Update: The previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Renew Slate at Ryerson ran in 2009; in fact, they ran in 2008.
High-up individuals in the Canadian Federation of Students and its provincial divisions are under fire for recent election controversies.
Zannah Matson, who ran for VP Equity on the Change slate in this month’s UTSU elections, has accused York Federation of Students executives of meddling in UTSU politics.
Matson told The Varsity that she saw Hamid Osman, president of the York Federation of Students, campaigning for the Demand Access slate at UTM on March 10, along with Gilary Massa, YFS VP external.
Matson said Osman introduced himself as a UTM student named “Ahmed” when she spoke to him, and that the two prevented her from taking a photo. She added that a Change slate campaigner told her Osman had bullied him and threatened demerit points for having campaign flyers in his pocket while going to vote.
“It was a pretty jarring experience in campaigning, and a really disillusioning experience,” said Matson, who describes the experience as disempowering for U of T students. “What it’s doing is intimidating people from participating in the democratic process.”
Matson said she and the other Change slate candidates decided to stop campaigning at UTM after the confrontation. She heard that Access campaigners approached campus groups prior to the campaign period, telling higher-ups that the slate was immature, not diverse, careerist, and would change the accords between UTM and St. George campuses.
The Change slate claimed the election results, to be published next week, will show that they won St. George campus by a wide margin and lost UTM.
The slate filed a complaint with CRO Lydia Treadwell. While photos are permitted as evidence of wrongdoing, only the CRO can enforce the elections procedure code. If someone other than the CRO steps in to stop a possible infraction, as Matson alleges Osman had, they can be fined demerit points.
Treadwell told the Change slate in an email that the complaint was not substantiated.
“There is hearsay on both sides,” wrote Treadwell in an email. “This complaint is dismissed.”
Osman is the delegate chosen by YFS executives to represent the union at CFS-O meetings. He did not reply to The Varsity’s emails, phone calls, and text messages over the past two weeks asking for comment. When asked if he would deny campaigning at UTM, he refused to answer.
Osman has faced demands and petitions for his impeachment after leaving York in the middle of the TA strike to campaign at the University of Ottawa during its referendum to join the CFS. Osman has yet to explain who paid for his travel and accommodations, and why he did not inform students he would be traveling to Ottawa.
Last year, York University student newspaper the Excalibur reported that Osman, Massa, and YFS VP campus life Loveleen Kang were seen campaigning at Ryerson Student Union’s elections for the Renew slate. CFS membership was contested in this year’s election and the Renew slate said it would ensure the union remained part of the CFS. Osman said YFS-ers were there during their reading week because they strongly supported the slate’s platform.
“The federation does not interfere in local student union elections,” said Shelley Melanson, CFS-Ontario chairperson. “We don’t believe that any outside group should be interfering in that process.”
Melanson also clarified the role the CFS plays with students and their unions.
“Our relationship isn’t necessarily with the students’ union; it’s in fact with the individual students at a particular union local. We’re a membership driven-organization,” said Melanson. “That relationship doesn’t exist between the student union and the CFS.”
CFS’s BC division has brought in student union executives to help out in membership votes at other universities. Last year, UTSU president-elect Sandy Hudson and other execs flew to Victoria for a referendum at Simon Fraser University to withdraw from the CFS. Hudson, who ran on the Demand Access slate, is a Students of Colour Representative on CFS national.
CFS-Québec is facing criticism after a Feb. 8 video surfaced, featuring deputy chair-elect Noah Stewart-Ornstein tearing down seven campaign posters during elections at Concordia University. He was CFS-Q spokesperson and Québec Representative for CFS’s national division at the time.
In an email to The Varsity, CFS spokesperson Ben Lewis said that Stewart-Ornstein was acting as an individual, and that his actions should not tarnish the reputation of organizations he is involved with.