AUSU Bylaw Revisions Background

Hello AUSU members!

As some of you may know, AUSU is in the process of updating our bylaw amendment process, which we are required to do in order to bring them into alignment with the Post-secondary Learning Act (PSLA) – the legislation that governs student associations in Alberta.

Last year, AUSU was made aware that the amendment procedures currently outlined in the AUSU bylaws did not comply with the PSLA. AUSU bylaws currently state that an amendment to the bylaws may only be done through a special resolution (a vote of the membership). However, the PSLA legislation mandates that bylaw creation and amendment is the sole responsibility of council, which is comprised of the members elected by the membership to manage the students’ union and represent the membership.

As soon as AUSU found out there was a possible legal conflict in our bylaws, we set to work making sure the correct steps were taken to address this issue. AUSU contacted the Alberta Advanced Education department to seek out advice. We have since developed a relationship with the Minister of Advanced Education, but they advised AUSU that the Ministry cannot provide legal interpretation of the PSLA. They confirmed that the PSLA provides the council with the authority to make its own bylaws which cannot be contrary to the PSLA, and they advised AUSU to seek out a legal opinion.

AUSU also contacted legal counsel for an official legal opinion, and also spent several months conducting extensive research.

Our legal counsel stated that:

– Council must vote to ratify every change ever done to the bylaws under the old process, in order to make the changes legal (since they were previously voted in by the membership, not AUSU council).
– Council must amend the bylaws to show that amendment may only be done by a vote of AUSU Council, who is the highest governing body of AUSU, and per the PSLA Section 95 (1) and (2) we cannot delegate that authority to the membership.

We can understand the process is a bit confusing, although the current bylaws state the changes must be made by a vote of the membership, we are legally required to change this part of the bylaws by a vote of council as that is mandated by the PSLA. The Post-secondary Learning Act expressly delegates the power to make or change bylaws to council, and, as per our legal counsel, this is subject to the legal principle ?delegatus non potest delgare?, which means, simply put, that the responsibility cannot be delegated to the membership.

AUSU has also conducted a tremendous amount of research among student associations across Canada, and in particular among those also governed by the PSLA. Our research determined that most other Alberta student associations conduct bylaw changes by a vote of council in keeping with the PSLA. However, there was a variety of processes for keeping the membership involved and aware of the changes. Some have consultations with the membership, some provide notice periods, and some require two readings and larger majority votes of council to adopt changes.

In order to make our process as collaborative and transparent as possible, AUSU decided to incorporate all four steps into the bylaw change process. As such, AUSU is providing:

– Two consultations with our membership,
– Two readings of the motion proposing the bylaw changes,
– A minimum of 21 days? notice of the first reading of the motion, and
– A 2/3 majority vote of council to pass both readings.

In order to begin the revision process, AUSU passed a motion during the February 11, 2016 council meeting outlining the proposed bylaw amendments to bring them in line with the PSLA (which can be read in full online here). This motion was passed unanimously by council.

AUSU also scheduled two member consultations in February, as well as posted a bylaw forum for our members to ask questions or provide input online. We held the first reading of the motion during the March council meeting on March 10, 2016. The second reading of the motion is scheduled for our April council meeting on April 14, 2016. We notified all of our members about all of the steps being taken by email on February 18, as well as posted it to our website and social media, ensuring we provided at least 21 days notice prior to the first reading.

Since we value our member’s opinions, AUSU has made every effort to be transparent about the proposed changes and has provided numerous ways to gain feedback from the membership, answer any questions, and to ensure that going forward, the bylaw revision process is as collaborative as possible while still in keeping with legislation.

If you wish to observe the second reading of the proposed bylaw changes, it is scheduled for the April council meeting on April 14, 2016 at 4:30pm MST. The meeting agenda will be posted on our website here the week prior to the meeting.

In addition, if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact AUSU at executivedirector@ausu.org.

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