The National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has told The Varsity that she will work with each of the 10 student unions that signed onto a letter calling for CFS reforms. The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) was one of the signatories of the open letter, which was released Monday.
According to UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike, the UTSU and nine other student unions began work on the letter after the CFS National General Meeting in June.
Denike stated that the signatories of the letter “would like to require the CFS to post all of its important documents — including minutes and financial statement — online,” and to guarantee speaking rights for members who submit motions to a general meeting. Denike expressed support for reforming the process of leaving and joining the federation by introducing measures such as online voting for referendums.
When asked about the contents of the letter, CFS Chairperson Bilan Arte said that she has “taken seriously the issues raised and commit to working with these students’ unions and others to ensure their concerns are addressed.” She also noted that the CFS would follow up with all 10 of the students’ unions that signed the letter.
Despite the criticisms, the letter affirms that the signatories remain committed to the CFS’s principles. A portion of the final paragraph of the letter reads, “We hope that our fellow members will work with us to create a fairer, more open Federation in which all students feel at home.”
Arte explained that the CFS encourages member participation, ensures that every submitted motion is held to debate, and that every delegate receives a copy of the minutes and financial information, adding that the CFS is working to get more documents online so that students may freely access them.
“While it’s important to review internal processes, students’ unions and the CFS also exist to fight for students,” said Arte, while citing the CFS’ involvement on campuses with regards to their campaign to eliminate tuition fees.
Meanwhile, other student groups are in the midst of a petition campaign — called You Decide UofT — in an attempt to have a referendum on the UTSU’s continued membership with the CFS. In response to the UTSU’s letter, You Decide UofT representative Jonathan Webb told The Varsity that the campaign is “neutral and has no reaction to the content of the letter,” but believes it will be a good discussion piece in the event they should be successful in having a referendum.