Meet the 2022 UMSU community representative candidates

Voting will take place online March 31 to April 1 at

Graphic by Dallin Chicoine, staff

Candidates for International Students’ Representative

Sahand Babaie

Sahand Babaie is a second-year international student from Iran in the faculty of science. He is familiar with the workings of student unions and associations from his experience in high school student council.

He believes attending university during the pandemic and recent strike gives him insight into areas that need more attention and said his interactions with international students on social media have provided him with useful knowledge about their issues and desires.

“We’re going to make sure that international students receive all the support they need to succeed in their studies in the best possible way that they can imagine,” he said.

Babaie said his “main focus” is making sure the return to in-person classes goes as smoothly as possible.

He pointed out international students have faced difficulty travelling between Winnipeg and their home countries and said he wants to make it easier for them to do so without worrying about missing classes.

He also wants to increase awareness of services available to students and wants to create an introductory package for new students to provide them with the information they will need to get started.

Kunal Rajpal

A third-year computer science student, Kunal Rajpal is the president of the University of Manitoba Crew for Software Engineering Conferences.

He is also the president of .devClub and co-founder of the university’s debate club.

“When I first landed here, I felt really lost, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know who to contact and I just don’t want anyone else to feel that way,” Rajpal said.

Rajpal said advocacy will be his “main focus” if he is elected.

“As we have all seen again and again, international students are not treated fairly,” he said.

“We don’t have health care like domestic students, we’re expected to perform as [well] as domestic students but we are not doing it the same way.”

He pointed out international students cannot be part-time students if they also work a job, even though Rajpal said it is “practically impossible” to take a full course load while also working.

He also wants to make sure there are ample resources for international students to help them get oriented to studying in a new country.

“There are a lot of issues that we need to work on and first and foremost we need to advocate for them.”

Note: Kunal Rajpal was employed by the Manitoban during the 2020-21 academic year as a reporter.

Candidates for Women’s Representative

Christine Yasay

A third-year student in the criminology honours program, Christine Yasay has served as co-president of the University of Manitoba women’s centre, working closely with UMSU’s women’s representative to “hold events that address the needs of women in the community.”

She has also served as the social programmer for the Arts Student Body Council, planning events and giveaways.

“I would like to collaborate with the women-centred groups on campus to get the community more engaged,” Yasay said.

Yasay said many women at the university feel disconnected from the campus community and this has even further stigmatized experiences that women already struggle with, such as sexual assault and unhealthy relationships.

“If elected as the women’s community rep, I plan to work with UMSU to facilitate working groups that address issues such as sexual violence and mental health,” she said.

“I want [to hold] workshops for prevention, as well as making the current resources more accessible and available to students.”

Yasay also wants to hold discussion nights for women at the U of M.

“There’s a lot of power in talking about the things that once scared you or made you uncomfortable, and for me it has been very healing to discuss my experiences with other women in the community and find people who have gone through similar things.”

Gulnaaz Dhillon

Gulnaaz Dhillon is a third-year biochemistry student with a minor in biology.

She says her experience with public speaking and advocacy for women give her the skills to bring women’s issues to the attention of higher authorities.

“I have been a strong advocate for women’s rights [for] a very long time,” she said.

“When I came to Canada […] I saw that gender norms here might be different, but they still do exist and that encouraged me to help the women community and support them even more.”

Dhillon says one of her “main priorities” is to ensure appointments with a women’s health advisor are more accessible and offer free female hygiene products and pregnancy tests.

“I have noticed that […] when you have to book an appointment with the doctor [on campus], if it’s something urgent, you’ll have to wait for days or you’ll have to go to the emergency [room],” she said.

Dhillon said she wants to advocate for more women-only spaces on campus and focus on women she says are not getting enough attention, like mothers attending school.

“I want to bring their voice out, raise their problems and […] provide an anonymous platform where they can address their […] issues without being afraid.”

Candidate for Indigenous Students’ Representative

Ishkode Catcheway

Ishkode Catcheway is in her third year of a bachelor’s degree in health studies with a minor in Indigenous languages, specifically Ojibwe.

She currently serves as the communications coordinator for the University of Manitoba Indigenous Students’ Association (UMISA). She says handling its communications regarding advocacy and events gives her valuable experience for the position she is running for.

“I’m running for this position because I [am] on [UMISA] and this year there was absolutely no Indigenous [representative] for basically the whole school year, until the last two months,” she said.

Catcheway says the lack of representation made it difficult for Indigenous students to do things like secure funding for projects and she wants to “break [the] barrier” between Indigenous students and UMSU.

“Prior to this year, we would usually have an Indigenous rep in there hosting town halls for not only UMISA but [the Métis University Students’ Association (MUSA)] to secure funding for events instead of going through [community initiative funding] which is [where] you buy the stuff and then you get a reimbursement,” she explained.

She said MUSA has not been able to hold events this year since it does not have the funds to purchase its own supplies and wait for reimbursement and hopes that if she is able to host town halls as the Indigenous representative, groups will find it easier to secure funding for events.

Catcheway said she also wants to hold events in the next semester to help ease the transition to in-person learning for First Nations students coming to campus for the first time. She also wants to challenge racism on campus, such as when professors look the other way when Indigenous students report racist comments in their classroom.

Candidate for 2SLGBTQIA+ Students’ Representative

Alex Rana

Alex Rana is a third-year student completing a double honours program in English and linguistics. He currently sits on UMSU’s board of directors.

He has also been a member of the UMSU equity, diversity and inclusion working group.

“I decided to run for this community [representative] position because obviously I’m a member of the community myself and I have lots of friends who are, and I think we all feel there’s sort of been a lack of connection between people in the 2SLGBTQIA+ community over the past two years that we’ve been online,” Rana said.

If elected, Rana hopes to establish mental health supports that would allow students to access “queer therapists who are able to understand their needs.”

“I think by offering students therapists who are part of the community and understand that stuff already, it will make it easier for students to talk about issues that affect our community,” he said.

Rana said he wants to deepen the sense of community 2SLGBTQIA+ students feel by collaborating with outside organizations such as Two-Spirited People of Manitoba and the Rainbow Resource Centre and make students aware that these resources are there.

He also wants to start a podcast on the UMFM station to discuss 2SLGBTQIA+ issues and answer questions people may have about the community and their experiences.

Candidate for Accessibility Students’ Representative

Caleigh Guillou

A first-year science student, Caleigh Guillou is running for re-election to the position of UMSU’s accessibility students’ representative.

Guillou thinks her work in the Science Students’ Association and with UMSU has provided valuable and “rewarding” experience.

Guillou said she is seeking re-election because she wants to “act as a bridge between students and the university’s accessibility services.”

“Navigating seeking supports and figuring out what best suits their needs can be a stressful process and it’s important that they know that there’s going to be somebody reliable by their side who understands that,” she said.

Guillou wants to continue her work creating an updated social media guide to regulate accessible communications.

She also wants to establish methods for students to anonymously report accessibility concerns and reopen the accessibility centre to in-person visits from students.

“Beyond the physical space, I would relaunch all of its social media platforms and develop sustainable programming with the help of an executive team that I intend to form to manage the centre, which would create a new and exciting opportunity for members of this community to get involved.”

Candidate for Black Students’ Representative

Anita Ayame

Anita Ayame did not respond to requests for interview by press time.