Centre for Gender Advocacy Seeks Fee Levy Increase

Eight Cents Per Credit to Cover Inflation, New Campaigns

The Centre for Gender Advocacy currently receives $0.29 per credit from undergraduate students, but a referendum question to be featured in the upcoming Concordia Student Union general elections seeks to raise that amount by $0.08.

Gabrielle Bouchard, the peer support and trans advocacy coordinator at the Centre, explained that 2006 was the last time the Centre’s levy was raised and that, due to inflation and the changing cost of materials, they’ve effectively been doing more with less money every year since then.

The Centre offers a peer support and advocacy program, free sex resources such as condoms, lube and dental dams, a binder program for trans men and consent training for what Bouchard estimates is thousands of people a year.

Additionally, advocacy campaigns and programming, including guest speakers and workshops, are organized throughout the year. This past November saw the creation of the Sexual Assault Resource Centre —a resource for which the Centre for Gender Advocacy had fought for over a year.

“We had almost 10 years of working and making Concordia better with the last increase we had, and now we just want to do something similar,” she said.

“By having this extra money, if you will, we’re getting back in the sustainable place to be able to do long-term planning and keep on doing the stuff that we’re doing now, but adding to it and making it better and making it fuller.”

If the referendum doesn’t pass, Bouchard says the Centre will be put into a precarious situation and will have difficulty planning anything further than a few months ahead of time, but that it will try to continue the services that it’s currently providing.

Julia Nadeau, a student volunteer at the Centre who helps with social media and campaigning, says it takes a significant amount of resources to provide what students ask for, and that $0.29 went much further in 2006 than it does today.

“I think it’d be more difficult to sustain those types of campaigns and services, and I think it would be really unfortunate for the student body because they really would benefit from the strides that we’re trying to make,” she said.

Lui Ramirez, another volunteer at the Centre, stressed the importance of ensuring students are being informed about their referendum choices.

“A lot of people come up to the CSU referendum and they don’t know what the question is about or what the Centre is,” she said. “I think a lot of it is just getting the word out.”

One of the methods the Centre is using to get the word out about the referendum question is encouraging students to take photos of themselves holding a sign that explains why they need the Centre.

“[The campaign] has kind of shed light on the different services and the different things that the Centre does for all of us because we all have very different experiences,” said Nadeau.

Nadeau, a volunteer since 2012, explained one of the difficulties of communicating their campaign—separating the question from other fee levy questions happening during this year’s elections.

“There’s the fee levy increase question for the Centre for Gender Advocacy, but there’s also the Vote No initiative that’s addressing a different question. So ours is to vote ‘yes’ and theirs is to vote ‘no,’ but we have a lot of similar goals,” she said.

“What we’ve been doing for the past week—and will until the vote happens—is trying to distinguish the two. It’s about really talking about what the services are. We know that there’s a lot support, but it’s about trying to get people specifically to go and vote yes.”

Without an official “No” campaign running against them, Bouchard expects the referendum to pass as long as students are aware of the issues.

“People get that we’ve been part of Concordia for so long and that we’re doing such good work that it’s easy for them to understand,” she said.

“We just need people to pay attention for a few minutes.”