The following is a coedited post with files from both Neal and Alex.

The Timeline


This issue was first brought up by Blake and Tim. The first mention of this appears shortly after they took office in the March 13, 2009 Executive Committee minutes, in which there is a one sentence mention:

13. UN international covenant
The AMS will pursue a legal battle with the Province on the basis that the recent Education funding cuts are against the UN charter.

Notice that what is mentioned is not a complaint to the UN. They are contemplating a lawsuit against the province. In an interview yesterday, Blake said this must have been a typo.

The second mention is in the April 16, 2009 Executive Committee minutes, in which it also warrants only one line:

UN complaint with Pivot; may wait till Adrienne gets back.

This issue then appears to go underground/dormant until it came time to make the big announcement. Blake acknowledges it was not discussed at any other committees. The External Policy Committee did not see any part of it, reportedly because Blake and Tim felt it was within their mandates to push it forward. The Communications Planning Group was described as a relatively inactive group which is why it was not brought to them, despite the fact that Blake as chair is responsible for that inactivity. Council did not receive any notice because it was felt the minutes, all two sentences of them, were enough. As far as Blake is concerned, it had been passed in executive committee (though other executives state there was never a resolution) and that was enough to pursue it. It’s certainly worth noting that the complaint was signed by Blake on November 18; a council meeting took place that evening where Blake was given the floor to give an executive report. UBC Insiders was in the room that evening, and the topic of a human rights complaint to the UN was not addressed. We shouldn’t have to point it out, but we will to be safe: this is a gross manipulation of the system.

In an interview yesterday, Blake was asked why he pursued this. His response touched mostly on the fact that the AMS had a desperate need to advocate on behalf of students in any possible way to address the costs of post-secondary education which were “escalating out of control.”  On most questions, he deferred to the meeting on Saturday, saying he was looking forward to the opportunity to address councillors, respond to their concerns, and explain more about the complaint itself.

Blake said he looked forward to the chance to have a civil discussion about councillors’ concerns. Justin McElroy of the Ubyssey pressed him on why not have a civil discussion about the councillors’ concerns before holding a press conference? It was an executive decision to push ahead with this because of its importance to students. He mentions this despite the fact that this has been on his table for 7 months—before the BC General Election, and before to any cuts by the current Minister of Advanced Education—certainly enough time to run the idea by AMS council. When asked if he feared he’d lose his job, he deferred to the fact that he was wearing his “AMS president” hat and shouldn’t comment on his personal feelings

As for the money, $3,000 was paid to Pivot Legal Society as a retainer. Nobody has been able to say how much money it will ultimately cost the AMS once the actual hours that were spent working on the complaint are added up. This year’s AMS budget had a line item for $25,000 for legal fees. It is not inconceivable that the cost could be higher than that. The AMS does not know how much it will cost, nor do they even know when Pivot will tell them how much they owe.

Because the budget was approved, it is true that Council or the Executive Committee can spend this money but would have needed to have as a bare minimum an actual resolution associated with it. In the two mentions of this that were found in Executive Committee minutes, neither has a resolution associated with it. It is unclear, then, which two of Crystal, Tom and Johannes signed off on the cheque as the sole signatories of this nature for the AMS.

Once Pivot was on board, it seems they took over the project. Although the AMS held the press conference this morning, the Ubyssey was not invited. When the Ubyssey asked why, the original response from Tim Chu was that the Ubyssey “didn’t do press releases,” followed by the real reason, that Pivot was completely in charge of communications and the Ubyssey is not one of the media sources they notify. For something which should have a massively important communications strategy for the AMS, Pivot had total control over how it was framed (with them in the centre of the frame).


Press conference that occured earlier November 26, 2009. Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun.

The AMS already has their own legal counsel they attend to for legal affairs. Reportedly Pivot is involved in lieu of the in house counsel because they had a more positive viewpoint of this complaint than the AMS’s counsel. And they were cheaper. Although Blake claims the idea came from him and Tim, the possibility that Pivot approached the AMS is plausible.

Yesterday and Tomorrow

All in all, yesterday was a busy day for a lot of people. Upon hearing the news, Matthew Naylor circulated a petition to councillors in order to call a special council meeting. This required 10 signatures; 13 were obtained. A council meeting has been called for Saturday at 5pm in Council Chambers (SUB 206). The Agenda is here.

