At the University of Saskatchewan, the purpose of the U of S Students’ Union is to serve the best interests of the undergraduate student body. This mission does not grant USSU executives the right to circumvent and ignore the rights and freedoms of select students and bypass due process.
I do not wish to make a stand as to whether or not the allegations against Coden Nikbakht are true. I do, however, wish to shine light upon the actions of the current USSU executives in the wake of the student-union elections last week.
I firmly believe that everyone, as outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and regardless of the nature of the crime, has the right “to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.”
There are many complexities and difficulties involved in the pursuit of legal courses of action for the victims of sexual violence, and these measures are often traumatic and fail to effectively serve justice. However, this is the society we live in, and these are the laws that we agree to abide by in exchange for our rights and freedoms.
The USSU executives acted wrongly when they publicly accused Coden Nikbakht without regard for the fact that the allegations are not yet proven. The right to make public accusations against an individual lands beyond the purview of the members of the USSU executive, and therefore, these accusations should not have occurred.
Such allegations should have been passed on to and handled by the relevant authorities, and to deny an individual equal treatment without a ruling is unacceptable. Not only did the USSU executives bypass the organization’s own bylaws with their interference but their actions also infringed upon the rights and freedoms of one individual student.
We live in a period of time where allegations of sexual misconduct, violence and abuse are issues of focus as well as a heartfelt concern for many. While my condolences go out to anyone who has been the victim of any such crimes, I believe that protecting our rights and freedoms should be of the utmost importance. When people stand up for their rights, it should not be labelled as victim blaming.
The public accusation of Nikbakht made by the USSU executives, without Nikbakht being proven guilty, is disgraceful. I am not condoning covering up crimes, but I believe that the accused should not be subject to a trial by their peers at the hands of a body such as the USSU.
The actions of the USSU executives have not made the U of S a safer place to study, but instead have created a contentious environment that infringes upon individuals’ rights and freedoms.
I call upon the USSU executives to come forward, apologize and acknowledge the fact that under no circumstances should the USSU infringe upon anyone’s rights and freedoms. Change should be achieved through perseverance and democratic channels and by utilizing the rights and freedoms granted to each and every one of us.
When those who oppose the status quo resort to unjustified tactics in an attempt to force change, we rationalize those behaviours as an acceptable means to achieve change, and that is the example we set for the students who will succeed us when we pass the torch.
The USSU executives have failed to set a meaningful example and have therefore not only failed us but also the generations who will follow us. They should use the energy of the student body to drive and foster change but only when they have the right to do so.
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor