Ottawa Students Join Unilingual Lobby Group

Bilingual student union negotiating trial membership to gain provincial representation

OTTAWA (CUP) — The University of Ottawa student union has decided to give its members provincial representation by joining an Ontario student lobby group on a trial basis — even though it’s not bilingual. The student union is now in negotiations with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance over the cost of becoming an associate member.

Associate membership “gives us all the rights and privileges, like any other member,” said Dan Bova, vice-president of the student union. “Access to all their campaign material and research. We get to go to their (annual general meetings), and we get a vote.”

The student union “would get a seat on our steering committee, as well as a seat on our general assembly,” said Adam Spence, executive director of the provincial lobby group.

According to Spence, the steering committee decides what policies and campaigns the lobby group takes on. The general assembly is where students decide the group’s positions on issues such as tuition and education funding.

“They would also have access to the (provincial) government and our resources,” Spence added, noting the lobby group meets regularly with politicians and government officials.

In January, the student union explored the option of joining the lobby group and asked it to research the cost and feasibility of becoming bilingual. The student union did not want to join an organization that was not officially bilingual and therefore couldn’t fully represent the university’s entire student population.

“Last year, they had these interesting inflated costs of bilingualism,” Bova said.

The organizations have discussed the type of resources needed for both parties to work together.

“We discovered that there might be requirements that are less than what we originally thought to be needed,” Spence said.

Now negotiations are underway to finalize the cost of associate membership, which normally goes for $5,000.

“They have knocked that (associate membership fee) down and pro-rated it,” said Bova, adding the student union board agreed to spend no more than $1,166 on the membership.

According to Bova, the student union would have the ability to opt-out of the lobby group if it changes its mind. The associate membership would be a temporary arrangement that expires.

The student union eventually plans to become a full member if the lobby group can become fully bilingual.

“I think bilingualism is important,” said Phil Laliberté, student union president, “and I think that we can help OUSA obtain that goal.”

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