At the same time, he called a meeting for interested persons to discuss what was happening. Most senior members of AMS Council attended this meeting to share knowledge and talk about what to do next.

While some people present reportedly expressed concerns about having an “offline” meeting of council, there was wide support for holding an official meeting. It was widely agreed that Blake fucked up big time, and this wasn’t simply an isolated incident, but a culmination of Blake behaving badly.

The path forward at this point is somewhat clear. These are the motions coming forward at Saturday’s meeting:

“BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council retract the complaint to the UN against the BC and Canadian governments, and direct the AMS Communications Department to issue a press release stating that this was not the will of the Society, and that, as the President overstepped his bounds in taking this action, this should not be construed as an action of the Society.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT Council prohibit the expenditure of any further AMS resources of any nature on this action.”

“BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council request that President Blake Frederick resign from Council.”

“BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council request that Vice President External Affairs Tim Chu resign from Council.”

It seems very likely at this point that all of these will pass. It also seems Blake has zero intention of resigning. In that case, council would be seeking impeachment (referred to as “Recall” in the bylaws). As per bylaws council would provide at least 7 days notice that such a motion was coming. After 7 days, another special meeting of council could be convened, with motions to impeach Blake and Tim. The vote for impeachment specifies that the motion must be “passed by a Two-thirds (2/3) majority of the votes cast, including abstentions and blanks,” in essence meaning there is no such thing as an abstention. Abstention = NO. This is unusual in that normal council votes do not count abstentions.

There’s also a possibility of conflict with the Society Act, wherein impeachment might have to be done at a general meeting instead of a council meeting. This would make impeachment almost completely infeasible legally, but politically still very possible (by, for instance, removing all powers of the President to those of any other councillor, and telling him to leave).

In the event that Blake and/or Tim are impeached, it would be up to council to appoint interim executives from itself to fill those positions, and then hold by-elections for someone to hold office for a very short period, then hold regular elections again.

In the event that there isn’t an impeachment (ordinarily I would expect a large number of abstentions in a vote like this, which are now NO votes), what happens next? Does Council suspend all parts of code and policy giving him authority to act or sign things? Put in place a policy that any further action taken by the President involving legal, external, or PR functions, without the explicit prior approval of Council or an appropriate committee, constitutes a letter of resignation?

Other media

The Vancouver Sun.

The Georgia Strait.

The Ubyssey.

Justin McElroy at Macleans on Campus, with a subsequent follow-up with very good analysis and some more details about how the situation unfolded.

AMS Gossip Guy, being as descriptive as a set of Exec Comm minutes.

Terry, with a skit that can hopefully be performed as a prelude to Saturday night’s meeting.

The UBC Spectator, with another short summary.

The Radical Beer Tribune, wondering what the hell Blake was thinking, with suggestion follow-up.

Social Capital, with a good primer shedding light on some of the background.

Foxtrot UBC, having a tea party.

Jesse Ferreras, an alumni news writer for the Ubyssey, after thinking he was cured, once again contracting a case of AMS-itis.

Trisha Taneja, a fourth year political science and microbiology major and writer for the ethics of international engagement and serivce-learning project on the practical effects of such a move.

Taylor Loren, second year artsie, UBC twittebrity and fan of the federal Liberals, on her personal path to education.

Hansard, from when the Simon Fraser Student Society attempted the same thing four years ago. It caught Bill Siskay’s attention. More details on this attempt forthcoming.

Facebook presence: Former Devil’s Advocate crew is mobilizing the 1st UBC Expeditionary Force, the 50+ comment-long status update that you can read only if you befriend Alex on facebook.

And of course, someone has submitted it to Fail Blog.


30 Comments so far

  1. Tweets that mention The AMS and the UN: Notes on a debacle : UBC Insiders -- on November 27, 2009 12:08 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicholas FitzGerald and ubcinsiders, Neal Yonson. Neal Yonson said: RT @ubcinsiders: New Post: The AMS and the UN: Notes on a debacle #ubc […]

  2. Gordon on November 27, 2009 1:01 pm

    Great article; godspeed AMS Council.

