On Campus

Should students pay the legal fees of Tamil protester?

Student unions give money to fund legal defense of UTSU executive director. Should they?

This is the question being raised as Toronto area students’ union consider a request from the president of the University of Toronto Students’ Union to assist in covering the legal costs of Angela Regnier, who participated in the blockade of a major Toronto highway on Mother’s Day.

Regnier was protesting the Sri Lankan government’s offensives against the Tamil Tigers, which resulted in civilians being caught in the middle. On May 10, Tamil protesters marched onto Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway and shut down this vital artery of the city’s transit grid. The protesters placed women and children in front of themselves in order to prevent police from ending their blockade.

Three people were charged with mischief and “interference with property” including Angela Regnier. Regnier works as Executive Director of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, a position she took soon after ending her terms as National Deputy Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

The University of Toronto – Mississauga student newspaper The Medium reports UTSU president Sandy Hudson has requested other student unions to assist Regnier in covering her legal costs stemming from her decision to participate in the blockade.

UTSU president Hudson claims the donations are to “support the constitutional rights of individuals to demonstrate peacefully and participate in civil disobedience.”

The University of Toronto – Mississauga Students Union voted to give $1,000 to Regnier’s legal costs.

The question I ask, should students be funding the legal defense of Regnier in this case?

It depends if she was at the blockade officially representing the University of Toronto Students’ Union engaged in an act of “civil disobedience” authorized by the students of the University of Toronto. If she was there as Executive Director of UTSU, the answer is yes; the students of the University of Toronto should be footing the bill. If Regnier was there as a private citizen, I do not see it has the responsibility of students to pay her fees.

What do you think?

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