UBC students not first to lodge UN complaint

VANCOUVER (CUP) – The complaint filed with the United Nations by the University of British Columbia’s student society accused the provincial and federal governments of not providing affordable post-secondary education.

The complaint, filed Nov. 25, was not approved or discussed by the UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS) council prior to being filed, but was sent on behalf of the society by its president, Blake Frederick, and Vice-President External Tim Chu.

At a three-hour emergency meeting on Nov. 28, the council voted in favour of withdrawing the UN complaint and asking the two executives to resign.

Pivot Legal Society issued the complaint on behalf of the AMS and Tristan Markle, a former AMS vice-president administration.

The complaint states that the provincial and federal governments are violating an the international covenant that states post-secondary education should be “accessible to all” and that countries should move toward “free education.” The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights was signed by Canada, along with over 144 countries, in 1976.

The AMS has spent $3000 for an initial retainer to pay Pivot Legal Society lawyer Katrina Pacey, but they have yet to receive a final invoice. The money was taken out of the council’s legal fund, which has an annual budget of $25,000.

Tom Dvorak, vice-president finance for the AMS, and Johannes Rebane, vice-president academic, were also signatories on the contract with Pivot. Both Dvorak and Rebane have claimed that they overlooked the contract and went ahead on the faith of their fellow executives.

Other individuals involved were AMS Policy Analyst Adrienne Smith and Communications Manager Kelli Seepaul. Chu said at a Nov. 26 Executive Committee meeting that former vice-president Markle was chosen as a co-complainant by Pivot from a list of concerned students submitted by Frederick and Chu for his emotionally-charged appeal.

This is not the first time a Canadian student society has tried to challenge the international covenant. The Simon Fraser Student Society filed a similar complaint with the UN in 2005 that stated, “We, the Simon Fraser Student Society . . . argue that the actions of both the Federal Government of Canada and the Provincial Government of British Columbia over the last decade have constituted an egregious violation of international law.”

According to UBC Insiders, a former Simon Fraser University internal relations officer said the UN responded to their complaint, saying that “considerations” may be taken at the time of the general review of Canada, which happens every ten years.

//Sarah Chung

The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)

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