HSF Controversy: Who is Chief Returning Officer Natalia Toussaint?
By Kathleen Jolly
This year’s Chief Returning Officer Natalia Toussaint wields enough power to usurp the popular vote at her discretion.
She remains under fire for her decision to disqualify current HSF president Timothy Brilhante and VP Student Life, Lakeshore, candidate Karnesh Babaria. They were decisions that rocked Humber’s student political structure.
Toussaint’s run as CRO, a paid position, was a natural progression from her days at York where she studied history.
“I had a similar position at York University, overseeing the elections for the colleges,” the public relations student said.
She was an election review officer from September 2010 to April 2012. Her Linkedin profile describes her role as ERO as advising nine college and eight faculty student government Chief Returning Officers to ensure college and faculty elections are unbiased, and advising Board of Referendum Commissioners (BORC) on correct practices of the student referenda period, interview potential Chief Returning Officers and polling staff for referenda period.
Toussaint wasn’t directly involved in any of the elections except for the referendum period at York and didn’t oversee each individual election.
She said there a number of points in Humber’s Election and Appeals policy, which is the guideline that all candidates and Toussaint follow during the election process, that she thinks should be changed.
“There’s definitely changes that should be made throughout the entire document,” Toussaint said. “There’s a few things that I think that aren’t written that should be, and a few things that could be made more clear.
“One thing that definitely I think should be in there is addressing disqualified candidates… there’s nothing in the appeals policy about that,” said Toussaint.
Toussaint said she’s doing fine despite the backlash from her decision to disqualify Brilhante.
“I guess with any sort of big decision there’s always going to be questions,” she said. “I am doing, I guess okay. I really don’t see it as a backlash. It’s not personally to me, it’s about the process and how… there’s a lot of grey area, and that’s going to be addressed by the Governance Review Committee.”
Toussaint wouldn’t go into why she gave Brilhante and Babaria strikes, only saying that strikes and warnings are “up to my discretion.”
Ultimately, Toussaint said that candidates are the ones responsible for following the rules.
“I think it’s ultimately up to the individual candidate to make sure that their actions or anything that is that during the elections falls within the policy,” she said. “Unfortunately a candidate gets three strikes and they’re out, and it’s something that’s pretty clearly defined within the policy.”