Concordia students help pay for Jaggi Singh's salary

Concordia University students may be surprised to learn that their student fees are helping pay a salary for well-known activist Jaggi Singh.

Singh is on the payroll of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia — a campus activist group. The job of Programming and Working Groups Coordinator, one of three full-time staff positions at QPIRG, pays him around $37,000 per year, including benefits.

The group operates independently from the university, but student fees automatically go toward the organization, and Singh's salary — unless the student chooses to opt out.

Maria Yordanova, a Concordia student who's trying to opt out, says the onus is on the student to understand the process, and then follow through on it. For instance, your paperwork needs to be handed in during a short window in the first month of a semester.

"[Students] are given about a week, and specific office hours...and they sometimes have to go take an appointment at all of these places," she says, "and they're giving cash back that sometimes is not equivalent to the amount they paid."

For years, the refund amounts to 39 cents per course credit for undergraduate students — $11.70 per year for a full course load — and 50 cents per course credit for grad students.

The first step for students who want to opt out is to visit the QPIRG office itself on campus, which Yordanova suggests isn't friendly territory for those who don't agree with their politics. "It's not a very nice process," she says. "Specifically with political groups, you're given a dirty look."

Singh has been a prominent activist for two decades, having made his mark at anti-globalization protests at the 1997 APEC summit in Vancouver and the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. He's also been involved with pro-Palestinian and anti-police brutality activism over the years. Most recently, he was involved with this past weekend's anti-fascist demonstration against the right-wing La Meute group in Quebec City. He was briefly detained by Quebec City police, then released without charge.