The Decision should be OURS | CFS

It took me a while to understand the role of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) within the Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union. After much research, this is the best explanation regarding the role of CFS for me.

The CFS is a Union of Student Unions and Associations. It offers a forum where we can collectively voice our concerns for student issues.

It is fundamentally essentially that our Students’ Union remains a member of a national student organization, there is no misunderstanding this. And I would never speak negatively of unions – it is a necessary forum to properly express concerns and ideas.

However, the best interest of Mount students must continuously be maintained.

That is why in April 2015, as the Residence Representative on the Students’ Representative Council, I began a discussion on the benefits the Mount receives as a member of the CFS. After paying $41,000 in membership fees, we must receive some benefit. In fact, our CFS membership fees are higher than the amount that is spent on MSVUSU scholarships, sponsorships, and societies combined.

After much discussion, the following resolution was motioned by then-MSVUSU President Paul Whyte and seconded by current MSVUSU President Justin Corcoran.

“Motion for the incoming VP Advocacy to implement a plan of action for CFS to see where the progress lays with MSVUSU
Whereas:

-VP Advocacy makes a report during the summer with MSVUSU’s activity with CFS;

-Present said report to the SRC at the first SRC meeting after fall by- elections

-Conduct a survey in the fall to see the students’ awareness of CFS at MSVU

-Conduct a survey at the end of the 2015/2016 school year to access the progress of CFS on the Mount campus and do a reassessment of their awareness on campus.”

In more understandable terms, the VP Advocacy was asked to do three things:
1. Write a report on MSVU’s involvement with CFS during summer 2015.
2. Conduct a survey in the fall on Mount students awareness of the CFS.
3. Conduct a survey in the spring on Mount students awareness of the CFS once again.

As far to my knowledge, none of this has been done.

With two deadlines passed, the unanimous decision of the Students’ Union governing board was not followed through.

I believe I made the right decision to begin this conversation in the first place. In recent years, the CFS has been involved in several scandals, including:

• A decision by all British Columbia member associations to leave the CFS following “strained relationships due to allegations of corruption… issues surrounding communication, transparency, and services delivered from the national organization. (Source: here)

• Initially refusing to recognize a vote by Concordia University students to leave the CFS, unless they paid $1.8 million in disputed overdue fees. (Source: here)

• Refusing to recognize a vote by post-graduate students at McGill University to leave the organization, even though 85% of students voted in favour. (Source: here)

• Refusing to recognize University of Victoria Students’ Union to leave the CFS, and filing a counter-petition against the vote. The Supreme Court of British Columbia said the CFS “acted outside the bylaws” in their counter-petition, and deemed the vote valid. The CFS initially demanded $100,000 in fees from University of Victoria Students, but then terminated the membership from the school.  (Source: here, here, here and here)

• In 2013, fifteen schools across the country sent petitions on leaving the organization to the CFS. In many cases, these petitions were returned to the sender or weren’t picked up at the post office. (Source: here)

• The CFS has a history of campaigning during the vote on a Students’ Union’s future with their organization, despite not actually being students of that university. (Source: here)

• The CFS has been accused of own interests above students. (Source: here)

• Since 2009, nearly all of Quebec’s schools attempted to leave CFS. McGill Post-Graduate Student Society president described how, “CFS will stand up for freedom of expression with regard to its own speech but will seek to limit freedom of expression when its members are seeking to leave.” (Source: here)

• Has made it more difficult for members to leave the organization if they so desire. (Source: here)

• Just last week, Carleton University Students’s Association recommended holding a referendum on leaving the CFS, saying they are “ineffective at implementing their objective.” (Source: here)

I’m not saying “A vote for Ryan Nearing is a vote to leave the Canadian Federation of Students”. The CFS does fantastic work, and the MSVUSU has a rich and long history with the organization.

Additionally, we must work towards the goals of the national student movement, and ensure we are a participant.

However, I strongly and firmly believe that we as Mount students have the right to decide what organization we associate ourselves with – not students in Ontario.

I strongly and firmly believe that we as Mount students have a right to decide where $41,000 of our money goes.

I strongly and firmly believe the national student organization with whom we affiliate ourselves must represent the interests and values of Mount students.

And that is why I strongly and firmly stand by my plan to open this conversation to all Mount students if I am elected President.