  3. UPDATE: AMS President, VP External under fire | News on November 27, 2009 1:02 pm

    […] UBC Insiders […]

  4. Ashley on November 27, 2009 1:16 pm

    Excellent post!! Well done.

  5. Ashley on November 27, 2009 1:35 pm

    Hahahaha I just saw the new tagline.



  6. Andrew Carne on November 27, 2009 1:44 pm

    It’s also important to note that in May Council told Tim to stop lobbying against tuition increases so long as they fell within the 2% approved by AMS policy ( pg 31-34). This was due to opposition from the general student body, as well as a lack of consultation with Council.

    How could they think it would be fine to try the same angle again after we already told them once it was unacceptable?

  7. Ad on November 27, 2009 2:28 pm

    “$3000 has been spent so far for an initial retainer for Pivot, but that they have yet to receive a final invoice. The money was taken out of the AMS Council’s legal fund, which has a line amount of $25,000 according to the current budget. According to AMS Code, two signatories—either a vice-president executive, the director of finance, the director of administration or the secretary of the Student Administrative Commission—need to approve expenditures. Rebane and Dvorak signed off as signatories.”

    “Rebane and Dvorak signed off as signatories.””

  8. Gordon on November 27, 2009 3:02 pm

    Has anyone noticed that the AMS does not have this meeting up on the website?

  9. concerned student on November 27, 2009 3:03 pm

    “It was widely agreed that Blake fucked up big time, and this wasn’t simply an isolated incident, but a culmination of Blake behaving badly.”

    I keep reading lines similar to this one. I really would love to be enlightened as to his supposed bad behaviour before I unnecessarily blow a gasket, as so many other students have done today.

  10. Reka on November 27, 2009 4:33 pm

    I like the new tagline! And thanks for consolidating the coverage, so I can more efficiently waste time at work.

    I love UBC, but I’m very happy that I’m no longer a student so that Blake can’t waste any more of my money.

  11. AMS Dramazz, again. — I once found Tokyo Police Club in an airport on November 27, 2009 5:28 pm

    […] out the entire story here so you are no longer going […]

  12. My Journey in Accessing Education. Or, How to Cope with Human Rights Violations and Suck It Up. « taylor loren. on November 27, 2009 5:31 pm

    […] Published November 27, 2009 1 3 Comments Update: UBC Insiders wrote a new post that is worth taking a read and looking at the alternate […]

  13. #079: Perspective: Where has it gone? on November 27, 2009 6:26 pm

    […] beyond) has been all aflutter about AMS President Blake Frederick’s UN debacle (also, see UBC Insiders for an extensive overview). Quick summary, for your lack of attention spans: basically, Frederick […]

  14. Concerned on November 27, 2009 7:19 pm

    Blake and Chu have officially “gone rogue”. There is no turning back.

  15. Glen on November 27, 2009 8:12 pm

    Where were the AMS staff on this one? Since eveyone on Council was so surprised by this, the staff must have gone along with the secrecy. Tim and Blake’s heads that should roll for this.

  16. The AMS United Nations Debacle – Day Two « Social Capital on November 27, 2009 8:20 pm

    […] UBC Insiders – The AMS and the UN: Notes on a Debacle […]

  17. the blake witch trials – part ii of the UBC/UN saga « readers beware. on November 27, 2009 9:07 pm

    […] into the matter. after recovering from the initial shock of the entire matter, sources such as UBC Insiders have looked further into how exactly the rest of the AMS council could have, as they claimed, been […]

  18. Nick on November 27, 2009 9:48 pm

    Who wants to do the skit with me?

  19. Ashley on November 28, 2009 12:52 am

    Hahahaha. Omg, do it please!!

