Referendum Rundown


CHUO-FM was subjected to the UOSU Referendum process in its by-election in October 2023. That process included violations of the UOSU Constitution (their Bylaws) which defined processes, transparency, ethical, and practical considerations which should have been followed by UOSU.

Why should uOttawa undergraduate students care? As UOSU is the elected body that represents undergraduate students in their negotiations with uOttawa, students have a vested interest in ensuring that their student union is competent, effective, and truly representative of their needs and interests. A weak or incompetent student union can negatively impact not only the day-to-day life of students but also their long-term personal and professional development. Holding leaders accountable are crucial steps students can take to strengthen their student union and enhance their university experience.

The UOSU Board has not demonstrated its ability or willingness to follow the simple guidelines previous Boards have established, and when they do run into issues that block them from “doing whatever they want”, they change the Constitution to fit their needs. These changes are not insignificant and they have occurred with very little or no discussion, debate or transparency.  Even UOSU Board members have commented on this in social media and Fulcrum articles.


  1. 1. Below are the documents that CHUO will refer to in its objection to the process. One caveat, while the links to the UOSU documents are the current (unless otherwise noted) documents on their website there are also older versions of those documents on their website AND there are updates to the UOSU Constitution that were approved by the Board that ARE NOT ON THE UOSU CONSTITUTION.
  2. a. UOSU Constitution – UOSU Bylaws under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, SC 2000, c 23. (Loi)
  3. b. Main Agreement between University of Ottawa and the University of Ottawa Students’ Union
    c. Memorandum of Agreement between UOSU and CHUO
  4. d. CHUO Statement given at the UOSU Board Meeting on September 28
  5. e. Pre-August UOSU Election Code
  6. f.  Current UOSU Election Code

2. The Main Agreement between uOttawa & UOSU, establishes the CHUO levy and the question students were asked to consider in the referendum that followed the demise of SFUO. CHUO believes the process it underwent and continues to undergo during this UOSU byelection doesn’t come close to meeting the reasonable standards of the Main Agreement. Section 9 (h) says of UOSU…

2. Weeks before the byelection, the UOSU Board of Directors approved a rewrite of the Election Code, reducing it from 34 pages to 8 pages. The Referendum process was gutted, resulting in a process that doesn’t offer the process and governance of the previous work. (The old election code still comes up on the UOSU website and for 2 days CHUO was under the impression that was the current code). CHUO received no notification of any changes to the Election Code. In particular, Section 11.2.1 stated:

  • 11.2.1 Any Referendum question approved by the Board prior to the Nomination Period of the Election Schedule shall be put to the membership in the upcoming Election. 

This section was dropped in the New Election Code and no language replaced it nor was there any discussion in any minutes regarding this Section.  Under the previous Elections Code, Referendum questions had to be submitted by the start of the Nomination Period, which have given organizations a month to prepare. In the revised Elections Code, there is no language at all about how Referendum Questions are to be submitted, reviewed or how they go on any ballot.

Here is the byelection schedule proposed by the Elections Committee (full minutes for their meeting ODJ-Minutes elect 2023-08-14).  Note that organizations are not mentioned in the Motion below to be notified but Candidates are:

Main Motion

Moved: Brandon Ly; Seconded: Max Christie

WHEREAS, pursuant to article 7.3 of the Constitution of the UOSU, the Board of Directors must adopt a byelection schedule before August 31st, 2023, 

BE IT RESOLVED that the following be adopted as the official schedule for the Fall 2023 by-elections, which shall be held for any position left vacant as of 00:00 on September 1, 2023:

  1. Notice to be sent to all electors: August 25, 2023
  2. Nomination Period: 00:00, September 2, 2023 – 23:59, September 22, 2023

iii. Union Orientation: Between September 9th and September 15th

  1. Candidate Information Session(s): Twice, between September 23rd and September 29th
  2. Campaign Period: 00:00, September 30, 2023 – 23:59, October 13, 2023
  3. Voting Period: 00:00, October 9, 2023 – 23:59, October 13, 2023

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Elections Committee commit to schedule debates for all contested positions during the campaign period.

3. The Referendum Question that UOSU created for CHUO understates the control that UOSU has within CHUO’s Board of Directors.  Our contract with UOSU (the MOA ) mandates two UOSU Board Members are to serve on CHUO’s Board – despite many emails there has been no representation in any meeting in all of 2023. UOSU Board members understood their responsibilities – on July 12 those Board members (Rayne Deprato and Fiona Broughton) met with the CHUO Chair and Acting Station Manager (Fiona has since resigned from UOSU). Rayne Deprato was a member of the UOSU Board and on the Elections Committee which made the changes to the Election Code.

