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The Breakdown: A look into the Canadian Federation of Students’ National General Meeting agenda

NGM to address mental health, Israel-Palestine conflict, budgetary concerns
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Motions from the National Executives and various student unions are on the agenda for the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) 37th National General Meeting (NGM) on November 16.

The CFS represents 64 postsecondary student unions across Canada, including five at U of T: the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), the Scarborough Campus Student Union, the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, and the Graduate Students’ Union.

The organization’s goals are to lobby for university and college students at the provincial and federal level and to create accessible postsecondary education.

The organization has a marred history with the UTSU — in 2017, half of the union’s executives signed a statement supporting decertification from the CFS. Following that, last year’s UTSU hired students in a campaign to hold a referendum on membership in the federation. The current UTSU executive team was also elected on a platform supporting a referendum on membership.

Aftermath of BC unions expulsions

After expelling 12 student unions from British Columbia in June over a membership fees disagreement, a motion by the National Executives seeks to submit budget amendments and to hold a smaller June NGM. The proposed NGM would be a two-day meeting with a maximum of one delegate registration per local. Recent NGMs occurred across four days with multiple delegate registration/s per local.

The motion cite the expulsion of the BC unions as the cause of a “new financial reality.”

In addition to the fact that the June NGM plenary adopted a budget with expenses for only one general meeting, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act also prohibits the exclusion of the June NGM leading the National Executives to seek such changes.

Another special motion seeks to change the bylaws to allow for the election of constituency representatives at the upcoming NGM.

Adding votes

A motion from the College of the North Atlantic Students’ Union (CNASU) proposes splitting up the union’s one vote into four, citing the fact that it has 17 campuses each with different “needs and views.”

The votes would be given to Eastern CNASU, Central CNASU, Western CNASU, and Labrador CNASU.

They point to examples of other schools in Newfoundland and Labrador doing this as precedence.

$1,000 to political podcast

In a motion proposed by the now-expelled Selkirk College Students’ Union and the UTMSU, the CFS would donate $1,000 to a podcast co-hosted by Nora Loreto.

Loreto, as mentioned in the motion, made controversial tweets following the deaths of Humboldt Bronco hockey players in April.

The motion reads, “Without questioning the tragedy of the death of the amateur hockey players or the support for their families, independent journalist and former Federation activist Nora Loreto made an arguably innocuous comment about the radicalized, gendered nature of grief.”

The motion further gives the “highly sophisticated political attack due to her straight forward assessment of the nature of public discourse regarding grief” as reasoning for the $1,000 donation.

The Sandy & Nora Talk Politics podcast is co-hosted by Sandra Hudson, the former UTSU Executive Director who settled a lawsuit with the union last year.

Mental health policies

A motion submitted by the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design calls for the CFS to adopt a policy that supports the provision and funding of mental health services for students by universities. The motion specifically opposes any institution’s use of a mandatory leave of absence policy, particularly ones that would force students to leave residence.   

Since June, U of T has implemented a controversial mandated leave of absence policy that places students on a non-punitive leave if their mental health is deemed to be negatively affecting their grades, or is considered a danger to themselves or others.

Condemnation of the occupation of Palestine

Citing university institutions that invest in weapons manufacturers supporting what it calls “War Crimes globally and within Israel,” the York Federation of Students submitted a motion for the CFS to oppose the “ongoing occupation of Palestine.”

The motion calls for the CFS to support “boycotts, divestments, and sanctions [campaigns].”