No Indigenous meet-and-greet this year as AMS reevaluates how to emphasize issues affecting Indigenous students in elections

The Indigenous meet-and-greet — held for the past two AMS election cycles to give Indigenous students the opportunity to converse with candidates — has been cancelled this year.

According to Isabelle Ava-Pointon, the AMS Elections chief electoral officer, the online environment of Zoom is not conducive to events like the meet-and-greet.

“Because everything's online, we decided to cancel all the other meet-and-greets. Everyone's got Zoom fatigue [and] it’s really not the best way of engaging with people having these big events,” said Ava-Pointon.

Ava-Pointon mentioned that in the past, the event has looked unbalanced with fewer Indigenous student attendees than AMS candidate attendees. Having consulted with Indigenous institutions on campus such as the Longhouse and the Indigenous Committee, the event was ultimately cancelled.

In an emailed statement, the Indigenous Committee said that it didn’t have the capacity to be involved in the event this year.

“This was not a unilateral decision made by the AMS without our input,” co-presidents Ceilidh Smith and Chalaya Moonias wrote.

When asked about how AMS Elections would address discourse around Indigeneity this year, Ava-Pointon mentioned a need to place issues related to Indigenous students in a larger context.

“From what I understood from these conversations, it looks like what Indigenous students would prefer would be an event, not just for Indigenous students, [but] for all students, that's more focused on Indigenous issues,” said Ava-Pointon.

“We don't want to demand labour of Indigenous student groups to publicize this and try [to] get people to come. We are really going to focus on incorporating a lot more Indigenous issues and discussions into the debates that we have.”

Ava-Pointon spoke of plans to work in conjunction with Laura Beaudry, the current councillor, to conduct a wide-scale consultation about the Indigenous councillor position and the AMS general elections. Beaudry confirmed this at the February 10 AMS Council meeting.

“The Indigenous Committee initially planned to have [the councillor] elected by Indigenous students at UBC. But then the pandemic hit and everything was thrown into chaos, [and] so they appointed the position,” Ava-Pointon said.

“[But] they want to change that to a system of election that's more in line with Indigenous democratic principles.”