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UTSU prez campaigns in BC referendum

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UTSU president Adam Awad was seen last week campaigning at the University of Victoria in BC.

Members of the University of Victoria Student Society are set to vote in a Canadian Federation of Students membership referendum. The CFS comprises most university student unions in Canada, making it the largest national student lobby group. The referendum, which came after a lengthy court battle, is scheduled for March 29–31.

Eye on the UVSS, an anti-CFS blog run by UVic student David Foster, alleged that Awad was seen campaigning for the CFS side.

“I think it is incredibly important for students on any campus to hear about the experiences of other students across the country within the federation,” wrote Awad in an email to The Varsity.

“This is particularly necessary when the local students’ union has been antagonistic to the work of the students’ movement all year. When it comes time to vote, students should be well-informed, and that includes taking other students’ experiences into account. All students benefit when we are working together.”

Awad, who is National Deputy Chairperson-elect for the CFS, said he paid for his own travel expenses and is on vacation leave from UTSU. He said he was in Victoria for a local Canadian University Press conference. Awad is former queer issues co-ordinator for CUP.

Foster also alleged that York Federation of Students President Krisna Saravanamuttu was seen on campus. In an e-mail to The Varsity, he later admitted mistaking Saravanamuttu for former YFS president Hamid Osman. Former UTSU President Sandy Hudson, who has held positions with the CFS, was also seen campaigning.

Osman, who is Ontario representative for the CFS, left Toronto during the 2008 York University strike to campaign during a CFS membership referendum for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa.

External student campaigning has become common on Canadian campuses. During the 2010 UTSU election, Toby Whitfield, then president-elect of the Ryerson Students’ Union, was spotted campaigning for the incumbent slate for the second year in a row. Whitfield attempted to avoid The Varsity and refused to identify himself when approached. Darshika Selvasivam, VP campaigns and advocacy at the YFS, was also seen campaigning for the incumbents.

In the lead-up to a 2008 defederation campaign at Simon Fraser University, the BC branch of the CFS mistakenly emailed campaign plans to each CFS student union in BC.

The document contained campaign tactics and rated student politicians from across the country on their ability to campaign in the style of a report card. The document also listed non-students, including full-time staff from the NDP and unions.

When the one student union made the campaign plans public, they received a legal threat from the CFS’ lawyer demanding a public apology.