By Mohamed Omar
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) voted to rejoin a national lobbying group Thursday, despite not having a clear-cut stance on some of its objectives.
The RSU’s Board of Directors passed a motion to renew membership – at a $600 cost – to the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA), a coalition of social groups founded in 1985 currently boasting more than 150 members.
The CPA has lobbied the government continuously with major campaigns to oppose Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan and to call for smaller military budgets.
Its groups have passed various anti-war and anti-military resolutions at its biannual meetings, including a 2002 motion to “implement a ban on space-based weapons.” But in 2011, when the RSU hosted the CPA’s convention – although it was not a member at the time – the umbrella group passed a few resolutions that would require a general consultation with students, according to RSU President Rodney Diverlus.
One resolution calls for the CPA and its members to “urge the Government of Canada to make it a priority to eliminate the military and to divert the funding of military recruitment, facilities, [and] equipment to human needs and social programs,” 2011 CPA convention minutes state.
“The RSU does not have a stance on the military,” Diverlus said.
“That kind of mandate, it would require a policy, an issue-based policy or a motion from the general meeting, to agree and say that we now have a stance.”
Other CPA resolutions include a campaign to delist Hamas, the organization governing the Gaza Strip, from Canada’s list of terrorist organizations. A similar motion calls for the removal of Lebanese group Hezbollah from the list as well. The RSU has no official stance on these resolutions.
Although Diverlus said the RSU did not consult its student members before joining the CPA, he said that board members from different faculties ensure campus-wide representation. But the CPA’s resolutions on eliminating the military and delisting Hamas and Hezbollah from Canada’s list of terrorist organizations were not presented at the board meeting.
“We pass six to eight motions every board meeting, to say that we do broad-based consultations on every single one would be a lie,” he said.
“Students have made it clear that they want us to do anti-war and peace work, and the CPA is the body to do that.”
Melissa Palermo, the RSU’s vicepresident education, supports the motion and said she wants Ryerson students to be informed about the CPA.
“That’s a conversation that I would love to have,” Palermo said at the meeting. “[To] let students know that this alliance exists, that we’re part of it and that they can get involved in our work on campus, and provincially and nationally.”
Palermo added that the relationship between the RSU and the CPA would be mutual.
“All of our causes are linked to each other, and so when we help and support anti-war movements, they support the work we do for education because we all have the same goals in mind,” she said.
The motion to formally renew membership in the CPA was brought forward by Marwa Hamad, the RSU’s vice-president equity.
Palermo supported the motion, saying that with it “we’re able to join a lot of groups across Canada.” The RSU cancelled its membership with the CPA in 2008 due to budget cuts to the equity committee.