Op-ed: Students should counter concerns with the CFS and other student unions with dedicated action

We must unite to resist corruption in student governance

Op-ed: Students should counter concerns with the CFS and other student unions with dedicated action

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) has become more powerful through its close affiliation with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and its Ontario component. Allegations regarding the close connections between UTMSU elected students, employees, and the CFS have been detrimental to the union’s operations and are characteristic of the anti-CFS student movement.

Former Simon Fraser University student Titus Gregory’s essay “Solidarity for Their Own Good: Self-Determination and the Canadian Federation of Students,” published in 2010, is a work that still informs the anti-CFS movement today. Gregory argues, albeit amid critiques by a CFS legal counsel that are included in the document, that the CFS and its member locals are controlled by unelected, non-student staff members who ultimately undermine student democracy.

While Gregory’s argument cannot be proven with certainty, it portrays democracy in Canadian student government as a mere illusion where students’ ability to use their democratic voice is set up to fail — a situation which students should seek to ameliorate and prevent.

While such an argument can be useful in designing policy measures to avoid domination by unelected, non-student actors, in excess it can lead to nihilism and despair. This hopelessness is mirrored in the perception that the only recourse is through costly legal action, as opposed to student government democracy.

A way forward is to gather and report on evidence to test whether perceived cliques within the UTMSU are contributing to severe issues with union democracy. This would not only need to be done through student journalism, but also by a movement of students actively pushing for democratic reforms on a multi-year basis.

If there is indeed a regime in UTMSU that has been in power for years, the institutional knowledge they would have accumulated over their tenures would allow them to run circles around lone students or short-term slates.

For instance, take the case of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) Resistance, a coalition of student groups that was dedicated to opposing corruption in the SFUO until the SFUO’s dismantlement and replacement by the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) through a student referendum in 2019.

It took University of Ottawa students four years to stop SFUO corruption, and in the end the university administration stepped in and organized the deciding referendum instead of having it run by the SFUO’s democratic processes.

Post-SFUO, the UOSU now finds itself with a considerable amount of independence, with its constitution sporting a clause that makes it very difficult to enter into an agreement that cannot be terminated by a vote of its board of directors. This would include a referendum to join the CFS.

If UTMSU students take action and confirm that the UTMSU’s membership in the CFS is contributing to the union’s democratic issues, they can start to seek separation, as daunting as such a campaign may seem.

If issues like those with the SFUO are found in the UTMSU, improving the situation could also take years. However, the case of the SFUO shows that change is possible.

As a witness of and participant in what I would now term as the “UOSU Revolution,” I would say that spending years advocating for improvements to student union democracy is worth it.

Even if the reforms are not enacted before you graduate, if you have a group of students striving for change year after year, you can pass on the knowledge you have gained so your successors have a solid foundation for organizing. The same goes for students in any of the University of Toronto’s student governments.

Organize collectively, resist, and do not be afraid.

Justin Patrick recently graduated with a Master of Political Science from UTSG. He served as the Internal Commissioner of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union from January to April 2019. He was a Governance and Policy Analyst at the University of Toronto Students’ Union from June to September 2019.

Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative quashed in Ontario court

Student groups celebrate victory, with apprehension toward decision’s uncertain consequences

Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative quashed in Ontario court

On November 21, the Divisional Court of Ontario unanimously ruled in favour of the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (CFS–O) and the York Federation of Students (YFS) in a legal challenge that repealed the provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI).

The SCI — which took effect at the beginning of the 2019–2020 academic year — was a controversial directive from the province’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) that allowed postsecondary students to opt out of certain incidental fees deemed “non-essential.”

While student groups have been celebrating their victory over the Ford government in court, the specifics of the SCI’s demise remain in legal ambiguity.

Substantial funding changes for student groups

The SCI was created by the provincial government to direct colleges and universities to allow students to opt out of “non-essential” incidental fees, with guidelines for “essential” fees laid out by the province.

“Students are adults and we are treating them as such by giving them the freedom to clearly see where their fees are currently being allocated,” announced then-Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton at a press conference on January 17.

