“Council Notes” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of notable items from student council meetings.
At the student council meeting on October 4, a presentation from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) was given to the council, along with a presentation on the Climate Emergency Unit.
CASA outlines advocacy priorities for this year
HOME is an organization that champions student unions across Canada – the University of Alberta Students’ Union being one of them.
Wasiimah Joomun, ACSA Member Relations Manager, and Christian Fotang, ACSA Board Chair, presented on their advocacy priorities for the year.
Joomun introduced the board to what CASA does and how they represent post-secondary students. This includes policy and research papers, lobbying meetings, parliamentary committees and campaigns.
She emphasized that CASA relies on listening to student voices to do its broader advocacy work.
“I like to say I’m a staff member, I’m not capable of doing the job if the students like you… [are] not around the table to defend [themselves].”
Joomun went on to outline CASA’s top four priorities for this year. CASA wants to focus on student financial aid advocacy, student mental health, sustainability and housing, and decolonization.
During the Q&A, Kinesiology, Sports and Recreation Advisor Lionel Liu asked about CASA’s plans for international students and whether they include advocating for job opportunities and study permits. .
Fotang replied that “CASA [is] will ask the government to change the conditions of study permits to allow international students to participate in internships that [require] a separate work permit.
Introducing the Climate Emergencies Unit, calling for a province-wide climate campaign
Juan Vagas, a prairie organizer for the Climate Emergency Unit, made a presentation to the board to promote unity. The unit is working to find solutions to the climate crisis, and according to Vagas, this includes a major campaign made up of activists across Alberta.
He began his presentation by reflecting on his time as an arts councilor in 2020, mentioning that that year there had been an “overall shift in the way the council talked about climate”.
“It wasn’t just that people were starting to realize how vital the climate emergency was every year. It was also that we all had a very clear role in fighting this,” Vagas said.
He spoke of the strong participation of students in the climate strikes that year.
“We saw 10,000 students mobilize to support climate action through a climate strike. Less than a month later, we saw 15,000 people across Edmonton do the same. It was clear that the message was [everywhere]“, said Vagas.
However, Vagas also said that the climate message is not getting out enough to our different levels of government, especially the province.
Vagas recalled how in 2020 “[the climate message] was not reflected in almost any of the [the] electoral bodies. This message is barely heard now, as we prepare for [a provincial election].”
“[This campaign is an opportunity] to connect with your constituents and with people across campus…to make sure we really demand a solution that works for young people, [and creating a] future we can actually live in,” Vagas added.
Leo Huang, an artistic advisor, mentioned that while “many climate organizations have promoted phasing out oil… phasing out oil [limits] the opportunities of certain students within the campus. He then asked Vagas what the position of the climate emergency units was on phasing out oil.
“Alberta needs to phase out oil and gas quickly,” Vagas replied, “the industry has been a lifeline for [workers] in the last 50, 60 years. It won’t last forever.