Sechelt and Squamish can vote now, that's cool
// Evelyn Cranston

Student politics are often about big drama, big power, and relatively low stakes, making them exciting to follow and participate in. In the 2011 Capilano Students' Union (CSU) elections, the decision was made to include Sechelt and Squamish campuses in the voting processes. The seemingly minor inclusivity of these schools echoes larger issues in Canadian politics.

With the inception of voting, only white, rich men could participate. Aboriginals, women, immigrants, and other marginalized groups have all taken on public battles throughout history to win the vote. A fundamental element of living in a democracy is this highly sought-after freedom. While the realities of politics are dirty, with a choice of criminals to choose from and an unequal distribution of seats to votes, the idea of a free and open election is pure democracy.

Until 1960, Canadian First Nations were not permitted to vote unless they gave up their treaty rights. In October 2002, The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadian citizens serving prison time have the right to vote in federal elections. There’s been debate over lowering the voting age, and concerns have arisen about how best to accommodate international students and post-secondary students attending school in other provinces for provincial elections. Homeless citizens are welcome to vote, but must somehow fulfil the criteria of proving identity and residence. Marginalized groups face adversity when seeking suffrage, and in the context of Capilano University elections, Sechelt and Squamish were the overlooked and underrepresented.

Because the students at the satellite campuses don’t pay fees and previously weren’t granted an opportunity to vote, there was a tendency for the CSU to ignore their issues. Nolan Remedios, newly elected Educational Issues Co-ordinator, stated, “The purpose of doing it [granting Sechelt and Squamish voting opportunities] is to reduce the amount of disenfranchisement that the campuses feel. They’re so disconnected, obviously for geographic reasons, but even through administration. The student union has not really represented them out there.”

Remedios made an important point concerning the CSU’s relations to these smaller, more remote campuses. He believes the new voting inclusiveness “demonstrates an understanding on the part of the CSU that decisions that are made and policies that are created in the Maple building of the North Vancouver campus actually do have an effect on students in Sechelt and Squamish.” He makes a valid connection by pointing out that while these students do not pay fees, they’re often affected by decisions made without their input. In previous years, there was an altered interpretation of a bylaw that defines voting eligibility. Sechelt and Squamish students do not pay student fees to the CSU, but it was not clear whether non-paying meant non-voting as well. On the CSU website, it states, “All members of the Student Union are eligible to vote. Members are all students paying Student Union fees.”

However, David Clarkson, Electoral Committee Chair, states, “Nowhere else does the policy or bylaws pertaining to memberships or the elections does it say ‘North Vancouver students are voting members’ or ‘Squamish students are non-voting members.’ Our bylaws are totally silent in that way.”

As far as Clarkson can tell, satellite campus students could vote if they drove out to North Vancouver, but it was inconvenient and rarely done. This year, the CSU had an extra $2000 to spend on the elections, due to increased enrolment causing an influx of student fees. With this money, the CSU organized for each of the two campuses to have a four hour, on-campus voting period for every eligible student.

Again, as stated on the website, all members of the CSU are eligible to vote. In bylaw two, it states, “The members of the Union shall be: all paying and non-paying Capilano University students except university employees who have their tuition waived.” Obviously, there had been some misinterpretation in the past. Sechelt and Squamish students, save for the attendees who have waived tuition, should have the opportunity to vote.

The CSU was wise to revisit their misinterpreted bylaws to allow voting opportunities to satellite campuses, and time will tell if the newly elected positions will be adequate in serving the specific needs of Sechelt and Squamish students. Denying eligible voters from Sechelt and Squamish campuses an opportunity to cast their vote for someone who will best deal with their campus-specific issues may have less serious ramifications, but is an insult to a fair voting system regardless. Shutting out any Canadians or Capilano students from participating in a “free and fair” election process taints the ideals of a democratic process.

// Evelyn Cranston, Staff Writer
// Illustration by Alexandra Gordeyeva

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: