L OOSE CANNON
Should the CSA should censure Momina Mir? GREG BENETEAU Local politics is rarely a noholds barred grudge match, but occasionally a certain degree of refereeing is required to ensure everyone is playing by the same rules. Take last Wednesday’s CSA board meeting, which provided an interesting example of the politics of personal conﬂict taken to the extreme. The board was debating whether Curtis Batuszkin, the student behind a petition drive to leave the Canadian Federation of Students would be permitted to attend the CFS Annual General Meeting in December as part of the oﬃcial local delegation. John Sakuluk, the board member who brought forward the motion, argued that Batuszkin wanted to attend the meeting to network with other student delegates who were working on defederation drives. (It’s important to note that some of the 13 universities that held petition drives have oﬃcial support from their student unions). Being an oﬃcial delegate, rather than an observer, would have allowed Batuszkin to participate in committees and cast
a vote on the ﬂoor. Problem is, the CSA’s oﬃcial delegation had already been chosen. The board needed to revise the original motion to include Batuszkin, which required twothirds majority. External Commissioner
She could have ended it there. Instead, she leveled a startling accusation, claiming Batuzskin had “f iled a false harassment complaint” against her to the CSA. Momina Mir, who represents the CSA in the federation, made clear her opposition to the idea of having Batuszkin tag along. She argued that two other students who applied after the deadline and had been turned down for the delegation. Besides, she pointed out, the CSA was already
overspending by sending ﬁve representatives to the meeting, which wasn’t going to be about referendums anyways. She could have ended it there. Instead, she leveled a startling accusation, claiming Batuzskin had “ﬁled a false harassment complaint” against her to the Human Rights and Equity Oﬃce. Thecannon doesn’t normally report on harassment complaints, but since Mir made the comments during an open session, it became a matter of public record. Both Mir and Batuszkin have since refused to discuss details of the complaint, but it’s diﬃcult to keep such things under wraps in an organization as large as the CSA. It didn’t take much digging to determine two things: (a) Mir revealed the existence of a formerly conﬁdential dispute to elected oﬃcials, the press and at least one guest, and (b) the complaint hasn’t yet been resolved, making her claim of being the target of a “false” allegation somewhat premature. The outburst was a clear violation of Parliamentary Procedure, the rules of conduct that allow governments and other
deliberative bodies to function. It constituted an attack on Batuszkin’s character that strayed outside the boundaries of the conversation. As Roberts Rules Newly of Order Newly Revised put it: “The measure, not the member, is the subject of debate.” More speciﬁcally, Mir accused Batuszkin of ﬁling a complaint in bad faith, which is a big no-no in almost every governing body I’ve encountered. People may laugh at the antics that play out during Question Period on Parliament Hill, but there are some rules that remain strictly enforced. One of those rules is: don’t accuse your opponent being a liar or a cheat. If it were a single slip of the tongue I might be forgiving, but this marks the second time Mir has used the pulpit at a board meeting to make unsubstantiated allegations against Batuszkin. At a board meeting in October, she accused Batuszkin and his petitioners of “misleading” students to get their signatures. I should point out that Batuzskin’s behaviour at the CSA Board meetings hasn’t been perfect, either. He has shown a
tendency to become defensive when questioned, prompting the chair to rule him out of order on at least one occasion. Batuzski and Mir clearly have some ideological diﬀerences that are causing interpersonal problems. The key diﬀerence is the Mir is an elected oﬃcial, while Batuszkin only speaks for himself. The board can remove Batuszkin’s speaking rights and bar him from the meeting if he ever gets out of hand. Mir appears to think she can use her position of power to attack people she disagrees with. The CSA Board should issue an oﬃcial reprimand to remind her that this is not the case. The “Batuszkin” question ultimately failed on a tie vote. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how Mir’s allegation aﬀected the outcome, which is why basic rules of decorum are so important when conducting board business. Ironically, the CSA Board used its last meeting as an orientation session for its recently hired External Chair, Julian Mehra. He certainly has his job cut out for him.
Sparking development through communication LEAH GERBER Development these days means so much more than simply handing out money and food to poor, hungry people. The modern idea of development includes helping people help themselves, and of course each other. Spreading information from one source to another is a growing ﬁeld in development. Instead of the old ‘top-down’ model where the ‘experts’ in a university or think tank come up with a new idea and have everyone else adopt it, the traditional knowledge of the people themselves is listened to, respected and in demand. Small-scale farmers know a lot more about farming their land than any expert ever could, especially if their family has been in the business for generations. Hundreds of years in the farming industry can lead to a lot of builtup knowledge. This knowledge might be useful to another farmer on the other side of the continent. The job of today’s development worker now includes getting this information from one small-scale farmer to another. There are quite a few ways to accomplish this task, including participatory video making, photographs, cell phones, and the Internet. However, the steadfast and cheap way to get a lot of information to a lot of people is by radio. Unlike the Internet, the radio is inexpensive to access, because to do so requires only simple
equipment. It is also portable so farmers can take a radio outside, or even wear one around their necks while working. George Atkins, a distinguished University of Guelph Alumni spent many years working with the CBC to deliver information to Canadian farmers. While in Africa he noticed all the useful indigenous knowledge that needed to be shared. To help solve this problem and connect farmers, he founded Farm Radio International “He received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Guelph and was also appointed a member of the order of Canada in 1989,” said Blythe McKay, the development communication coordinator at Farm Radio International, “through his work and travels in Africa he realized that it was vital for radio programmers to have access to information that was relevant to the majority of their audiences, which are the smallholder farmers.” This organization started working out of a small oﬃce at the University of Guelph; thirty years later this little NGO makes a big impact through the support it gives to hundreds of local radio stations all across Africa. Farm Radio provides adaptable radio scripts, free training, and other resources to help the local radio producers send the local farmer reliable, useful farming information in interesting, and usually fun ways.
“I think it’s fundamental for farmers to feel valued, for them to be able to share the knowledge that they have with others, and also to be able to access and share their opinions and ideas as well. They need to be able to talk about the problems that they have any why,” said McKay. Farm Radio International helps local farmers, as well as radio workers realize their full potential through programs such as their annual script writing competition. Months before the script is due, Farm Radio International provides an online or CD-Rom training workshop to teach all the skills needed to write useful scripts. Then the trained script writers go out and interview farmers willing to share their knowledge with everyone in Africa. Farmers are proud to share their ‘pearls of wisdom’ with the rest of the world. Last year’s competition focused on sharing viable ways farmers can deal with climate change. The winning script “Manure the Magic Worker” by Gladson Makowa helped farmers understand the usefulness of manure in helping their crops survive with less moisture. The script includes many jokes and drama to keep the listeners interested. Altogether, it’s a very good program. Often we take the spread of information for granted; little do we realize that something as simple as turning on the radio has the potential to change lives.
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Published on Dec 15, 2009