Editorial – An Issue of Obligation

The big issue lately has been the federal government’s decision to settle its case with Omar Khadr for what is rumored to be about ten million dollars. There’s been a lot of reaction to this, with most Canadians thinking its wrong that we reward a person who was an admitted terrorist for the other side during the conflict in Afghanistan.

I’m in the minority on this issue. No, I don’t like that we’ve given Khadr such a large sum of money, but it has to be remembered that this award has almost nothing to do with Omar Khadr himself. It instead has to do with the actions of successive Canadian governments, from Liberal Chretien and Martin, through Conservative Harper, when our government refused to abide by our Charter of Rights because it was politically inconvenient to do so. That kind of activity demands punishment, and that’s exactly what this settlement is. Of course, the nature of politics is that the government that’s going to have that punishment taken out on them is one that didn’t make any of the decisions that lead to this payout being necessary in the first place. If there’s one bright side that can come from this, perhaps the level of attention will cause any future Canadian government to shy away from avoiding its obligations again.

But closer to home, AUSU is nine council members, four staff (including yours truly) and you, some 25,000 members spread across the country and world. While AUSU did, and I still think does, manage to punch above its weight-class while advocating for student issues, that kind of dispersed population means it’s difficult to get the attention of politicians, because we’re simply spread too thin to really be able to threaten any particular politician’s position. (Say that three times fast.)

Enter the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, or CASA as it’s more commonly known. They’re a group of various student unions that often has a focus on lobbying the federal government directly, becoming a magnifying glass for student issues that can put some heat underneath a politician. AUSU has looked at membership in CASA at multiple times over its history. Previously, it was rejected because CASA’s membership was primarily brick and mortar institutions, with the primarily typical university demographic, and their concerns didn’t fully reflect our own. There was a time, in fact, when CASA’s members urged the organization to oppose all forms of distance education as being harmful to their own membership.

Fast forward to the current decade, and with online education exploding across the nation, our concerns have become their concerns, and AUSU recently became a member. But what is CASA all about? This week, our feature article is Scott Jacobsen’s interview with CASA’s Executive Director, Michael McDonald. He explains a little bit of what CASA is, what it does, and how it decides.

Also this week, Deanna Roney takes another look at the effects of the fires in BC. She reflects on the variety of reactions people have, from the helpful to the harmful, and notes how these events can have lasting effects even on those not directly involved. We also have reviews, interviews, diet, life and assignment advice, plus some stuff just to help you procrastinate. Enjoy the read!

P.S. If you didn’t already know, The Voice Magazine has a Facebook page and a twitter feed if You’re into that kind of thing!

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