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J-Board publishes recommendations in GA speaker case

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board (J-Board) published a recommendation on the Nadir Khan and Zain Ali Syed vs. the SSMU Council and Speaker case this Friday. 

The recommendation is a result of the mediation session that resolved the case, which Khan and Zyed filed in October 2014 following the Fall General Assembly (GA). The complainants had stated that the Speaker’s practices at the Fall 2014 GA suppressed discussion on a controversial motion that called for SSMU to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

The mediation stipulated that the J-Board was mandated to investigate the meaning of Article 5.2 of Bylaw Book I-5 of the SSMU bylaws.

“Standing rules for the General Assembly which make Roberts’ Rules easier for students to understand procedure must be adopted by Council at least one week in advance of the General Assembly,” Article 5.2 reads. 

The J-Board explained in its recommendation that this bylaw should be interpreted as imposing a positive obligation on Council to adopt standing rules for the GA in order to promote accessibility to the average SSMU member.

“Council must, under Article 5.2 and following, adopt standing rules which seek to make a General Assembly’s rules of order understandable for the average member at least one week in advance of a General Assembly,” the recommendation reads. “These rules must be published at least five calendar days before the General Assembly.”  

SSMU President Courtney Ayukawa previously responded to the original J-Board petition, saying that SSMU convention treated Article 5.2 as a recommendation rather than an obligation.  The J-Board addressed convention but found it insufficient to defend such an interpretation.

“While convention can be helpful in interpreting bylaws it cannot be used to trump clear, express, and non-ambiguous wording,” the recommendation read.

The J-Board was also mandated to investigate if a special two-thirds majority rule for a motion to postpone indefinitely constituted a valid standing rule that could be adopted in lieu of the simple majority rule in Robert’s Rules. In its recommendation, the J-Board distinguished between standing rules and special rules of order. 

“Standing rules are not rules of procedure, but a means of regulating the details of the administration of a society,” the explanation reads. 

The J-Board explained that changing the rule for a motion to postpone indefinitely would constitute a special rule of procedure, which SSMU Council does not have the jurisdiction to amend. 

The J-Board explained that this amendment could be applied to GAs if the SSMU Board of Directors adopted it. The General Assembly as a body would also have the power to amend and suspend rules of order. 

“The J-Board finds a positive obligation on the part of SSMU Legislative Council to create, publicize, and bring to all General Assemblies a set of standing rules that promote an effective and accessible process for students as stated in article 5.2 of SSMU By-Law I-5,” the explanation read.

In response, Ayukawa said that SSMU would strive to adopt standing rules at future GAs.  

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