By Еvan Osentоn
Staff at the McGill Daily were devastated to learn last week that they lost their lawsuit concerning the validity of their lease with the Students’ Society of McGill University. The Quebec court ruling gave the 90-year-old paper two weeks to vacate their campus office; however, last-minute lease negotiations between the paper and SSMU may prevent the paper from moving.
"We’re actively looking off campus [for space]," said Daily News Editor Ben Errett. "However, we’re also in negotiations with the SSMU."
Despite deteriorating relations between the newspaper and the SSMU over the past several months, both parties have agreed to negotiate with a deadline looming, said representatives from each side.
"We started discussions last week as to new space, and it has been going pretty well," offered SSMU President Wojtek Baraniak. "Our offer has been received quite favourably, we are waiting to hear back from their board with a counter offer."
Should a deal not occur before Fri., Oct. 20, the Daily will vacate their offices in the SSMU-owned building, putting the future of one of the oldest student newspapers in the country in doubt.
"The only time we’ve ever not published is when we were shut down during the FLQ crisis in 1970," said Daily coordinating News Editor Jaime Kirzner-Roberts. "It is a bit scary right now, but we have a number of options we are looking at. Everyone here is very determined not to let this get in the way of publishing."
The dispute between the Daily and the SSMU goes back to Aug. 4 when newspaper staff showed up at their office and found the locks changed.
"We felt we had a tacitly renewing lease," said Kirzner-Roberts. "We felt, and our lawyer felt, there was case law to back us up. One has to give reasonable notice before one terminates such a lease."
The Daily sued both the SSMU and McGill University, who they felt had a moral responsibility to prevent the eviction of one of McGill’s most famed student institutions.
Baraniak asserted the SSMU was within their legal rights to evict the Daily and added he felt last week’s verdict justified the SSMU position.
"I am sad that we were forced into this situation," he said. "But [I was] pleased the verdict came out on our side."
Nevertheless, Kirzner-Roberts and the Daily staff remain optimistic.
"Obviously, I wish this had never come to a lawsuit and I certainly wish we did not lose," she said. "There has been a lot of money spent on this, it’s been a huge waste of our resources… but our backs were against the wall. We did what we had to do to save our paper."
"The kind of contribution we have made to the journalism community and to the student community here at McGill is not something that could or should die simply because we lost a lawsuit. All I can say is we’re determined to carry on."