U of G CSA draws ire following protest of RCMP on campus

The University Centre at the University of Guelph. Jack Fisher/Defunct Mayhem

Student politics has always been riddled with symbolic activism.

At the University of Guelph on Mar. 4 during a job fair, the Central Student Association’s (CSA) VP External Horeen Hassan delivered a letter to RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recruitment officers requesting that they leave campus.

Following the event, the Guelph Campus Conservatives (GCC), and Aboriginal Student Association (ASA) have been lobbying for an apology from the CSA.

The initial CSA letter was written on behalf of the undergraduate student body in support of the ongoing protests on the Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia where TC Energy is building a pipeline.

“We claim the University Centre as student space, and demand the RCMP and their whole row of gunslingers stand back from Wet’suwet’en and leave the University of Guelph immediately,” the letter said.

The CSA co-organized the action with the local Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG). The letter was delivered after about 60 students delivered a different letter to Vice-President of Finance, Don O’Leary demanding again that the University of Guelph divest from fossil fuels.
A number of students and student organizations commented on their distaste with the CSA’s actions.

The GCC was the first registered student group to respond. In a Facebook post, they wrote about their support for the RCMP and CAF.

“The premise of the CSA is to represent ALL students and not to pursue a partisan agenda that is not supported by the student body,” the GCC said as part of their Facebook statement.

On Instagram, a group calling themselves the “alternative_gryphon_union” and billing themselves as “Guelph’s alternative student voice” emerged to respond to the protest.

“It’s time that the students who have been silenced by these ‘student organizations’ plagued by extreme-leftist ideologies were given a voice in their community,” said a statement in one of their posts.

CSA VP External, Horeen Hassan’s initial response was to say that the CSA is a political, equity-seeking organization.

The CSA wrote an apology letter, and the ASA was unhappy with the language.

“There are a lot of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in this letter,” said Hassan. She pointed out some of the factual errors that arose from the second ASA letter.

“We did not host the job fair, the motion for the walkout was amended to collaborate with Fossil Free Guelph given that they had already been mobilizing around the issue, and the ASA rep voted for that amendment,” Hassan said, addressing specific passages from the letter.

The alternative_gryphon_union also responded to the letter with the statement, “They are not pawns for your political agenda and neither are we.”

With the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic and school moving online, dialogue about the action has slowed down.

Hassan says she thinks it is possible the issue will be brought up in the Fall when school is set to resume.

In the CSA’s guiding policy documents, there are hundreds of issues that the CSA board of directors has voted for the organization to support over the years.

This is not the first time that a board approved solidarity action on campus has drawn the ire of students.

In Fall 2015 following the Black Lives Matter protests downtown Toronto and on-campus at Guelph, a Facebook group was formed to “reform the CSA.” The messaging of the ‘Students for CSA Reform’ group used similar language to the students who formed the alternative_gryphon_union.

Written by
Jack Fisher

Jack Fisher is an independent journalist. He holds a BAH from the University of Guelph, and a post-graduate certificate from Sheridan College in journalism.
@Jack_Fisher_4 on Twitter and Instagram

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Written by Jack Fisher