“Be it resolved that the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) should be a member of the Canadian Federation of Students,” was the topic of a debate held at McLennan Physical Laboratories on Monday.
The GSU continues its campaign, initiated in September, to decertify from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and Canadian Federation of Students -Ontario (CFS-O).
Alastair Woods, chairperson of the CFS-O, spoke in favour of the proposition.
Woods began by stating that Deloitte, the Manhattan-based professional services firm arbitrating the issue, determined that the GSU’s petition had not met the requisite number of signatures to trigger a membership referendum. The firm had been agreed upon by both the GSU and CFS as an impartial oversight body. This decision coloured the tone and subject matter of Monday’s debate.
During the evening’s debate, Woods argued that the CFS is an “effective and united” organization, citing its successes in government lobbying and promotion of “social justice” causes. Claiming that the GSU would be “isolated,” should it defederates, he admitted that the federation’s “relations with some student unions in Quebec is rocky,” though denied that any student bodies besides the GSU wanted to leave. This denial came in spite of the fact that student societies at McGill University and Concordia University are currently engaged in litigation, arguing the validity of their referenda to decertify from the CFS.
Asleigh Ingle, a U of T graduate student and former member of the GSU executive committee, debated for the opposition. Recounting her experiences at CFS conferences, Ingle criticized what she saw as the ineffective and undemocratic nature of the federation, claiming that many proposed reforms were either voted down or modified beyond recognition.
Ingle went on to criticize the annual lobbying campaign Woods praised in his arguments, and claimed that he and others at the federation hid behind the CFS’s promotion of “social justice” causes to defend the GSU’s continued membership.
“By leaving the CFS, it does not mean that we won’t organize against racism, colonialism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, sexual assaults on our campus, tuition, and the decreasing quality of life of students,” said Ingle.
While both debaters were unhappy with the low turnout of the event, Woods and Ingle said they were both glad to have participated. Woods stated: “I see graduate students interested in the work of the federation and excited to be a part of it, and I certainly look forward to continuing this work with our members in the future.”