Together, we will decide where our money goes. Together, we will decide where our interests lie. Together, we will succeed.

Presidential Lessons from my Study Abroad Term

Since I announced my candidacy for President of the Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union and the start of this election, we have seen an incredible conversation take place on what we would like to see from our Students’ Union.

All this has taken place while I’m on an exchange in Stockholm, Sweden.

And throughout these conversations, I’m sure there is one question that has risen.

How can I run for President while studying abroad?

That is a completely valid and understandable question. Here is my response:

The Mount offers many incredible opportunities for students. Among them is our study abroad program. Throughout my time as an exchange student, I have witnessed the incredible dedication of our Office of International Education. Making connections and working with various University Departments and Offices will lead to future collaboration if I have the opportunity to serve as President.

Throughout my time in Europe this far, I have had the incredible opportunity to learn. I have learned about the political landscape here in Sweden, which is fueled by compassion for each other. I have learned about many of the historical cities here in this incredible continent which showcase stories of passion, drive, sorrow and joy.

But above all, I have learned from incredible students from all around the world.

I have learned about the dreams and passions of students from Poland. About the student movements that take place in France, Germany and beyond. About the fantastic post-secondary education systems found in Sweden and Finland. About the struggles of students in the United Kingdom trying to pursue an education while following their passion. And so much more.

This experience has shown me the importance of continual learning. Of constantly finding opportunities where you can expand your knowledge and examine what you don’t know. It’s like a quote I have heard: The person who knows everything learns nothing.

Now, I’m sure by this point you’re saying “Why does this matter Ryan?”

If I have the honour of serving as your President for the upcoming year, I will take all of these lessons and apply them to the position.

This experience has demonstrated to me the importance of ensuring every voice is heard. When there are students from all around the world coming together, everyone has a story and that story deserves to be heard.

If elected President, I will use this experience as inspiration to ensure every single one of our stories are heard.

 

 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” | Why I’m running for President.

 

Remember when we were younger? People would always ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Our answers were as ambitious as they were various. A ballerina. A police officer. An army fighter. A painter. A nurse or doctor. An astronaut. Whatever we could come up with in our young, beautiful minds.

As we grew older, the questions changed from “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to “What are your plans after graduation?”. Reality set in. The expectations to continue with formalized education. The ever-mounting cost of post-secondary education. Job prospects.

And now, with time split between studies, work, maintaining personal relationships and self-care, being asked such a question is met with puzzled glances and nervous laughter.

Well, I’m running for President to ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

As President, I want to ensure our Students’ Union offers all of the services, resources and support you need to reach your dreams.

This can be campaigns and events that fuel leadership in academics, athletics and social justice – both globally and locally. This can be services where students can get food when times are tough or a continuing a centre that offers support for our LGBTQ+ community. This can be advocating for the use of tuition fees on student services right here on campus, and the eventual abolition of fees provincially.

As President, I want to have an open-door policy where every single student – from a first year student right out of high school to an international student persuing a graduate education to a working professional taking courses online to a single mother who is returning to post-secondary education, and everything in between.

I want to ensure each and every student feels welcomed and comfortable to come to my office, share with me their story, and answers the question “What do you want to be when you grow up.”

As President, I want to work with, not against, the incredible leaders within the Students’ Union, Mount community, our city, province and country – and with each and every one of you.

I want to work towards a Union that properly reflects the desires of students and a Union that encourages, supports and celebrates students on their journey to follow their dreams.

Why? Because serving as your President to the best of my capacity is what I want to be when I grow up.

Riga, Latvia: A Long Fight for Independence

Imagine this:

Imagine everything that gives us a national pride of our country. Our flag. Our national anthem. Our currency. Our values. Our passtimes and hobbies. Our joys.

Now, imagine every single aspect of our national identity completely taken away.

That is what happened to the people of Latvia. Not once. Not twice. But three times.


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In 2018, Latvians will celebrate the 100th anniversary of their independence. Following the Latvian War of Independence, this nation of just under two million emerged as an internationally recognized country.

However, during those 100 years, Latvia has been illegally occupied by another country for 51 years.

From 1940 to 1941, it was the Soviet Union. Latvians lost their sense of national identity as their entire society adhered to the strict guidelines on propaganda and censorship created by the Soviet Union.