The policy was part of a broader set of sweeping changes to postsecondary education, including to domestic tuition and the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

Despite multiple student associations organizing marches, and critics opposing the policy, the province went forward with its directive to universities and colleges, and categorized fees as “essential” and “non-essential.” The opt-out policy’s guidelines were officially released in March, and were implemented at the start of the 2019–2020 academic year.

During its Annual General Meeting in October, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) revealed the opt-out rates for specific fees, and noted that it saw an average opt-out rate of 23.6 per cent. Substantial funding changes were made to student aid, clubs funding, and orientation as a result. The SCI also had an impact on other student groups, including college student societies, levy-funded groups, and campus media — including The Varsity.

The success of legal resistance

In their application for judicial review that was filed on May 24, the CFS–O and the YFS claimed that the MCU lacked the legal authority to implement the SCI, and was also in breach of procedural fairness as it failed to consult with or adequately notify student groups.

On October 11, Honourable Justices Harriet Saches, David Corbett, and Lise Favreau heard arguments from the applicants, the CFS–O and YFS; the province; and two intervenors: the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) in favour of the CFS–O and YFS; and B’Nai Brith of Canada League for Human Rights, in favour of the government.

The Divisional Court of Ontario concluded on November 21 that “Ontario does not control [the relationships of student associations and universities] directly or indirectly.” It went on to note that the province’s cabinet and ministry had no authority to interfere in the internal affairs of student associations.

The court ruled that the application of certiorari — an appeal of legislation and court decisions — was granted and revoked the SCI.

Responses to the ruling

“I’m ecstatic about this,” said MPP for Spadina–Fort York, and the Ontario New Democratic Party’s postsecondary critic, Chris Glover, in an interview with The Varsity. Glover has been a vocal advocate against the SCI since its announcement. He joined CFS–O National Representative Kayla Weiler and YFS President Fatima Babiker at a press conference on November 22, announcing the end of the SCI.

“You cannot just undermine the legal rights of students and their unions and the services that they provide on campus,” said Glover. He also expressed his belief that the language of the court’s decision would impede any attempt by the province to reinstate a similar mandate. “So, this is a landmark decision.”

Glover also called on the Ford government to pay student groups the fees that were lost in the first opt-out period for the fall 2019 term.

CFS–O Chairperson Felipe Nagata is celebrating alongside Glover and his colleagues. Despite the CFS fee having one of the highest opt-out rates that the UTSU reported, Nagata is dedicated to a collective union: “Victories like this one today just show how much strength in numbers that we have.”

Michael Mostyn, CEO of the intervenor group B’nai Brith Canada, lamented the government’s loss in court and promised to intervene again if the government decides to appeal the decision: “There may also be a legislative solution to ensuring that Jewish students are no longer obligated to self-discriminate against themselves through mandatory student union dues, and we will be sharing our further thoughts in this regard with the Government of Ontario.”

In the past, B’nai Brith has criticized student groups, including the CFS, for supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Israel movement, which it calls anti-Semitic. B’nai Brith also led an opt-out campaign against the CFS under the SCI.

However, the UTGSU, the other intervener, called the decision a “historic victory not just for the UTGSU, but for students across the province and for the student movement broadly.” Branden Rizzuto, former Finance Comissioner of the UTGSU, writing on behalf of the UTGSU’s Legal Ad-Hoc Committee, agreed with the court’s ruling and recognized the SCI as an “attack on the democratic autonomy of Ontario student associations.”

“We don’t know the ramifications of this decision”

Other unions have expressed similar sentiments of relief at the court’s decision, although with some hesitation. UTSU President Joshua Bowman wrote that the union will continue to operate as if the ruling had not happened, and explained that this is “because we don’t know the ramifications of this decision, and because it is apparent that the university doesn’t either.”

Apprehensive of the court’s decision and action that could still be taken by the province — such as an appeal to the decision or legislation to enact similar policies — Bowman is skeptical of the real impacts of the SCI being overturned. “The underlying message of this decision is that the provincial government does not have the authority to circumvent student unions and university governance structures through ministerial action,” wrote Bowman. “This decision has not led to us being consulted further, or even being communicated with further.”

