On January 24, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) released a statement supporting decertification from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The statement followed CFS-Ontario’s semi-annual general meeting which took place January 19–22.
According to the statement, the UTSU delegates had submitted motions on electronic voting and preventing non-student staff from attending CFS meetings as delegates, which were rejected at the CFS-Ontario meeting and at November’s National General Meeting (NGM) in Gatineau, Québec.
The statement also cites a hidden bank account, the audit of which delegates of the CFS National General Meeting voted to approve without having been given access to the audited report discussing the account.
“Continued membership of the Canadian Federation of Students is something that we, as executives, can no longer support. We still believe in a progressive, national student movement, but the CFS as an organization is beyond reform,” a portion of the statement reads.
UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike spoke about the CFS in an email to The Varsity saying, “Some members of the UTSU Executive felt that the CFS has remained unresponsive to concerns that have been consistenntly raised time and time again. We wont stand it for any longer.”
Only four of the seven members of UTSU’s Executive Committee signed the statement — Vice-President University Affairs Cassandra Williams, Vice-President Equity Farah Noori, and Vice-President Campus Life Shahin Imtiaz did not. Despite this, the four executives signed off as “the UTSU Executive.”
The Varsity reached out to Williams, Noori, and Imtiaz who did not respond as of press time. However, Williams expressed her discontent on Twitter.
“‘The UTSU Executive’–that is, the white and cis ones,” Williams tweeted, in reference to the absence of Williams, Noori, and Imtiaz on the list of signatories. Denike, who was one of the signatories, is partially of Chinese background.
On reddit, UTSU Vice-President Internal Mathias Memmel explained that the phrase, “The UTSU Executive” was ultimately removed from the statement because “some executives didn’t want to sign.”
According to Denike, Williams, Noori, and Imtiaz “did not want their names attached to the statement for various reasons.”
In an email to The Varsity, National Chairperson of the CFS Bilan Arte said, “The statement is not an accurate picture of the proceedings of our most recent General Meetings.” Arte spoke about UTSU’s participation at the national general meeting and the Ontario general meeting.
“We take the concerns of our members seriously, but we also hope that the UTSU Executive understand that the decisions of the organization are made by themselves and their peers through open, transparent and democratic mechanisms such as our General Meetings – and we hope they accurately communicate this to their own members,” Arte stated.
When asked how this will affect relations between the CFS and UTSU, Arte said the following: “Undergraduate students at the University of Toronto remain members of the Federation. To that end, we will continue to work with them and their representative at the UTSU to advance the interests of students at local, provincial, and national levels.”
UTSU’s statement also supported the current You Decide campaign — a campaign on which the UTSU previously had no official position.
“While the UTSU is explicitly forbidden from initiating the decertification process, we believe that decertification is a necessary step. To this end, the UTSU will actively support reasonable member-initiated efforts to hold a referendum on decertification, including the existing You Decide campaign,” reads a portion of the statement.
You Decide is a student-run group created in early September 2016. Since then, the group has been campaigning for a referendum on CFS membership; to reach a referendum, 15 per cent of local 98 members must sign a petition. Although the campaign is seeking a referendum, it does not take a position on whether the UTSU should defederate from the CFS. The group is looking into collaborating with the union.
“In light of the statement, we do intend on collaborating with the UTSU in some capacity, however the nature of that relationship is still a topic of active discussion and is yet to be determined,” said You Decide organizer Jonathan Webb.
Editor’s note: A previous version mistakenly said that the signature threshold for a petition on a deferation referendum was 20 per cent of the membership. In fact, the threshold was recently lowered to 15 per cent.