Then from 1941 to 1944, it was Nazi Germany. Suddenly Soviet propaganda and forced cultural symbols were replaced by Nazi propaganda and cultural symbols.

And then, in the longest occupation of Latvia, the Soviet Union illegally occupied the country from the end of World War II in 1944 to the fall of the Union in 1991.

One of the sites we visited during our seven-hour visit to the unknown capital city of Riga (where one-third of the Latvian population lives) was the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

The museum shared the horrific situations Latvia (along with their Baltic neighbors – Estonia and Lithuania) underwent during the occupation. During the 1949 Operation Priboi, 90,000 citizens of these three countries were forcibly deported from their homes and sent to work camps in Siberia, outlying Soviet towns, or killed.

The museum then shared the remarkable bravery of several Latvians. These resistance movements fought against the Soviet oppression and shared ideas, art, and symbols of Latvian nationalism.

However, for me, the most moving stories came in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is the time of the Singing Revolution.

This revolution was non-violent. No drop of blood fell on Latvian soil. Rather, Latvian culture served as fuel in this fire towards independence, and song was the weapon of choice.

During the strict Soviet control in the late 1980s, traditional Latvian songs sung at the Latvian Song Festival (one of the largest choral events in the world) were banned and replaced by Soviet propaganda. Despite this, Estonians collectively and without any direction began singing their nationalist songs with great pride.

Singing, a major part of Latvian culture, continued to serve as ongoing inspiration for citizens to rise up against the Soviet Union and declare their love for Latvia. An example of these peaceful demonstrations includes The Baltic Way, a 675km human chain that connected two million people across the three Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

For me, our visit to Riga, Latvia was an incredible opportunity to learn about the immense bravery from this small country that is so often overlooked on the world stage.

Tills nästa gång, (Until next time)

Ryan

Brussels, Belgium: Home of the Bravest of the Brave

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Napoléon Bonaparte, the first Emperor of France, wrote about Belgium – while he was trying to invade the country – “It is home of the bravest of the brave.”

The Kingdom of Belgium, the tiny nation of 11 million (160,000 of whom live in the capital city of Brussels) has continuously stood for their own independence.

After years of French and Dutch rule, the Belgian Revolution in 1830 Belges come together to demand independence from the United Kingdon of the Netherlands. This revolution climaxed on the night of August 25, 1930. Many upper-class Belges were attending the opera, the audience’s night was concluded with a performance of the patriotic song “Amour sacré de la patrie” (Sacred love of Fatherland). Following the performance, the audience joined the riots taking place in the street and demanded Belgian Independence.

The riots continued for several months. In December 1830, five major European powers (Austria, Britain, France, Prussia and Russia) recognized Belgium as an independent country. The Belgian Constitution of 1831 confirmed this.

Flash forward to World War I – the conflict that nearly destroyed Europe. The German forces demanded passage through Belgium to invade France. The Belgian King at the time, the beloved Albert I, famously replied to Germany:

We are a country, not a road.

The King took control of the German forces and, in preparation for the German invasion, escorted his Queen and children across the Royal Garden on horseback to the Belgian Parliament. It was there that he gave his most renown address. It was there he proclaimed:

One single vision fills all minds: that of our independence endangered.  One single duty imposes itself upon our wills: the duty of stubborn resistance.

In these solemn circumstances two virtues are indispensable: a calm but unshaken courage, and the close union of all Belgians.

For me, this incredible story taught me so much about this tiny European nation. How Belgium, which I only knew for their chocolate, beer and waffles (all of which was delicious) serves as a country of great influence. How Belgium, home of the bravest of the brave, stood up against one of the greatest European powers.

Tills nästa gång, (Until next time)

Ryan

Paris, France: Where Love is the Answer

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November 13, 2015. I remember leaving the grocery store on my weekly visit when I received a CBC News notification. Explosions were heard near the Stade de France in northern Paris. More notifications followed.

I remember leaving the grocery store on my weekly visit when I received a CBC News notification. Explosions were heard near the Stade de France in northern Paris. More notifications followed. Gunshots heard at the Bataclan theatre and surrounding area. Stade de France is on lockdown. Paris public transit system is in shutdown. ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In the end, it was utterly heartbreaking.

