Carleton University won't be holding a popular fundraiser to benefit cystic fibrosis, it was confirmed Tuesday, after the student council passed a motion falsely claiming the disease affects only white men.
A student is seen raising money at last year's Shinerama event at Carleton University.
CTV.ca News Staff
In what journalism councillor Nick Bergamini calls an "incredibly divisive" move, the Council of Carleton University Students Association (CUSA) passed a motion at a meeting late Monday night that effectively cancelled the annual Shinerama fundraising campaign.
Shinerama events occur during the school's orientation week and proceeds go to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CCFF).
The association raised the motion based on information it received from one of its former executive members that the disease affects only white people and mostly males, Bergamini told CTV.ca.
"I don't believe that you should be playing politics with a charity," Bergamini said during a phone interview from Ottawa. "It's the most un-political thing. It's something that's supposed to bring people together and now they've done something that's incredibly divisive."
It is correct to say that cystic fibrosis "does affect Caucasian populations primarily," according to Cathleen Morrison, CEO of the CCFF.
However, the term Caucasian includes people from South Asia, North Africa, the Persian Gulf and Israel, Morrison said.
"These are Caucasian populations," Morrison told CTV.ca. "These people do not have white skin. They have CF, it now seems, in the same ratios as other Caucasian people who do have white skin."
Cystic fibrosis, which is the most common genetic fatal disease in young people in Canada, affects just as many young girls as boys, Morrison added.
It is a chronic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. Only about half of patients live into their thirties and beyond.
According to Bergamini, the motion read that orientation week strives to be inclusive and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts are serving a diverse community.
However, the motion went on to say that "and whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people and primarily men, be it resolved that: CUSA discontinue its support of this campaign."
CUSA president Brittany Smyth said the idea of changing next year's orientation fundraiser to focus on a different charity, perhaps a local cause, first came up about a year ago.
She said that the part of the motion that refers to why Shinerama has been cancelled is irrelevant, not part of the official meeting record and simply reflects the rationale of the councillor who raised the motion.
"It completely depends on the individual," Smyth told CTV.ca. "It's 100 per cent their opinion. Their opinion doesn't have to be fact or anything really. It's just how this individual felt."
Only the resolution is important, Smyth said, even though it appears councillors are endorsing the idea that support of cystic fibrosis be stopped because it is a white-man's disease.
"Speaking from the council perspective, the whereas motions weren't actually overly relevant when people were making a decision on what they wanted to do," Smyth said.
She also pointed out that the whereas clauses cannot be amended, and said if a resolution to drop Shinerama had been rejected, the issue could not have been raised again.
Calls to the Carleton University spokespeople have not been returned.
Shinerama began in 1964, and events are held at nearly 60 Canadian university and college campuses. Students shine shoes, wash cars and hold other fundraising events as part of the campaign. The program has raised nearly $19 million for the CCFF.
Carleton students have participated in Shinerama for 24 years and have raised nearly $1 million for the cause.
Morrison said the CCFF has valued past contributions from Carleton students and hopes to speak with members of the association about their decision.
"We're hoping that when the facts are before them that they will feel more comfortable," Morrison said.
Bergamini said he will try to raise a motion to reverse the decision at the CUSA's next meeting. However, the council is the highest decision-making body and is the primary organizer of orientation week events and so he, and even the university, have little recourse, he said.
"So unfortunately this appears to be a final decision."