Loose Cannon: Why the CSA should censure Momina Mir
Thursday, November 19, 20096 Comments
Thecannon doesn’t normally report on harassment complaints, but since Mir made the comments during an open session (with
Local politics is rarely a no-holds barred grudge match, but occasionally a certain degree of refereeing is required to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules.
Take last Wednesday’s CSA board meeting, which provided an interesting example of the politics of personal conflict taken to the extreme.
The board was debating whether Curtis Batuszkin, the student behind a petition drive to leave the Canadian Federation of Students would be permitted attend the CFS Annual General Meeting in December as part of the official local delegation.
John Sakuluk, the board member who brought forward the motion, argued that Batuszkin wanted to attend the meeting to network with other student delegates who were working on defederation drives. (It’s important to note that some of the 13 universities that held petition drives have official support from their student unions.)
Being an official delegate rather than an observer would have allowed Batuszkin to participate in committees and cast a vote on the floor.
The problem was that the CSA’s official delegation had already been chosen. The board needed to revise the original motion to include Batuszkin, which required two-thirds majority.
External Commissioner Momina Mir, who represents the CSA to the Federation, made it clear she was opposed to having Batuszkin tag along. She argued that two other students applied to join the delegation after the deadline and had been turned down. Besides, she pointed out, the CSA was already overspending by sending five representatives to the meeting, which wasn’t going to be about referendums anyways.
She could have ended it there. Instead, she leveled a startling accusation, claiming Batuzskin had “filed a false harassment complaint” against her to the Human Rights and Equity Office.
Thecannon doesn’t normally report on harassment complaints, but since Mir made the comments during an open session (with Batuzskin in attendance, no less) it became a matter of public record.
Both Mir and Batuszkin have since refused to discuss details of the complaint, but it’s difficult to keep such things under wraps in an organization as large as the CSA.
It didn’t take much digging to determine two things: (a) Mir revealed the existence of a formerly confidential dispute to elected officials, the press and at least one guest, and (b) the complaint hasn’t yet been resolved, making her claim of being the target of a “false” allegation somewhat premature.
The outburst was a clear violation of Parliamentary Procedure, the rules of conduct that allow governments and other deliberative bodies to function. It constituted an attack on Batuszkin’s character that strayed outside the boundaries of the conversation. As Roberts Rules Newly of Order Newly Revised put it: “The measure, not the member, is the subject of debate.”
More specifically, Mir accused Batuszkin of filing a complaint in bad faith, which is a big no-no in almost every governing body I’ve encountered. People may laugh at the antics that play out during Question Period on Parliament Hill, but there are some rules that remain strictly enforced. One of those rules is: don’t accuse your opponent being a liar.
If it were a single slip of the tongue I might be forgiving, but this marks the second time Mir has used the pulpit at a board meeting to make unsubstantiated allegations against Batuszkin. At a board meeting in October she accused Batuszkin and his petitioners of “misleading” students to get their signatures.
I should point out that Batuzskin’s behaviour at the CSA Board meetings hasn’t been perfect, either. He has shown a tendency to become defensive when questioned, prompting the chair to rule him out of order on at least one occasion.
Batuzskin and Mir clearly have some ideological differences that are causing interpersonal problems. The key difference is the Mir is an elected official, while Batuszkin only speaks for himself. The board can remove Batuszkin’s speaking rights and bar him from the meeting if he ever gets out of hand.
Mir appears to think she can use her position of power to attack people she disagrees with. The CSA Board should issue an official reprimand to remind her that this is not the case.
The “Batuszkin” question ultimately failed on a tie vote. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how Mir’s allegation affected the outcome, which is why basic rules of decorum are important when conducting board business.
Ironically, the CSA Board used its last meeting as an orientation session for its recently hired External Chair, Julian Mehra. He certainly has his job cut out for him.
Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.
The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.