Clubs now able to limit members

AMS clubs who feel a need to limit their membership in order to fulfill their mandate can now do so under an amendment to the AMS constitution.

AMS Assembly passed the amendment at their Oct. 6 meeting.

According to Commissioner of Internal Affairs Adrienne Smith, the amendment was made not only to clean up “outdated” policy, but on the advice of the Queen’s Human Rights Office.

“Clubs who feel, based on the activities of their club, that they require or need an exemption from this membership section of the constitution, they now have to apply for it,” Smith said.

Previously, AMS policy stipulated that “No organization under the jurisdiction of the Society shall be exclusive in its membership on the grounds of race, colour, religion or social status, except in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

The new policy states that “A student organization may request an exemption … where it determines special conditions or circumstances relating to its mandate and/or activities so warrant.”

Margot Coulter, human rights advisor with Queen’s Human Rights Office, explained there is a provision in the Ontario Human Rights Code that provides for this policy change.

“The [provision] creates space for groups who have been historically disadvantaged,” Coulter said. “Essentially, it means that you’re not discriminating if you’re instituting a special program that’s designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged groups, or groups likely to achieve or attempt to achieve equal opportunity.”

Smith said Assembly debated the issue indepth, but in the end voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion.

“It was tough, because as the AMS we’re always trying to be as inclusive as we can,” Smith said. “But in this case, in being inclusive, we found we were actually being exclusive.”

Clubs who haven’t been granted an exemption must allow any member of the University or Kingston community access.

Smith said it’s difficult to list the types of clubs that might require use of this new policy. However, she said religious or ethnicity-focused clubs may see a need.

She added that some clubs by their very nature are already exclusive, particularly those that interview before granting membership, such as Queen’s First Aid and the Sexual Health Resource Centre.

“According to Shiva [Mayer, VP (university affairs)], you can’t just let anyone give CPR,” Smith said.

Getting the exemption requires the approval of the AMS.

First, an interested club should meet with the AMS Internal Affairs Commission to explain their need and desire.

“If we agree, we will endorse it,” Smith said, explaining that the club then must make a presentation to Assembly explaining their reasoning.

Assembly will then vote on whether they believe club should gain the right to limit membership.

“Alternatively, we may find they don’t have a need, but they can still appeal to Assembly,” Smith said.

She added the public nature of the process makes it legitimate and helps prevent any cases of discrimination.

“It’s not happening behind closed doors, and everybody knows about it,” she said.

She explained the decision to alter the constitution arose when a specific religious club—whom she declined to name—was reviewed before re-ratification, and it was discovered they had changed their constitution to limit membership.

“By requiring clubs to abide by completely open membership, we were in effect causing them to have to limit their activities,” Smith said. “We found we can’t very well be limiting human rights.”

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