A judicial review by the McGill University students’ association that supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel would be contrary to the association’s constitution will likely stand.
The interim chief justice of the Judicial Board of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) said that she does not believe there is any need for the SSMU board of directors to ratify the reference issued by the Judicial Board on May 31, even though that step is customary.
A reference is defined by the Judicial Board as an “advisory opinion,” or interpretation of the constitution – as opposed to a judgment.
That said, interim chief justice Robin Morgan pointed out that references are “hypothetical,” and it is unclear what practical effect the reference may have, except that the SSMU’s principles have now been established.
Basically, the Judicial Board found in its 13-page decision that motions supporting the BDS campaign or any motion targeting a specific country for condemnation would have a discriminatory effect on the SSMU membership.
The SSMU is mandated to represent all undergraduates equitably, and picking sides in an international conflict would prevent it from fulfilling that, it found.
The petition for a reference was brought by Zev Malkin, a political science and history student.
He wanted a clarification of the constitutionality of the motion in support of BDS that was passed at a SSMU General Assembly in February, but failed to be ratified in a subsequent online vote.
Coincidental with the Judicial Board’s response to Malkin’s question, on May 30, the SSMU board of directors issued a statement that it had “decided not to recognize the online ratification results” for the February BDS motion, calling them invalid.
The Judicial Board had upheld complaints from members that leading up to the online vote there had been violations of SSMU regulations, namely, the involvement of “external groups” and campaigning of any kind.
The “use of phone and email lists, paid advertisements, social media campaigning, and the use of polling booths by groups within and outside of the [SSMU], in violation of Internal Regulations,” are cited in the statement.
However, this does not mean that the BDS motion will be adopted as a position of the SSMU.
The board of directors has decided not to bring the motion back for an online vote mainly due to the turnover of SSMU membership with the end of the current academic year and the “infeasibility” of conducting a vote during the summer.
The board of directors has also decided to strike down the regulation prohibiting campaigning for future online ratifications of General Assembly motions.