In response to the announcements in court, U of T preferred not to comment until a later date. “The University is aware of the decision of the Divisional Court and is evaluating the technical impact. There will be an update next week,” wrote a university spokesperson to The Varsity.

An MCU spokesperson also deferred commenting on the decision, writing to The Varsity that it is “currently reviewing the decision… We will have more to say on this at a later date.”

—With files from Hannah Carty.

UTMSU President Felipe Nagata elected Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario chairperson

Plans to put pressure on governments, move away from lobbying

UTMSU President Felipe Nagata elected Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario chairperson

Current University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) President Felipe Nagata has been elected to be the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (CFS–O) chairperson beginning on June 1. He will be replacing CFS–O chairperson Nour Alideeb, who has held this position for two consecutive terms and was also a former UTMSU president during the 2016–2017 school year.

In this election, registered delegates were sent on behalf of each local to vote, with one local counting as one vote. Nagata ran uncontested for the position.

Nagata told The Varsity in an email that he plans to “unite students across the province” and pressure local and federal governments to “prioritize education.”

“Building capacity and bringing students together will be crucial in the fight for a more accessible post secondary education because it will be more efficient and impactful with one unified voice. There are many ways to do this like sending letters to local MPPs and rallying students to skills development and coalition building,” wrote Nagata.

Nagata’s election comes at a hectic time in Ontario student politics, with the Ford government’s controversial decision to cut tuition by 10 per cent, cut student grants, and add opt-out options to formerly mandatory non-tuition fees.

With the Ford government in power, Nagata plans to scale back on government lobbying, especially with a government that he sees as having little concern for student input.

“I want to spend the next year supporting students in developing a mobilization strategy. With the help of student unions and other groups on campus, we can focus on educating and mobilizing to create a sense of unity for the scary times we have ahead.”

Aside from the provincial government, Nagata also has his eye on the upcoming federal election.

“I want to make sure that every party has education on their platform. I wish to partake in a campaign to increase not only the student voter turn-out but also voter literacy.”

Nagata called this “an essential piece” in showing the government that students “have a weight and voice.”

Alideeb, the current CFS–O chairperson, is graduating from U of T this year but plans to continue her life in student politics.

“Even though I’m graduating and I won’t be an elected representative anymore, I’m still going to fight for a free and accessible post-secondary education,” she wrote to The Varsity.

“Especially with the recent government announcement, I feel like it’s my responsibility as a prospective graduate student, older sibling and citizen to continue this work. So where it will take me, I’m not sure yet, but I’m excited about this new chapter in my life.”

Canadian Federation of Students’ closing plenary debates hidden bank account, U of T mandatory leave policy

Meeting declines to release full audit report, condemns mandated leave

Canadian Federation of Students’ closing plenary debates hidden bank account, U of T mandatory leave policy

The Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) National General Meeting (NGM) on June 9–12 ended with a six-hour closing plenary that succeeded in going through a two-year backlog of motions. During the plenary, members voted against releasing an audit report, rejected online voting, and passed a motion to condemn the proposed university-mandated leave of absence policy at U of T.

The CFS is a national student organization that represents almost 80 member local student unions across Canada, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU), and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students at the University of Toronto (APUS). Its goals are to lobby for accessible postsecondary education and advance student interests.

Indigenous perspectives

Prior to the plenary, Phyllis McKenna — a delegate from the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR) and Chair of the Circle of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Students at the CFS — criticized the lack of Indigenous students at the Federation. McKenna called on the CFS to “do better,” saying that “silence is violence. We all know that.”

CFS Chairperson Coty Zachariah told The Varsity afterward that he is “fully in support” of McKenna’s statements.

“I think the CFS isn’t perfect. That being said, we do a lot of great things, and I think we’re striving and recognizing some of our shortfalls, and that’s the kind of transparent organization that we’re fostering moving forward,” said Zachariah.

