McGill, News, PGSS

First PGSS Council Meeting of winter semester passes motion to mobilize against Bill 96

The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its first Council Meeting of the winter semester on Jan. 11. At the meeting, PGSS councillors passed motions regarding the impact of Bill 96 on international students and the distribution of reusable menstrual products to graduate students. They also debated the practice of passing legislation without reaching quorum. 

The first motion, brought forth by External Affairs Officer Onyeka Dike, aimed to approve a survey of PGSS members from January to March of this year regarding the impacts of Bill 96—a bill that expands the requirements for the use of French in Quebec. The motion would require that PGSS liaise with English-speaking CEGEPs to take a formal position and push the government to make changes to the Bill, such as countering the requirement for international students to learn French within six months of arriving in the province. 

“Bill 96 is one act of legislation that has some real far-reaching effects if you are an international student,” Dike said during the meeting. “International students cannot access some of the essential services, for example, if you have a dispute with your landlord that brings you to the [municipal courts], but the language of the courts is strictly French. If there has to be any translation, you have to pay for that yourself.”

The motion passed with 39 in favour, one opposed, and four abstentions.

Charlotte Aubrac, the PGSS environment commissioner, presented a motion to allocate PGSS funds to provide reusable menstrual products on campus and lower barriers to access. 

“With the $10,000, we will be able to purchase around 500 reusable menstrual products that we will give away for free to PGSS members,” Aubrac said. “I think a lot of people will benefit from it.”

The motion passed with 42 in favour, none opposed, and one abstention.

A heated debate broke out after Bradley Por, a PGSS member from the Graduate Law Students Association (GLSA), expressed concern that allowing motions to be passed without quorum would normalize not having quorum at PGSS meetings and ultimately set an undemocratic precedent. He further explained that at the previous PGSS Annual General Meeting (AGM), the PGSS may have not met quorum because it started almost an hour late and many people left.

Kristi Kouchakji, the PGSS Secretary General, argued that not reaching quorum has been the status quo for many years and that PGSS could not function if they needed to reach quorum because meetings typically have such low attendance. 

“[Not reaching quorum has] been normalized already for the past five or six years at the AGM, and we can’t keep operating in that scenario,” Kouchakji said. “We’ve tried just about everything legal to get quorum and nothing works.”

At the end of the meeting, a variety of amendments were proposed to the Society and Activities Manual of the PGSS, mostly to clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities of PGSS representatives to ensure that they are not overworked. All the proposed amendments were adopted, including one to ensure that the University Affairs Officer has a manageable workload, especially when the committee nomination and appointment process is underway.

Moment of the Meeting:

Onyeka Dike, External Affairs Officer, shared the personal experiences of international graduate students who were negatively affected by Bill 96 and argued that the Bill affects international students all across Canada.


“It’s still important that we have an AGM, I don’t think the fact that we lose quorum, which will affect council business, changes the significance of the AGM. Because, the way I understand—and I also study constitutional law with a PhD—I think that the AGM is almost superior to the Council.”

—Bradley Por on the importance of maintaining quorum requirements

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