On June 17, the UTM Student Union (UTMSU) made a donation of $1,000 to Angela Regnier, the executive director of the University of Toronto Students Union (UTSU). Reignier, who is not a student but full-time staff, was one of three protesters arrested on charges of mischief interference with property last month during a Tamil protest that occupied the Gardiner Expressway for six hours.
The motion to donate the money was approved at a UTMSU Board of Directors meeting following a written request from UTSU President Sandy Hudson. We would ask that you donate today to support the constitutional rights of individuals to demonstrate peacefully and participate in civil disobedience, wrote Hudson.
UTSU has started a legal fund for Regnier and is calling on student unions in the GTA to donate toward the legal fees. During the UTMSU Board of Directors meeting many questions were raised regarding this controversial motion, which had already been approved by the UTMSU executive committee but needed further approval from their Board.
Nabeel Jafri, a UTMSU director, spoke out against the donation. The cops have the right to arrest anyone if they are blocking a major highway, he argued. Another director, Sunil Shah, questioned whether this motion was ethical or merely presented to support an ally of the Student Union. UTMSU President Joey Santiago however, disagreed. In a statement issued to The Medium, Santiago declared he believed Reignier was targeted by the Toronto police. We see her arrest as an intimidation tactic that is meant to discourage allies and other groups outside the Tamil community from showing support. Santiago recognized that Regnier is a staff member of a sister student union but maintained that this represents no conflict of interest.
When asked whether the Student Union felt this donation was a good use of student dollars, Santiago defended the donation: We have been elected to voice the opinion of students and protect their interests and while there may be debate and opposing viewpoints on issues, ultimately decisions are decided through a democratic process, and funds are allocated accordingly.
If taken to trial, Regniers legal costs could spiral upwards of $10,000.