As per annual tradition at Marc Garneau, the time has come for students to select new members for the 2021 Student Activity Council (SAC). The two weeks from 7 December to 18 December 2020 had been a flurry of activity for those at MGCI as candidates prepared their platforms and the student body prepared to vote.
In pre-pandemic times, elections would have been held during the first week of June. Candidates running for elected positions would have campaigned by putting up posters around the school, parading the hallways during lunch, and by making their platforms visible in every way possible. During elections week, students from each grade would have had the opportunity to listen to each candidate’s speech and a debate between presidential candidates.
With the sudden onset of the pandemic, these election procedures were no longer possible. The sudden school closure in March caused elections to be postponed in order to allow those who wished to run to have a fair chance of developing their platforms. To fill in for the time gap, previous SAC members served in interim positions. All information and platforms could only be shared virtually following the COVID-19 restrictions.
Elections started off with a bang, headed by a virtual information session open to all students on 27 November 2020, followed by campaign week which started on Monday, 7 December 2020. Candidates created video speeches which were posted on the SAC’s website for students to watch. Many also used their own social media platforms to spread the word about their campaigns.
Voting began on 14 December and continued throughout the week, starting with grade nine students on Monday and ending with grade 12 students on Thursday. Teachers invited students to a Zoom poll at 3 pm during afternoon classes and students were able to choose the candidates most appealing to them.
Vice president was among the elected positions for this year, with three candidates in the running. The first was Ryan Chang, looking to be reelected after serving as vice president last year and interim president this year. He promised revival of the house color system at Marc Garneau, an increase in virtual social events, and increased support for club initiatives. Another candidate was Fatima Gulab, who was previously a grade 9 representative, last year’s external affairs coordinator and this year’s interim clubs coordinator. Her goal was to increase support for the school community in many ways, such as providing resources for graduating seniors and continuing spirit weeks. The third candidate was Lucy Qi, who aimed to prioritize the mental health of students, create a more inclusive environment at MGCI, and raise school spirit. She believes that communication between students and SAC is essential for a bonded school community.
The student vote has decided that Ryan Chang will remain vice president for the 2021 school year.
Other elected positions included junior clubs coordinator, won by Saivenkat Jilla, and junior social justice/equity convenor taken by Nuha Khan. This year, the clubs coordinator, social justice convenor, communications coordinator, and spirit/social convenor positions will be filled by a junior student in grade nine or ten as well as a senior student in grade 11 or 12, differently from previous years in which only one student filled this role.
Nuha Khan, who was elected as social justice and equity convenor, said, “This was the first time I ran for a school election, so it was kind of daunting at first but I found that if I could just get my message across to one person it would really help. This helped me while I was campaigning as I didn’t focus on the setbacks and focused on showing people why I’m so eager about the position. My favourite part of the process was that it gave me the opportunity to connect with peers and talk more about my platform.”
While the votes have already been counted, there are students who are unhappy with the election process. Grade 12 student Ruwaidah Manjoo says, “I think the way things were done in this election was kind of unfair. I’m sure votes were counted fairly, but I also know that many students weren’t even able to vote because they weren’t provided the link by their teachers. Furthermore, there was a very short window of time in which students were actually able to vote. I also think it was difficult to access information about the candidates and their platforms. While I understand that in the current situation everyone did their best, I was expecting a bit more especially being in my last year at Garneau.”
Fatima Gulab, one of the candidates for Vice President, stated, “My experience [as a candidate] was alright, but I know that many students were unable to vote because teachers either disregarded the email with the link for voting, or gave the link to students late which meant the voting meeting was closed and a very small representation of the grades actually got to vote. Many students had to personally ask me about voting days, and the SAC instagram account wasn’t used to repost information about candidates, so I think information would have been difficult for students to access.”
Some positions had already been acclaimed, with only one student running for them. This includes Arzish Rahman for senior clubs coordinator, Bilaal Bartai for senior spirit/social convenor, Emily Ma for junior spirit/social convenor, and Angelina Bai Wang for junior communications coordinator.
The position of president has also been acclaimed by Taira Mehta, previous social convenor. She hopes to implement online mental health spaces as well as virtual movie nights and other events to “make sure this year is unforgettable,” even though social interaction is limited.
In addition to elected positions, appointed positions chosen by the newly elected council are now open for applications until 8 January 2021. These positions include external affairs coordinator, secretary, chairperson, and newcomer representative. As there were no applicants for the senior social justice and communications coordinator positions, these will also be selected positions. Once selected positions are appointed, all new SAC members will be sworn in January 2021.
This school year has been different in many ways, and elections have been no exception to all the changes. Staff, candidates, and the student body of MGCI have done what they can to make this year’s election as impartial and organized as possible, which will be reflected in the SAC members elected.