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Dawson Communists Claim Having “Faced Repression at the Hands of the Administration.”

Mirren Bodanis

Editor-in-Chief



On February 16, 2024, many Dawson students received a MIO with the subject line "Political Controversy at Dawson," sent on behalf of Dawson students as a part of "Communist Revolution." Communist Revolution (CR) is a national organization that aims to educate, promote, and organize revolutionary communist movements across Canada, and operates as part of International Marxist Tendency. Since the 90s, they have had members organized on Dawson’s campus. On top of advocating for revolution against capitalism, they explain in the MIO that “certain issues that we hold dear to our hearts are the need for free education, the fight against racism, the importance of unionism, the end of oppression based on gender and sexual orientation, etc.”


The MIO then explains that “One of our many reasons for writing this email is that we [the Dawson Communists] have faced repression at the hands of the administration as many other clubs and student groups have.” In an interview with The Plant, Marie-Alix Déom, a Dawson student and the member of CR who sent the MIO, explains, “When I joined, we immediately started talking about if we could have a club at Dawson. And last year we started following the protocol of the school, getting signatures from the students, and writing out a constitution.”


According to section 2.1.2 of the DSU’s “Club Standing Regulations,” before obtaining “Official Club Status,” clubs must first exist with “Interim Status,” where procedure is to “A) Present a Club Constitution to Vice-President of Student Life, that follows the policies outlined in both the DSU Clubs and Spaces Standing Regulations; B) Present a list of three (3) core executive members;” and “C) Present a petition in support of the recognition of the club by at least 100 DSU members.”


Déom clarifies that “what we presented to the DSU and the Dawson administration was a socialist club, it was not a communist club. Our idea that we wanted to present was really more about current issues, because if we want to get students to come, we have to talk about current issues. If we had been a club right now we would have been talking about Israel-Palestine, about the [teacher’s union] strikes, all of that.”

CR provided a copy of the initial rejection email to The Plant. The DSU rejected the proposal on the basis that: 1. The name of the club, “Socialist Fightback Students”, shortened to “Fightback” “Implies the use of violence by the club.” 2. “Clubs shall not be affiliated with any political entity.” 3. The group posted advertisements without permission. 4. Clubs “cannot be overseen by any external organization.”


The Plant offered to receive a comment, or conduct an interview with a representative of the DSU in light of the investigation. We were put in contact with the VP of Student Life, and then provided a copy of the MIO sent by Communist Revolution as well as the deadline for article finalization. We received a response from the VP of Student Life, saying that “I am very sorry about it as I know [The Plant is] interested in knowing our point of view, but due to my exam and work load I had no time.” The Plant intends to provide updates regarding the DSUs response via its online platforms.


Déom, in response to the claim that the name "Fightback" implies violence, says “we always found that pretty ridiculous, to imply that fighting back against oppression is violence, or encouraging violence.” The DSU itself uses the word “fight” on its own website in the context of advocating for social justice. In a November 2020 article detailing its success in canceling in-person finals during the COVID-19 pandemic, the DSU writes “The Union will always stand for its students and will not stop the fight for their health and safety.” The DSU has also allowed the Green Earth Club to describe itself with the word “fight,” with the club’s description on the DSU website exclaiming that they’ve been “Fighting for the environment for 51 years and counting!” Additionally, the DSUs official position on “Unionisation and Student Employees” “recognises that unions are also important partners in the fight for an accessible, quality post-secondary education system.”


Déom argues that the DSU misunderstands their implication of the word “fight”. “The French section [of our group] was called riposte [...] it’s quite literally just us standing back against oppressors. [...] That’s what we’ve always meant.” Déom also points out the irony of a student union rejecting a Marxist group. “I don’t know specifically about the history of the DSU, but I imagine, like most unions, it had a pretty radical start. So honestly I find it very hypocritical from the DSU. Any union starts out radical, fighting against your oppressor, the people who are trying to shut you down. They’re basically denying their own legacy, in a way. Most unions have socialist roots, let’s not lie to ourselves.”


The second reason for the refusal, as per the rejection email sent by the DSU, is that “clubs shall not be affiliated with any political entity.” A DSU member responded to CR’s confusion, saying that “in regards to the political situation, I do agree that our rules and regulations are not clear which is why we are currently going over them and changing all DSU documents so they are more clear. Dawson College and the Dawson Student Union is not currently equipped to accept political ideological groups, but I do hope in the future we can.”


However, on the DSU’s website, it recognises many clubs with clear political affiliations, including the Dawson Feminist Union, Etcetera (which conducts activism for queer rights,) and the Green Earth Club, which describes itself as “mobilizing students to take action against policies.” In its investigation, The Plant also found a document officializing the adoption of a “Position Against the Gazoduc/GNL Project,” proposed by the Green Earth Club. This demonstrates that while clubs are not “not to be affiliated with any political entity,” they are allowed to engage in politics, including influencing the policies of the DSU itself.


The Dawson members of Communist Revolution posted advertisements without the permission of Campus Life, which was used as the third reason to reject their club application. Déom felt this to be an arbitrarily applied piece of bureaucracy.

The fourth reason is that “clubs shall be overseen legally and financially by the Dawson Student Union and cannot be overseen by any external organization.” Déom responds that “nowhere in our constitution did we say we were going to receive funds from the wider organization. Are we students that are members of an organization outside of school? Yes. But we’re not receiving funds. Within our organization we have a specific group dedicated to Dawson, all the money comes not from the organization, but from its members.” Even the claim of “overseen” is unclear, as per the submitted constitution, in no way would members of the club have to participate/register/affiliate with any CR activities, or have any sort of relationship with CR.


The DSU ended the rejection email by recommending that the group “contact the Clubs Coordinator of the Student Life Department for the regulations of becoming a student interest group rather than a student club.” This category of “student interest group” has since been abolished by the DSU, however presently the DSU website lists three “independent chapter groups.” (Currently MedLife, Coda, and Hillel) There is no description of how they are defined by the DSU in the Constitution or Clubs Standing Regulations, but the latter document has a definition of “Independent Student Groups” as “student groups not affiliated with the DSU, and therefore not bound by [the Clubs Standing Regulations].”


Déom claims that “we [CR] were open to that, we’re not strict on what we want to be [...but] it was really hard to communicate with the DSU, it was really hard to communicate with CL and, in the past year or so, there’s been a lot of changes with how the DSU works with clubs, and their restrictions on clubs. It’s been unclear ever since if we could ever become an independent student group. We’ve tried to reach out to the DSU and have some communication between us, it hasn’t really worked out. We tried to go through the CL, it was even worse. They didn’t even respond to our emails.”


The Plant also spoke with Alberto Mariategui, a student at CÉGEP Marie-Victorin and activist for Communist Revolution, who quickly linked the rise in tension surrounding political issues to the difficulty CR is having with being permitted on campuses. “We were already present on different campuses, and there was no issue with calling for [communist] revolution, and making even more radical political statements, but as soon as it revolved around Palestine, [...] there was literally a crackdown. Security came to us on multiple campuses to talk with us, essentially telling us that we cannot do that; the administration doesn’t allow it, there’s ‘political speech’ involved. But we were making political claims all along, and there were no issues [until then].”


In terms of what Déom expects from the college moving forward, she said, “Really, the only thing I would really really appreciate would be to be able to like… get a room. To be able to get a room within the college, to be able to have an event within the college without having 5 guys from security show up, that’d be nice.”


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