130 people killed. Many of whom were young adults, not unlike any of us. They were enjoying a late fall Friday evening. Attending a soccer match, going to a concert, sitting at a café with friends.

Prior to my trip to Paris last week, I was understandably nervous. France remains in a state of emergency. The European Union reported that ISIL is planning large-scale attacks in Europe. But in the end, I knew I wanted to see this beautiful city.

The major attractions – Notre Dame de ParisThe LouvreArc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower – were, as expected, absolutely stunning. But the most moving moment of the journey came on our last day.

Place de la République (pictured above) became a memorial following the Charlie Hebdo Shootings in January 2015 and November 2015 Attacks. And despite the fact it has now been four months since those horrific events, the powerful messages still remained in the Place.

Pictures and posters bearing the name of the victims surrounded the central monument. Posters bearing the words of John Lennon’s Imagine sat side by side with paintings of a peace sign, using the Eiffel Tower. They were accompanied by other messages – the protection of abused women, aboriginal representation in government, LGBTQ+ rights to name a few.

But above all, the overwhelming feeling in that entire square was love and hope. And perhaps the following picture best describes that feeling:

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“Love is the answer.”

During our tour of the city, the tour guide concluded with a speech that brought tears to my eyes and chills to my spine. He told us:

I want to thank you for coming and visiting our city. Because you have shown those who committed this attacks that they will not win. That hate and fear will not win. You have shown then that in the City of Love, love will always win.

Tills nästa gång, (Until next time)

Ryan

Sweden: A Neutral Nation

Earlier this month, it was announced that a number of state museums in Stockholm will have free admission. Upon hearing this, it became my mission to visit as many as possible. Knowing each museum would offer a unique opportunity to learn something new about Stockholm and Sweden, my friend Lily and I created our “Museum Bucket List.”

Our journey began yesterday at The Army Museum. The museum explains Sweden’s history of war and peace, from 1500 to today.

Due to class lectures, I understood that Sweden (along with many other Nordic countries) had a policy of neutrality. While Sweden is a member of the European Union (EU) and United Nations (UN), it turned down membership to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and takes a humanitarian and peacekeeping instead of combat role in international conflicts.

However, this policy isn’t without its challenges.

During World War II, Sweden was the only Nordic nation to remain a neutral player in the conflict. Norway and Denmark were occupied by Nazi Germany, Finland was an ally of Germany and Iceland was a member of the Allies.

However, Sweden aided both sides during the course of the war. During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Swedish authorities allowed Germany to use their railways to transport soldiers, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons from Norway to Finland. Meanwhile, Sweden shared intelligence with the Allies that helped train refugees in Denmark and Norway that eventually lead to the liberation of both countries.

On a humanitarian level, many Swedes abroad played an active role in saving Jews, including diplomat stationed in Nazi-Hungary Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg is credited

Wallenberg is credited for saving tens of thousands of Jews by granting them protective passports and shelter in buildings designated as Swedish territory in Hungary, such as the Swedish Embassy. Wallenberg mysteriously disappeared in 1945 while in the Soviet Union. Since then, he has been granted numerous international honours, including receiving the first Honorary Canadian Citizenship.

Additionally, the Swedish Red Cross worked with the government in Nazi-occupied Denmark to execute an operation known as “White Busses”. Upon learning about this operation in the National Museum of Denmark, I couldn’t believe I was so unaware of this incredible humanitarian effort during World War II.

During the spring of 1945, the White Busses rescued over 15,000 concentration camp prisoners. While the operation originally sought to save Scandinavian prisoners, the mission expanded to save prisoners from non-Scandinavian countries, such as Poland and France. In total, 7,700 Scandinavian and 7,500 non-Scandinavian prisoners were saved.

Each White Bus (literally a white bus) was equipped with a driver, nurses, doctors and soldiers. Upon their rescue, concentration camp prisoners were treated and nourished back to health and warmly welcomed to Denmark and Sweden.

British diplomat Peter Tennant, who was stationed in Stockholm throughout the war, wrote:

The Swedish humanitarian efforts during and after the war did much to remove the dishonour the country had got during its acrobatic exercises in neutrality policy.

Tills nästa gång, (Until next time)

Ryan