This is a response to an opinion piece written by the UTMSU Vice President External, Atif Abdullah. He’s absolutely right. An opinion, just like a news article, can also be misinformed.
It is entirely understandable to get defensive, especially when he is a part of an executive team of a student government that has recently been put into the hot seat. But as he emphasizes the “multiple inaccuracies” of the previous op-ed, it’s only fair that I do the same. Except instead of simply stating that there are inaccuracies, I’m going to point them out.
Let’s start with the first and most salient: defamation. Hearing the recount of a story and not being present to witness it is irrelevant. In a court of law, this is a he said-she said situation and as the burden of proof is on the journalist, there are several witnesses, myself included, who can testify against what Atif wrote. The journalist was professional and courteous when asking the staff member about her responsibilities and motives for attending the AGM. How was this blown out of proportion to be considered harassment, bullying or aggressive?
This is very clearly a legal issue in which Atif is slandering the integrity and reputation of the journalist by creating falsifications. The op-ed states that, “when an editor for The Medium began to corner and harass a part-time staff member who declined to comment about the meeting.” She did not decline, but rather tell myself, the witnesses, and the journalist that she would have to ask a member of the UTMSU executive team about any volunteer hours that volunteers may have received. She left the conversation and did not return. Unless there is proof of any harassment that took place, this is quite literally defamation and can be legally dealt with.
This brings me to the other comment on recording conversations. Perhaps one should become acquainted with the law before making unrelated statements like “executives [were] recorded without the contributor identifying themselves.” In Canada, there is a “one party consent exception to the rule against interception. […] Section 182(2) of the Criminal Code sets out […] The most important exception for the purposes of this article is the exception that applies when one of the parties to the communication consents to interception.” In other words, if one is a party of the conversation, they consent to a legal recording of that private conversation. It is simply illegal to record a conversation to which one is a third party of.
See, if Atif was actually willing to listen to the questions and critiques of those who elected them into their position, they would not brush them away as lies. Instead, their concerns would be used for the betterment of student politics, representation, and the activities of students on campus. The UTMSU claims to represent all students and yet some of us feel that our voices are not represented. When attempting to introduce motions that would benefit the union or expressing our frustrations with the body that represents us, students are shut down.
An undemocratic student government? That is a very real fear, indeed.