3. On Friday Sept 22, CHUO received an email from UOSU Chair Delphine Robitaille, notifying us that a Referendum Question regarding the student levy had been submitted by a UOSU Board member on Thursday Sept 14 @ 10pm – a week earlier. Realizing it would only give CHUO 8 days to prepare for the Referendum, Grant Stein, the Acting Station Manager, immediately requested UOSU move the question to the spring election process but that offer was not considered in her response.

4. CHUO is asked to attend a UOSU Board meeting on Sunday Sept 24 to discuss the question and requests an extension which is granted until Sept 28 @ 5pm.

5. CHUO is offered to contact UOSU legal counsel for interpretation of the UOSU Constitution.

6. On Sunday Sept 24, CHUO receives an unsolicited email from UOSU legal counsel advising us the UOSU Board had no role in “advancing” any referendum question but it was a Board member who had introduced the question (which the UOSU Board will reject, rewrite it and voted to accept – in one future meeting with CHUO).  Their lawyer wrote:

I think that it would be useful to provide you with the following overview of the constitutional and contractual framework within which the Referendum Question will be considered.  

  1. Who brought the referendum question:  The UOSU has had no role or involvement, whatsoever, in bringing forward or advancing the referendum question at issue. In fact, the question was presented by a free and independent student of uOttawa (UOSU Member) to the UOSU Board of Directors, as per their rights under the Constitution.
  2. The UOSU’s position on the substance of the Referendum Question or its outcome:  The UOSU has not taken any position regarding the outcome of any such referendum question. The Board’s only objective in reviewing any levy-related referendum question is to ensure that it is clear and unambiguous. (we believe they failed on this as you will see later, and still that was ignored).

7. UOSU has no public procedure to submit a “Referendum Question” or how they decide to accept any Referendum Question. Yet their legal counsel & UOSU claim their only role is to ensure a question is not ambiguous and can’t strike down a proposed Referendum question. There is nothing in the Constitution supporting this – and does this mean that if 1,000 students submitted questions, all have to be reviewed and asked? That is highly questionable interpretation. And to put our situation in perspective, CHUO has been put “on referendum” by 1 student, but if impeachment of an elected representative was desired, that student would need to first present a petition signed by 1,000 students.  Even candidates have to put forth a list of 25 students.

8. At the Sept 28 UOSU Board meeting, CHUO presented its statement objecting to the process and the “Initial Question” itself which had obvious issues – it was a two or more part question and ambiguous.  The UOSU Board accepts that the question is not valid, they reject the question, meet with their legal team for 40 minutes, and come back to rewrite the question, and then vote to approve their “Final Question”. You can watch that meeting here, download transcripts and download the statement that CHUO provided to the Board for consideration.

9. This final CHUO Referendum Question resulted in CHUO having 1 day to develop an effective Referendum Campaign in response to the question.

10. Throughout this entire referendum, CHUO, like the majority of campus & community radio stations, has been blocked by META from our Instagram and Facebook accounts due to Bill C-18.  We made a new Instagram account, unsure if it would be blocked at any moment.

11. Instead of following the UOSU Constitution at this point with its clear and transparent processes, many steps are not followed with no indication as to why. One of the most important responsibilities of any Student Union is to run a transparent and clearly unbiased election. Here is UOSU’s greatest failure:

12. The UOSU Constitution that is currently posted on their website says:

6.4.4 The Elections Committee shall hire the Chief Electoral Officer, administer all elections, referenda, and plebiscites, enforce the Elections Code, and hear appeals of decisions of the Chief Electoral Officer. and
Section of the UOSU Constitution says “The Chief Electoral Officer shall not be a Member of the UOSU.”

However, we find out later that those Sections were changed in an Elections Committee meeting but the changes were never posted.

13. Brandon tells CHUO that UOSU doesn’t have a “Chief Electoral Officer” and the duties of the CEO now fall to the Elections Committee as a whole.  This would be a significant change and result in eliminating any independent appeal process. It also isn’t mentioned in any documentation.

14. The Constitution describes the composition of the Elections Committee (in the Section below) but when OPRIG asked they were told the membership shown on the UOSU website was not up to date. There has never been a confirmation of who is on the Election Committee or that the Election Committee is composed of these members as per this section:

6.4 Elections Committee

6.4.1 The Elections Committee shall be composed of the Communications Commissioner, four (4) Directors elected by and from the Board, and two (2) students at the Faculty of Law who are not Directors. The two (2) students of the Faculty of Law shall be appointed by the Common Law Students’ Society and/or by the Association des étudiantes et étudiants en droit civil.