Budget review and audit of hidden bank account

The plenary included a report from the budget committee. CFS National Treasurer Peyton Veitch said that, during the committee meeting, delegates were able to take a look at the audited statements and the budget for the upcoming year. Of note in the report was that student unions voted to reduce the number of meetings from twice to once yearly.

Also on the agenda was a contentious motion regarding details of a hidden bank account that was revealed by the CFS in 2014, but the details of which only emerged in 2017. A summary of the account showed that an unauthorized total of $263,052.80 in deposits and $262,776.13 in withdrawals were made between July 2010 and December 2014. The motion proposed releasing the full forensic review of the account.

During the discussion on the motion, Veitch said that if the report were released, confidentiality would not be guaranteed, even with an in camera session of the member locals. As such, releasing the full forensic review would open the federation up to litigation, according to Veitch.

Munib Sajjad, Executive Director of the UTMSU, said that Veitch had done a thorough job with the report and the handling of the hidden account, encouraging members to defeat the motion.

Soon after, the question was called and the motion failed.

“I think what members appreciate is the fact that the National Executive has done its due diligence to initiate a forensic review of the accounting question,” Veitch told The Varsity after the plenary. “The fact that individuals associated with that account are no longer employed by the federation and were held to account for their actions, and that a summary report of that forensic review has been made available to all members at the past several general meetings now.”

The summary of the forensic review discloses that there were five recipients of the unauthorized disbursements — “two of whom, are former employees of the Federation, a further individual, one law firm and a consulting company” — although the summary does not say who they are.

“I think people have been satisfied with that level of disclosure, recognizing that providing the forensic review report in full would actually put the federation in a position of legal liability,” added Veitch. “I think people are now ready to turn the page on that issue. They know that due diligence was done.”

Mandated leave of absence policy

One of the last items on the agenda was an emergency motion brought forth by the SCSU, asking members to condemn the proposed university-mandated leave of absence policy at U of T. SCSU Vice-President External Hana Syed spoke on the motion, mentioning that it had been signed on by all five CFS locals at U of T. Syed called the proposed policy “an infringement on human rights.”

Many other locals supported the motion, including the Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union and CESAR. During her speech, Amanda Lin, Vice-President Services and Finance of CESAR, passionately spoke against the proposed policy, saying, “I am my own person. I have autonomy. I know myself best.”

An amendment to the motion was also introduced, asking the National Executive to pen an open letter to the U of T administration to express their opposition to the policy, with space for member locals to sign on. Both the amendment and the motion itself passed.

Postmortem

Once the closing plenary had ended, CFS Deputy Chairperson Charlotte Kiddell told The Varsity that she believed that “it was a really productive decision-making space.”

“We saw delegates coming together, discussing motions, sharing diverse perspectives, and ultimately making decisions with a strong feeling that the majority of students felt represented,” she added.

Zachariah echoed Kiddell’s statements, saying that “this is one of the best meetings we’ve had in four years.”

UTSU delegate and former UTSU Vice-President Operations Daman Singh later told The Varsity, “I think it was the worst of the five experiences that I’ve had,” referring to previous NGMs he had attended.

Singh was particularly unhappy with the fact that the question was called on “almost every substantial motion.”

According to the rules of order that govern CFS meetings, calling the question can be done by any member at any time during the debate, and it means that members must immediately vote on whether they want to end the debate and vote on the motion.

All of the calls to question passed because, according to Singh, “There are so few schools left after BC was expelled that are actively seeking reform.”

In response to dissatisfaction expressed by members like Singh, Veitch said that “in a democratic organization, people disagree about the outcome of decisions. That’s fine. That’s why we have the structure that we do. It allows for people to express their disagreement or their support for motions in a productive way.”

“I think it’s a very convenient argument when you’re on the winning side to say, well, we have 80 per cent or 90 per cent of the votes — this is just democracy,” responded Singh. “I don’t think the Federation leadership actually believes that. I think that’s a clever talking point; I think it’s a sexy talking point, but I don’t think that coincides with their beliefs, and if it does, that’s kind of disappointing.”

The Varsity has reached out to the APUS, SCSU, UTGSU, and UTMSU for comment.

