With the results of the recent University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) byelection in, University of Winnipeg students finally have a leadership team at the head of their representing body. Shawna Peloquin was elected UWSA president after running unopposed.
This is not Peloquin’s first foray into student politics. She is currently part of the Canadian Federation of Students’ Manitoba Executive, serving as Circle of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Students’ Commissioner for 2020-21. Last March, she ran for the UWSA vice-president external affairs position and placed third.
This time around, part of Peloquin’s motivation to run came from “the worry that no one would run and take charge of this role that is important to the functioning of the student association,” she says. Indeed, the UWSA had been without a president since this summer.
In terms of her priorities, Peloquin emphasizes two main themes.
“I want to facilitate consistent services for students that centre their needs and goals and also model a resilient example of decolonial practices in ways that nurture and empower our student community,” she says.
Peloquin is now tasked with leading an organization that had a tumultuous last few months, with accusations of racism and other systemic issues. Despite this, she plans to proceed “by acknowledging the harms that happen, by showing up in uncomfortable conversations and by making sure we make the appropriate institutional change to address the issues.”
The others elected in this byelection are Jacob Wiseman as recreation and athletics director, Olivia Ferreira as science director, Arshiya Bagheri Torbehbar as women and non-binary students’ director, Holly Hunter as Board of Regents representative, Valerie Bermudez as PACE director and Jonathan Henderson as vice-president external affairs.
An interesting aspect of this fall’s election is that everything was held online, from campaigning to voting. Ferreira, the new science director, campaigned mainly through social media, but notes the challenges of a virtual election.
“It definitely was a bit difficult, and I feel like we lost a lot of valuable face-to-face interaction,” she says. Nevertheless, Ferreira was motivated to run because of her passion for STEM. She feels that science director is a position that will allow her to create change for her fellow science students.
Wiseman, the incoming recreation and athletics director, agrees that holding the election online presented some challenges, but he was still motivated to run, particularly to amplify his fellow students’ and athletes’ voices.
“The virtual campaigning has been lots of work with advertising and talking to many students about who I am and my goals,” he says. “I am honoured to represent all UWinnipeg students to improve these departments to the best of my abilities.”
A total of 870 students voted in the byelection, which is lower than the general election last March, but much higher than the byelection last October.
Complete election results can be found at theuwsa.ca.
Published in Volume 75, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 5, 2020)