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Ryerson’s student union removes president amid questions over $700K in spending

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Ryerson University’s student union has impeached its president and suspended its vice-president of operations while it waits for the results of an audit of nearly $700,000 in spending.

The union’s board voted Monday night to remove president Ram Ganesh, and elected Maklane deWever as his replacement.

Ram Ganesh was removed as president of the Ryerson Students’ Union at a board meeting Monday night.
Ram Ganesh was removed as president of the Ryerson Students’ Union at a board meeting Monday night.  (Ryerson Students’ Union)

DeWever, a business major in his final year, told the Star he “reluctantly accepted” the appointment.

“Over the next two months, we will be starting the long and slow process of earning back students’ trust through real and meaningful action,” said deWever, 23, a student union board member who has been publicly pushing for transparency and accountability after he helped bring the questionable expenses to light.

The audit will review payments and credit card charges made over the past nine months by the union’s executive committee members. The student union’s operating budget is nearly $3 million, which comes from mandatory student fees — now a hot-button political issue as Premier Doug Ford recently moved to make such fees optional, claiming they bankroll “crazy Marxist nonsense.”

Despite protests from student groups, the provincial government announced last month that most student fees, which can add as much as $2,000 annually to post-secondary costs, would become an optional expense. Student leaders fear the decision could jeopardize a variety of programs that rely on union support, including mental health and sexual assault services as well as student newspapers like The Eyeopener, which uncovered the spending scandal at Ryerson.

Credit card statements in the name of Ryerson Student Union president Ram Ganesh.
Credit card statements in the name of Ryerson Student Union president Ram Ganesh.  (Eyeopener)

“What happened at Ryerson’s Student Union undermines the 52 years of hard work that our employees and student leaders have devoted to uplifting the Ryerson community,” DeWever wrote in a statement to the Star. “It is unfair to call our food bank, 96 student groups, centres for marginalized communities, legal aid and the voice we provide … Marxist nonsense. The Student Choice Initiative will kill student life and prevent us from providing services to the most vulnerable members of the Ryerson community. This does not mean that important financial reform is not needed.”

DeWever confirmed to the Star that a formal audit will “begin very shortly.” He said he’s not sure how long it will take.

During an emergency meeting earlier this month, the student board heard that Ganesh “chose to be” the executive’s “main point of contact” with a company hired to stage a concert at a nightclub that cost more than $400,000 in January. The union’s professional accountant told the group she had received no information about ticket sales for the event or any of the $350,000 she said she was told the union would receive in sponsorship money.

When the Star called Ganesh’s cellphone for comment Tuesday, a man answered. When a Star reporter identified herself and asked to speak with Ganesh, the man said, “I’m sorry, I can’t talk,” and hung up. A followup text to the same number received no response.

Ganesh’s student status was not immediately clear. Some board members told the Star he has graduated from the school’s engineering program while others believe he is still attending classes. Ryerson University’s spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. In an earlier statement, Johanna VanderMaas said the school takes allegations of financial mismanagement very seriously but “has no ability to conduct an independent investigation” because the union is a separate entity with its own governance structure.

Ganesh attended Monday’s impeachment. He abstained from voting on the motion, according to The Eyeopener. Reporters not affiliated with campus media were barred from the meeting.

Savreen Gosal was suspended from her role as the union’s vice-president of operations until an accounting firm completes its audit.

The Eyeopener reported that Ganesh and Gosal were responsible for the student union’s credit card and may have charged more than $270,000 in unusual purchases.

Ganesh told student reporters that the union’s credit cards could be used by any part-time or full-time union staff member. Credit card statements provided to the student newspaper showed more than $2,500 spent at a Cineplex theatre, $2,300 at a bar and nearly $800 at an LCBO.

The Toronto Star has not received copies of these statements to verify the accuracy of these expenses.

Diana Zlomislic is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow her on Twitter: @dzlo



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Anglais

A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Anglais

Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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Anglais

9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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