  20. Gossip Guy on November 28, 2009 1:40 am

    Overall… it couldn’t have been that bad of a move…

    At least he got people talking? GG stops his relative silence…

  21. AINGE on November 28, 2009 2:23 am

    ps the failblog thing is irrelevant. i could put a picture of my vadge on that site and be all LOL FAIL I DIDN’T SHAVE

  22. Terry » Archive » In Case You’re Interested on November 28, 2009 2:51 am

    […] Insiders has a put together a great summary of the the-president-of-the-AMS-just-sent-a-complaint-about-tuition-at-UBC-to-the-United-Nations […]

  23. anon on November 28, 2009 3:01 pm

    I can’t believe Blake and Tim are framing this as though the process to impeach them is being done illegally:

    “We believe that students should be extremely concerned that some members of Council have indicated they will attempt to illegally impeach Executive members who are democratically elected by the UBC student body. Given the fractured opinions of students on this issue, we encourage those Councillors who wish to impeach us from our elected positions to initiate the proper formal and legal process by conducting a referendum.”

    When this is what the bylaws stipulate:


    i) A member of the Executive of Council may be removed from office upon:

    (1) a Resolution of Council where such motion has passed by a Two-thirds (2/3) majority of the votes cast, including abstentions and blanks, PROVIDED that notice of such motion has been given at a Council meeting held at least seven (7) clear days prior to such proposed recall, which notice has been signed by twelve (12) voting members of Council;

    (2) a referendum held in accordance with Bylaw 4; or

    (3) a Special Resolution passed at a special general meeting held in accordance with Bylaw 3.

  24. Who said UBC was boring? « on November 28, 2009 3:11 pm

    […] that has been closed for a while. But if you are still clueless as to what is going on, the UBC Insider gave a pretty good overview on what is going on. Also, the Ubyssey will be covering the emergency […]

  25. uberVU - social comments on November 28, 2009 4:01 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ubcinsiders: New Post: The AMS and the UN: Notes on a debacle #ubc…

  26. AMS Councilillors are too political on November 28, 2009 9:27 pm

    I think the UN complaint is a great way to bring publicity to the issue. Obviously we have a provincial and federal government who arent exactly on the sides of low income students, the AMS wont be meeting with them anytime soon to make deals that help students. Given that what better way to bring pressure onto the government than to pull a publicity stunt in this way. Its a pretty big thing, but its getting people talking, its making news, and the government obviously will have to respond.

    Tim Chu got elected from the general student population. An arts councillor got maybe 250 votes from arts students. They should understand who represents students views the most: Its not the councillors. The councillors need to stop being so partisan. Pick an issue and fight for it. The AMS exec is, the councillors aren’t. They are just focusing on politics. Shame on the councillors for wasting time on petty disagreements when people like Tim and Blake are actually trying to change students live for the better.

  27. Sebastian on November 29, 2009 9:54 am

    If tuition was such a big issue for students on campus, there wouldn’t be a need for any publicity stunts to draw attention to it.

    If this wasn’t a publicity stunt, then it was just stupid. Who would honestly believe the UN Human Rights Commission would take this case seriously? We already pay some of the lowest tuition around.

    What Tim and Blake did was self serving. If they meant to represent the students, they should have had their motion passed by the council.

  28. anon on November 30, 2009 7:47 pm

    The current Council has repeatedly failed to represent the needs of UBC students this year. I’m thrilled by Blake and Tim’s willingness to take on the big issues and fight for change. It’s long overdue.

    Shame on you, AMS, for your childish response and for ignoring the needs of the students you’re supposed to be representing. You’re missing the big picture. At least Blake and Tim are doing something about it.

  29. Science Student on December 1, 2009 5:36 pm

    Blake and Tim are obviously trying to get fame and attention at the expense of all. They have used this issue to personify their characters to whatever ends they can get out of it. I doubt they even care about the issue and is nothing but a spring board.
    I can’t believe that the council has let this proceed knowing their personality. As I remember correctly there was a motion to censure Blake. Why that didn’t go through I don’t understand.
    The council needs to get some balls and throw these yahoos out.
    If the President and VP aren’t removed I have lost all faith in the AMS council. I will disregard all future activities of the AMS as unrepresentative nonsense.
    Further more if they aren’t removed I will fight not to pay AMS fees next year and look for Bi-Partisan representation.

  30. AMS Shitstorm | The Average Student on January 19, 2010 10:58 am

    […] Rights Council about the tuition increases? If you haven’t The Insider has a post kind of summing up the first half of what happened. In a nutshell: Blake and Chu went behind everyone’s back, […]

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