15. UOSU itself emailed undergrads an apology in the middle of the election noting issues regarding voting.

15a. During the byelection, UOSU Directors were having conversations regarding the Referendum process that CHUO was being subjected to and considering changes for the “next year”.

16. The Referendum questions themselves were worded in such a way that CHUO (and OPIRG’s) question required “Negative” responses to be in favour of supporting CHUO (“Vote NO for CHUO”) whereas that was not the case with other questions that were on the ballot.  The “Yes” reply was in the first position in every question.

17. The CHUO Referendum Question that was voted on by students is not a valid question.  A complaint has been submitted by CHUO for review by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and the 24-hour process (as per the Constitution) is now over 90 hours. The Constitution offers an opportunity to appeal to the Elections Committee but we’re not confident that will be made available (as we will find out later).  Communications between the CEO and CHUO indicate they are not operating as per UOSU bylaws and either the Elections Committee or the Board itself and their legal counsel who are reviewing it.

18. Tuesday Oct 17 @ 4:20pm – Below is the Complaint that CHUO emailed the Chief Election Officer. The UOSU Constitution (their bylaws) say a response from the CEO should come within 24 hours but it has been over 80 hours currently. While UOSU’s legal counsel says the Board’s only constitutional role is to ensure the question is “clear and unambiguous” but when we raise our complaint, we receive no response until 24 hours after the Board has ratified the election.

“I would like to advise you that the question approved by UOSU for the referendum is factually incorrect.  The question that was voted on by UOSU members  is as follows: “Do you support stopping the $4.99/year inflation-adjusted levy collected on behalf of the external organization CHUO 89.1 FM?  Note:CHUO 89.1 FM is an independent, community powered and listener-supported campus radio station.  It is not operated or affiliated with the UOSU.”

However, CHUO’s fee is a “termly fee” as per Schedule B of the Main Agreement between the University of Ottawa and UOSU which is the basis on which the original student levy that CHUO receives was granted.  To be clear, a termly fee is collected per term and not per year.  There are three terms in a year. There is no such thing as a $4.99/year levy relating to CHUO.  It is CHUO’s position that the factual error in the question makes it invalid.  Because there is no “$4.99/ year inflation adjusted levy” the students were not voting on an intelligible question. The result of the referendum does not and cannot provide a clear position of the UOSU membership because the referendum question is predicated on a false proposition.

In view of the above and as an organization directly affected by the CHUO Referendum Question, CHUO would appreciate your response on the following matters by 12 noon on October 18, 2023:

  • Please indicate whether you will take all necessary steps to stop the ratification of the result of the CHUO Referendum Question.
  • Please indicate whether you will advise the Elections Committee that the CHUO Referendum Question and its result are invalid and that it shall not be ratified. If so, please notify me when you will do so and provide confirmation when it has been done.
  • Please indicate whether you will advise the UOSU Board that the CHUO Referendum Question and its result are invalid and that it shall not be ratified. If so, please notify me when you will do so and provide confirmation when it has been done.
  • Please indicate whether you will advise the Autumn General Assembly that the CHUO Referendum Question and its result are invalid and that it shall not be ratified. If so, please notify me when you will do so and provide confirmation when it has been done.
  • If you believe that the CHUO Referendum Question remains valid and/or if you refuse to take steps to stop the ratification of the question, please indicate the basis of your decision for doing so.”

19 Brandon’s immediate response:
Thanks for speaking with me earlier today. As I had mentioned during our discussion, it is not my place to “take all necessary steps to stop the ratification of the result of the CHUO Referendum Question,” as you have stated. This is because my role as the Acting Chief Electoral Officer is only to administer the election and ensure that the voting is ethical, free and transparent. As I had also stated, I had moved the referendum question to the Board procedurally in my capacity as the Chair of the Elections Committee and also abstained on the vote.
As I mentioned, I will bring up your challenge to the Elections Committee, where we will discuss it and determine the next steps. The Committee is currently slated to meet this coming Friday, October 20th. As I have done for the entirety of this by-election, I will continue to remain neutral on this issue as I was the Acting Chief Electoral Officer during this period.

20.  CHUO
Thanks for replying – I do have two follow up questions.

1. These two sections of the UOSU Constitution says the CEO does make the decisions but any appeals of your decisions are heard by the Elections Committee.  Yet your email says you’ll be discussing the CHUO “complaint” with the Elections Committee – why is the procedure & timeline you are following different from that in the Constitution?

