UMSU calls for de-escalation of Middle East tensions

Executive acknowledges lack of effect motion likely to have on federal government

Manitoba Law Students’ Association representative Silas Koulack introduced an emergency motion at the Jan. 16 UMSU board of directors meeting putting out a call for de-escalation of conflict between the United States and Iran.

On Jan. 3, the United States carried out a drone strike in Iraq that killed Iranian general Quassem Soleimani. Five days later, Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down by an Iranian missile, killing 57 Canadians as well as the other 119 passengers and crew.

Five former and current U of M students were passengers on the flight returning to Canada.

The motion states that “young people are in a unique position to be harmed by this conflict should it further escalate, as young people will bear both the physical cost of serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the economic cost of any trade conflict.”

Koulack argued for the importance of making the board’s stance clear.

“We do represent a pretty significant voting body in university students and in young people,” he said, “so I think that it’s important to make it known, at least in my circles, young people and university students are against any increase in tensions in the Middle East.”

“I think it’s important to us. I think five people on that flight […] were, in some way, related to the U of M,” Koulack added.

“And also just the fact that we as young people, I think, are going to be the ones who bear the burden of whatever happens, whether that be military or economic.”

Asked whether UMSU had taken a stance on a foreign policy issue in recent history, president Jakob Sanderson noted the uniqueness of the motion.

“Not since my term have we directly done a motion regarding foreign policy,” he said.

Sanderson expressed doubt that anything concrete would come by way of the motion, saying that the powers that be would not be interested in hearing from UMSU on this topic.

“I don’t think that our foreign affairs minister needs to hear from a student union in Winnipeg that they should de-escalate the Middle East,” he said.

The motion was voted on by secret ballot and passed, becoming the official position of UMSU on conflict between Iran and the United States.