Many members of the Brandon University Aboriginal community were in great displeasure after the Brandon University Students’ Union Semi-Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, October 16th.
The presence of the Brandon University Aboriginal Student Council (BUASC), which represents the Aboriginal population at Brandon University, was noticeably absent during the AGM. BUASC President Julia Stoneman was unable to attend the AGM due to a family emergency, which BUSU President Carissa Taylor was previously made aware of before the meeting. Stoneman said, “There are many people who are upset about what happened at this AGM. It is very unfortunate that none of us were there to speak at the time, seeing as life got in the way.” BUASC was told by Taylor, BUSU Internal Vice-President Raymond Thomson, and BUSU External Vice-President Suz Duff during their campaign that the Students’ Union “would fight for dedicated funding for [the Aboriginal Student Council] seeing all the hard work that [BUASC] put[s] in to make the university a better place for Aboriginal students,” stated Stoneman.
Although BUASC is recognized as a club by BUSU, it did not receive funding from the students’ union from this particular budget. The members of BUSU were fully aware of the promises made to BUASC to fight for funding, and are dedicated to fulfill their end of the agreement. Taylor stated that, “Requests for dedicated funding are bylaw changes, and thus must be passed at an Annual General Meeting. The ASC would be expected to present their case to students and be able to justify the need for funding. We can’t do that as an executive or as a council. I have, this week, received a letter asking for dedicated funding for the ASC. This is fine, but as I said, it’s not within the purview of the executive or the council of BUSU to make this decision.” BUSU did approve the only funding request submitted by BUASC, which was for their graduation pow wow. BUASC does have club funding available to them for up to $1000 if they were to submit an application.
A council meeting was held on Monday, October 29th where council agreed that BUASC should receive dedicated funding. BUSU just has “to hold another AGM to put this in [their] bylaws which will require at least 50 people in attendance for quorum,” said Duff, who added that she is “of the personal belief that if BUSU gives dedicated funding to the LGBTTQ and Women’s Collective based on the fact that they are minority groups, [BUSU] should not be excluding the Aboriginal Student Council.” Duff said that council has yet to decide when their next AGM will be, but it will be before their terms end or sooner if they call a Special AGM.
Stoneman stated that, “There has not been a director in the Indigenous Peoples centre for four years, so [the council has] taken on their job of writing proposals requesting funding and hosting events such as graduation pow wows, elder gatherings, aboriginal student orientations, and round dances.” The Aboriginal Student Council currently receives money from the university. However, BUASC had been told by Student Services that they would having funding for them, but the ASC was never fully aware of their funding limit and the access to funding was very difficult. BUASC no longer receives funding through Student Services due to their past difficulties, and the ASC now goes straight to the President of Brandon University. Stoneman has explained that this method makes it easier, but the ASC still faces a number of problems. BUASC has taken on their own fundraising efforts by holding taco sales, t-shirt sales, and hosted a social, which consume a lot of time and effort for a small amount of money.
Stoneman has said that the Aboriginal Student Council would like to be considered a collective. While BUSU has no set definition of collectives in their bylaws, almost any group can be considered a collective. Taylor looks at collectives as a group that receives funding “that is a group of individuals that are often marginalized in society, and thus deserve special representation. This definition fits both with the Women’s and LGTTQ* Collective, as it would with BUASC, or arguably, international students or students who are racialized.” Duff added that the decision to give BUASC status as a collective was a topic of conversation at their last meeting.
The Aboriginal Student Council has been in a continual fight to ensure that Aboriginal students have a pleasurable student life. BUASC has been active in improving the Indigenous Peoples Centre by fighting to provide a director, counsellor, student assistants, and recruitment officers to support students. They have also worked towards having the IPC renovated to make the space more comfortable for the students. BUASC is currently pulling together “resources so that events, workshops, and any forms of assistance possible can be given to Aboriginal students so that there (sic) time in the university is successful,” said Stoneman.
Members of BUSU are also in concurrence with the Aboriginal Student Council that changes still need to be made to promote the success of Aboriginal students. “There are absolutely more things that [the Students’ Union] can do to make BU a better place for Aboriginal Students,” said Taylor. “Communication needs to be much improved between our two organizations, and I know this is something that the candidate for Aboriginal commissioner would like to work on. Unless we hear from students, we can’t really make changes because that is both extremely naïve and inappropriate to assume that we know the issues.”