The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) may soon see several major policy changes implemented — including one that may make it easier for local member associations to leave the federation.
In September, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU); the Carleton University Students’ Association; the Cape Breton University Students’ Association; the Ryerson Students’ Union; the Laurentian University Students’ General Association; the University of Regina Students’ Union; the Kwantlen Student Association; the Laurentian University at Barrie Students’ Union; the University of British Columbia Students’ Union – Okanogan; and the OCAD Students’ Union were the signatories of a letter criticizing the federation’s structure, defederation process, and lack of availability of online documents.
The aforementioned student unions, along with the University of Prince Edward Island Students’ Union, the Students’ Association of George Brown College, the University of Saskatchewan Graduate Students’ Union, and the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, submitted a list of 14 reform motions to the National General Meeting (NGM). The reform motions included lowering the required threshold of petition signatures for a defederation referendum; introducing online voting for referendums; making documents available online; and other policy changes.
During its October 6 meeting, the CFS National Executive approved a motion to lower the threshold of signatures required to trigger a referendum on continued membership with the CFS. Currently, a referendum is possible only with a petition with signatures from 20 per cent of a local member association’s membership. The motion would reduce this threshold to 15 per cent and needs further approval from the CFS’ NGM, which is scheduled for November.
“This proposal is being suggested to members as an answer to the question that’s asked almost every year around the current difference in threshold,” CFS National Chairperson Bilan Arte told The Varsity in an email statement. “While it is still normal for many unions or similar organizations to have different processes to join and to leave, we’re listening to students’ concerns and chose to propose a 15% threshold for both petitions.”
The National Executive also voted to post audited financial statements on to the CFS website; such documents were previously not available online. This motion became effective immediately without needing approval from the NGM.
“Our executive felt this was a practical measure to ensure that this information could be more readily accessible to our membership,” said Arte.