been working on developing a cultural, competent and multilingually available consent information that does include LGBTQIA2S+ people,” Morris said. “If we are able to expand The Landing — Students’ Union service at the University of Alberta main campus that offers support for gender and sexual diversity — if I’m successful elected I would want to bring a chapter to CSJ.”
“I would work to increase that advertising so people know that they are able to access services in a language that values them.”
When another audience member asked how candidates would normalize the use of French across all campuses — not only CSJ — Morris mentioned bringing francophone events to North Campus and Augustana Campus.
“Having more franco celebrations brought to other campuses, where folks can learn more about francophone culture, especially with francophone culture looks like in this area of Edmonton, I know is extremely unique… to [connect] multiple other intersecting identities.”
Alternatively, Fogue said a way to normalise French is to elect French-speaking student representatives.
“How are we going to normalize this [use of French]?” she asked. “You have to vote for the candidate that speaks French. Vote for the student who goes to CSJ, because I will make sure that each time we have conversations about appeals, programs, finances, that CSJ is included. We normalize this, and we ensure that students at CSJ have a voice at the table. I am a student, I am your [AUFSJ] president, and I will ensure that your voice is heard.”
-Jessy Azarcoya Barrera
BoG rep candidate questioned regarding concerns about diversity of the BoG and ensuring diverse voices are heard
Alex Dorshied, third year commerce student and sole Board of Governors representative candidate, was unable to attend the forum in-person and instead attended virtually via Zoom.
A question was asked of Dorschied, a third year commerce student at the U of A, about how the BoG representative has “traditionally been held by a White, straight male with a governing body of the same demographic” and thus certain groups may feel underrepresented in BoG decision making.
“How will you ensure that diverse voices, specifically CSJ voices are heard?” the audience member asked.
“I am a White, straight male — and that is just who I am,” Dorschied said. “I’m not an expert on CSJ issues, I’m not an expert in Augustana issues … but what I can be an expert in is I can advocate and go to CSJ and go to Augustana and look at the minority groups and talk with them firsthand about what their needs are.”
Dorschied emphasized that he is going to “advocate for the students at CSJ, … [and] be in consultation with the [AUFSJ] president whenever [he] has the chance to.”
Funding applications in French are welcome, APIRG says
Sarah Alemu, Alberta Public Interest Research Group (APIRG)’s outreach coordinator was their representative at the CSJ forum.
She described how APIRG was “… student-run, non-profit… for over 20 years [and] has funded projects designed by undergraduate students which uplift our campuses.” It has an optional fee for North Campus and CSJ students.
Through her speech, she emphasized what APIRG has been doing during the pandemic reaching as far back as 2020. According to Alemu, APIRG’s board approved $20,000 at the start of the pandemic for funding student and community needs during a time of increased isolation, which has progressed since into $124,000 for students with projects that promote an inclusive, just, and diverse campus empowering students to be more active citizens and transform their communities.
Apart from funding student projects she also mentioned how APIRG has supported their community in a number of ways.
“We’ve supported a number of community projects and events, working in areas of harm reduction, gender-based violence, food equity, and arts and culture.”
In addition, she mentioned the multitude of workshops and training they offer virtually such as consensus-based decision making, anti-oppression and grant writing.
During the question section of the forum, APIRG was only asked one question — if any of the work that they do is conducted in French, or if it’s all conducted in English.
Alemu said APIRG having a board representative that speaks French therefore enabling the processing of French submitted funding applications. She also mentioned how students of North Campus and CSJ are all eligible to apply — however, she acknowledged most of the work is conducted primarily in English.
WUSC highlights their history of advocacy for refugees
Fatima Karidio, a third year psychology student at CSJ, spoke on behalf of the World University Student of Canada (WUSC) at Wednesday’s forum.
During her opening remarks, which Karidio delivered in French, she spoke about WUSC’s importance in providing refugee students with support coming to Edmonton and securing them permanent residency status after they’ve arrived. Specifically, Karidio said WUSC has helped refugee students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds — and, given the current escalation of violence between Russia and Ukraine, more work remains to be done.
“In the past, WUSC have intensified their efforts in that which concerned Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, the Congo, and others,” Kimridio said. “Obviously, we see what is happening now in Ukraine. Now is not the time to stop.”
WUSC side received no audience questions, speaking only in their opening and closing statements.
At the end of the forum, Karidio spoke in English to emphasize the long history of the WUSC fund and how the referendum offers U of A students the chance to commit to aiding refugees.
“Just remember that the student refugee fund is the oldest continuous student [funding] at the University of Alberta. Since 1988 — so you have the opportunity to continue this 30-year-long legacy, to contribute and commit to refugee students who still need our help.”
ISAF discusses how fee would benefit international students at CSJ
Warren Leung, co-vice-president (internal) of the International Students’ Association (ISA) and forum representative for the ISA fee (ISAF), only delivered opening remarks at the CSJ forum but used his time to highlight how the proposed $3.50 fee would impact international students who come to the U of A to study in French.
Delivering his remarks, Leung discussed how the ISA has worked alongside AUFSJ to support international students studying at CSJ in French.
“In the past, we’ve worked with AUFSJ to help students on the Campus Saint-Jean. This is why… so many international students are registered at Campus Saint-Jean.”
If passed, Leung said the ISAF would hold many benefits for students, including the creation of a community support fund to help student groups hold cultural events. The fee would provide funding for holding year-round events for international students like I-Day — something Leung said could be expanded to CSJ if students expressed interest.
SLS puts spotlight on accessible services for CSJ students
Jeremy Hoefsloot, a third year law student and former Student Legal Services (SLS) executive coordinator, represented the SLS. Only delivering opening and closing remarks at the referendum, Hoefsloot began by giving a brief overview of the work SLS does for students at the U of A.
“SLS provides free legal representation for criminal and civil matters for U of A undergraduates and low income individuals in Edmonton,” Hoefsloot said. “From impaired driving to assault, from possession of narcotics to child custody matters and residential disputes, SLS has been there to represent you.”
Hoefsloot went into detail over how SLS’s services can directly be available for CSJ students.
“We’re adding new services for students starting this year, including a human rights project where we’ll fight for you on at the Human Rights Tribunal if you are facing discrimination — including on language issues. We’ll make sure your rights are respected.”
He noted that students no longer have to go to North Campus to access SLS’s services, as services are available “completely online” and are available in French “most years.”
Note: During the Campus Saint-Jean forum, two questions were asked to the vice-president (external) candidates that mentioned The Gateway’s annual SU Executive report cards. Due to a conflict of interest, The Gateway did not include coverage of the comments in the forum recap.
We do not feel it is appropriate for a news organization to have a monopoly on the coverage of issues which involve The Gateway, especially when said news organization must retain objectivity and neutrality in its reporting. The Gateway will not comment on this further.
Correction: The article was updated on March 5 at 12:47 p.m. to reflect that VPX candidate Chris Beasley is seeking funding from the federal government.
CORRECTION: At 12:50 p.m. on March 5, this article was corrected to reflect that vice-president (external) candidate Chris Beasley is seeking funding from the federal government. A previous version stated funding from the university. The Gateway regrets this error.