AMS exec apologizes after lobbying independent MP previously charged with sexual assault

AMS VP External Saad Shoaib has apologized for meeting with an independent MP who was previously charged with sexual assault.

On January 25, while lobbying the federal government on behalf of the AMS, Shoaib and the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU) met with Kevin Vuong, an independent MP from Spadina-Fort York who was ousted from the Liberal Party last year following the party's investigation into his allegation. The Crown dropped the charge against Vuong in 2019.

Shoaib, who is a candidate for AMS president in this year’s AMS elections, is the vice-chair of UCRU, an organization formed by student societies such as the AMS to advocate for students to the federal government.

Screenshots of UCRU’s Instagram story thanking Independent MP Kevin Vuong for “raising this important issue about interest on Federal student loans during Question Period” were posted on Twitter on February 18.

Student senator Julia Burnham and Board of Governors student representative Max Holmes voiced concern over this news.

“Vuong is an independent expelled from his caucus over SA allegations. Even with the non-partisan approach of these student lobby groups, lobbying an ousted MP is useless, ineffective and unnecessary,” Burnham wrote.

In an interview with The Ubyssey, Shoaib confirmed that he was present at the meeting after being invited by another UCRU delegate.

“I first learned about these allegations as I was entering the meeting ... however, I did not learn about the full extent of the allegations until this week,” he said.

News of Vuong’s past sexual assault charge was first reported in September 2021, and media outlets continued to cover the MP’s controversy into November.

Shoaib said his role in the meeting was “just to provide our recommendations on student financial aid.”

When asked how UCRU had ended up posting a story thanking Vuong after Shoaib had learned of the allegations, he said, “The story itself wasn't intended to support MP Vuong or be presented as a win but rather draw attention to the issue raised, nevertheless, the story should have never been shared.”

In a public statement, UCRU apologized for the meeting and the social media post. It committed to ceasing “any further engagement with MP Vuong in all lobbying and advocacy work” and to reviewing its vetting and social media procedures.

Shoaib called the meeting an “operational mistake.”

“[UCRU] deeply apologizes and I deeply apologize for taking this meeting. It was a mistake. We should have never met with MP Vuong. And we sincerely apologize for the harm and retraumatization that has been done.”