(Anishinaabe university student Ashley Courchene was suddenly ousted after winning election for vice-president of student services at Carleton University in Ottawa. Photo courtesy of Ashley Courchene.)
APTN National News
An Anishinaabe student who was suddenly ousted as a student association vice-president of an Ottawa university following a narrow election win says a fraternity link between one of his political opponents and the chief electoral officer played a role in the decision.
Ashley Courchene, a third-year political science major from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba, won the race for vice-president of student services for Carleton University’s Students’ Association (CUSA) by 21 votes last Thursday.
His victory lasted mere hours.
The next day Matthew Swain, the chief electoral officer for the student association, posted a notice disqualifying Courchene and his Change party following a complaint against a volunteer.
Courchene, 32, was the only Change candidate to win a spot on the executive.
According to results posted last Thursday, Change candidates came second to their main opponents, the Your Carleton party, in all the other contests for CUSA executive positions.
Swain is the president of the Kappa Sigma, Omicron-Pi fraternity which counts Your Carleton candidate Zameer Masjedee as a “brother.” Masjedee won his race for the position of vice-president of student life.
“I think (Swain’s) allegiance to the current executive is behind this decision,” said Courchene.
Swain’s fraternity ties became an issue during his hiring as chief electoral officer last December, said Adam Carroll, Courchene’s campaign manager.
Carroll said two Your Carleton student executives, who were on the hiring board, pushed to have Swain’s hiring approved as chief electoral officer and won the day. A “conflict of interest” notice was then posted on the student association’s website outlining Swain’s links to the fraternity.
“We at the Elections Office have full confidence in our abilities to run a fair and unbiased election regardless of any circumstances,” said the notice.
One of the student executives who backed Swain’s hiring last December was the incumbent vice-president of student services Frena Hailekiros. Hailekiros lost to Courchene 2,611 votes to 2,590, according to last Thursday’s posted results.
Swain and Hailekiros declined APTN National News’ request for interviews.
Swain said he was involved in Friday’s posted decision to disqualify Courchene and his party, but didn’t see himself in conflict, according to an email obtained by APTN.
Courchene said he is appealing the disqualification.
Swain failed to notify the Change party a complaint had been filed against one of their volunteers, which the electoral officer is required to do under the student association’s rules, said Courchene.
A Change volunteer was accused of impersonating a professor during class time while urging students to vote for Change candidates. The complaint was filed by a professor.
Carroll said Courchene’s supporters have gathered conflicting accounts around the complaint which will be submitted as part of the appeal to the CUSA electoral board which also includes the university’s ombudsman.