For those of you who thought the controversy surrounding the Reform Party on Campus was over, think again.
On Fri., Nov. 28 the RPOC filed an application with Alberta Court of Queens Bench for a Judicial Review of the University of Calgary Students' Union's decision to withhold club privileges from the Reform club. A Judicial Review deals with issues of administrative justice and is not a civil trial.
The court has the power to overturn SU decision-making bodies and could force the SU to change its internal policies.
"We are taking a stand for fairness and freedom," said RPOC President Ben Perrin of the application. "This will pave the way for other clubs to have a fair hearing before the SU, ensuring their democratic rights."
The move to Court of Queens bench application coincides with an appeal before the SU Review Board. The RPOC claims that the internal appeals process is fundamentally flawed and has been biased.
"Upon learning that the Review Board was an SU-appointed body, and what its limited means were, the Reform Club and members decided to go to court," stated an RPOC press release.
The RPOC is asking the court to overturn the Oct. 29 Clubs Committee and Nov. 3 Student Legislative Council decisions to suspend clubs' benefits from the RPOC. These benefits include office space, equipment rentals and special events funding. They further wish the courts to force the SU to allow the distribution of campaign material on U of C property.
While this appeal application is being considered, the RPOC wants to have the SU decision suspended. Additionally, if ruling falls in Reform favour, the court may force the SU to cover the RPOC's legal costs. Currently, RPOC legal costs are being covered by the Federal Reform Party of Canada.
In response to the court action, SLC passed two emergent motions at its Dec. 1 meeting. The first approved the payment of SU lawyers to consult and appear on the SU's behalf in court preceedings.
"To defend ourselves from the RPOC legal action will cost the SU between $6,000 to $10,000 of students' money. The RPOC is not taking other students into consideration," said Vice-president Operations and Finance Amanda Affonso. She also stated that she was "disappointed" that the Reform club did not exhaust the SU internal appeal process before going to the provincial court. Affonso feels that other clubs might be getting fed up with the time and money the SU is dedicating to this issue.
"I think [legal action] is going to bite [the RPOC] in the ass. It's a tactical mistake," said New Democrat Club member Brent Johner, eluding to public reaction. "I think negotiations are the adult way to solve the problem. Unless they're seeking headlines, then they are going about it in the right way."
The New Democrat Club has no official position on the issue.
The second motion gave the SU Executive cabinet the power to negotiate on SLC's behalf. The decision to pursue negotiations with Reform passed SLC unanimously.
"I have never declined a meeting [with the RPOC]. I have always been open to discussion with them. We will make every opportunity to resolve this as a student issue," said Affonso.
At the suggestion of its legal counsel, the SU has scheduled a meeting between its executive cabinet and executive members of the RPOC for Thurs., Dec. 3. The Executive cabinet consists of the SU president and the four vice-presidents. Only three members from each group will be present at the meeting. Both the Reform Club and the SU seem eager to start a dialogue.
"[The RPOC] plans on entering the meeting with the full desire to see resolution but that does not mean we will compromise our core principles," said Perrin.
"We believe our (original) decision has merit," said SU President Paul Galbraith.