 6.4.4 The Elections Committee shall hire the Chief Electoral Officer, administer all elections, referenda, and plebiscites, enforce the Elections Code, and hear appeals of decisions of the Chief Electoral Officer. 

7.3.9 The Chief Electoral Officer shall rule on all complaints within twenty-four (24) hours of receipt. Decisions of the Chief Electoral Officer may be appealed to the Elections Committee, which shall rule on all appeals within forty-eight (48) hours of receipt.  

2. This section of the UOSU Constitution says the CEO can’t be a member of UOSU, and since all students are members of UOSU, then I think it says you shouldn’t be CEO as you are a student.  (and I saw the job posting on Workopolis which says the same thing) The Chief Electoral Officer shall not be a Member of the UOSU. No person may serve as Chief Electoral Officer for more than two (2) General Elections in total.

Am I misinterpreting these sections or are there revisions posted elsewhere?

21.  Brandon’s Reply

To answer your first question, the reason why the process is different is because we do not have a Chief Electoral Officer who served during this by-election; under technical terms, the role of CEO would fall under the Elections Committee as a whole. I have just assumed the responsibilities, so my decision to have the Committee meet to discuss this as opposed to ruling on it myself is, in my view, sound. As for the time-line, it is different solely because it is unfortunately midterm season and most of my members are unable to meet before the Friday. At the end of the day, I ask for your understanding that we are all students and I am trying to make sure I don’t jeopardize my members’ studying or mental health.

In regards to your second question, unfortunately that section is now out-of-date. has actually be stricken from the Constitution, and a new section has been added which reads:

Should the Chief Electoral Officer be a regular voting member prior to assuming the position, they will no longer be entitled to vote in any elections, referenda or plebiscites until they have vacated the post.

22.  The change mentioned by Brandon Li in 21 was not on the current Constitution document as posted on the UOSU website up to Oct 23. After reviewing the minutes from the Sept 17 BOD minutes (CA-BOD PV-Minutes 09-17-2023) we found that the change had been made by the Board in an “omnibus motion” which is 4 individual motions that were combined, and then voted on and passed with absolutely no discussion or debate. Motion J appears to be a significant change and contrary to the Whereas statements which refer to enhancing, upholding the principles of democracy, integrity, fairness and transparency – the Motion does the exact opposite and and appears to have been created due to the failure of UOSO to hire a Chief Electoral Officer who would be impartial and would perform their duties as per the Constitution.

MOTION J – Motion to Enhance UOSU Chief Electoral Officer Appointment Process and Impartiality

WHEREAS the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is committed to upholding the principles of democracy within its organizational framework;

WHEREAS ensuring the integrity, fairness, and transparency of UOSU elections, referenda, and plebiscites is of paramount importance, requiring a proficient Chief Electoral Officer (CEO);

WHEREAS the UOSU has encountered challenges in procuring external Chief Electoral Officers, necessitating the exploration of alternative solutions for the effective oversight of elections;

WHEREAS the appointment of a UOSU member to the role of CEO offers the potential to streamline the electoral process and increase the likelihood of identifying suitable candidates;

WHEREAS preserving the impartiality and neutrality of the CEO is essential for the credibility of UOSU elections;

WHEREAS the temporary suspension of voting rights for a UOSU member taking on the CEO role serves as a mechanism to ensure an unbiased approach;

BE IT RESOLVED that an additional clause be introduced before article of the University of Ottawa Students’ Union constitution, reading as follows: “Should the Chief Electoral Officer be a regular voting member prior to assuming the position, they will no longer be entitled to vote in any elections, referenda or plebiscites until they have vacated the post”;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that article (referred to as after amendment) be revised to strike the provision “The Chief Electoral Officer shall not be a Member of the UOSU.”

23. Sunday Oct 22  @ 2:32pm – “Acting” Chief Electoral Officer Brandon Ly replies…
To update you on the occurrences so far, the Elections Committee has deemed that the election was conducted fairly and without any anomalies and thus sent it to the Board of Directors. The Board voted publicly yesterday to ratify the results and has sent it to be ratified at the General Assembly.

This is in spite of CHUO waiting since Tuesday at 4:20pm to hear back from the Acting Chief Electoral Officer regarding our complaint, and anticipating that we might have to appeal to the Elections Committee.

24. CHUO’s reply asking for minutes…remains unfulfilled, they are to be completed at some point.