Canadian Federation of Students votes to expel 12 BC student unions

Conflict stems from disagreement over membership fees

Canadian Federation of Students votes to expel 12 BC student unions

In a sweeping move that simultaneously cuts off 10 per cent of its funding and almost 20 per cent of its members, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) voted at its National General Meeting (NGM) this weekend to expel all member unions belonging to both the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) and the CFS.

The action comes after a multi-year conflict between the CFS and the BCFS over the withholding of membership dues. The two sides disagree over which started the dispute and which still owes fees.

The vote took place during the opening plenary of the NGM on June 9 in Gatineau, Quebec, and was passed after less than 10 minutes of debate. The motion to expel the BCFS members was put forth by the CFS National Executive as a special item that outlined how the Executive viewed the conflict between the two organizations.

CFS Chairperson Coty Zachariah said that the move was “no victory.”

“That’s a very solemn thing but we all realized that for the sake of moving on… that sometimes you need a bit of a cooling period,” said Zachariah.

In an interview with The Varsity, BC Representative of the CFS Jenelle Davies said, “I think it’s regrettable. I don’t think anybody wanted it to come this far.”

“I think at this point, the bridge was too burnt to go back across it, and so this seems to be a positive step in allowing both organizations to do the work that they’re doing in their respective places,” added Davies.

Fee dispute

The motion states that the dispute between the CFS and the BCFS has reached a “clear impasse with the BCFS continuing to withhold the national membership fees… the Federation withholding BC Component allocation fees, and a large and growing majority of BC member locals petitioning the Federation for decertification.”

This withholding of fees dates back to 2014, when according to the BCFS, the CFS stopped giving the province its allotted membership dues.

“It’s frustrating that the CFS paints it as like we withheld money,” said Davies. “It was in reaction to something they have already done.”

CFS Treasurer Peyton Veitch told The Varsity that to his recollection, the BCFS is incorrect in claiming that the CFS was the first to withhold fees. “Our understanding is that the BCFS withheld national membership dues for three years,” said Veitch, beginning in about 2014 or 2015.

CFS Deputy Chairperson Charlotte Kiddell said that, when it comes to the fee dispute, since it occurred before her term, “it’s a little bit difficult to pinpoint a start.”

“What ultimately happened was that a few years back, there was a major shift within the organization to become less litigious, more financially transparent, more progressive and bold in our advocacy points. And this was a shift that then caused internal conflict in terms of what folks wanted to see out of the Canadian Federation of Students,” continued Kiddell. “It’s not super clear to me which came first, fees-wise.”

According to Davies, the BCFS hasn’t “spent a cent of the CFS money.”

“It’s all sat in a trust account with the intention of having a resolution to this issue,” said Davies. “We’ve kept all of our money. I don’t know if the CFS has spent ours.”

Kiddell said that the CFS does not currently hold any funds belonging to the BCFS. Veitch said that the CFS doesn’t “have fees that were withheld from the BCFS… We never received the vast majority of the fees over this last three year period from BC so we did not have a provincial allocation to provide.”

However, Zachariah’s response differed: “There was definitely a clash of two sides about fees and money was owed on both sides,” he said.

“What I’m trying to explain is that we provide a one-sixth provincial allocation based on the total amount of fees collected based on that particular program,” added Veitch. “We communicated to the BCFS that we would make a one-sixth allocation available upon the receipt of those outstanding membership fees.”

While Davies agrees that the fee dispute stems out of the provincial allocation, she maintains that it was the CFS who withheld fees first.

“In October 2014, when we started to have some grievances with the organization, they didn’t send us the allocation — provincial allocation or membership fees. So they’re actually holding onto fees that members submitted to the BCFS,” she said.

In response to the disagreement over the timeline, Zachariah said that he is interested in looking into what exactly happened because “everybody deserves clarity on that and when this happened and kind of how we got here.”

In a letter published shortly after the vote, BCFS Chairperson Aran Armutlu wrote, “Though we would have preferred the organization become transparent and democratic, the motion of expulsion at this meeting was a way to resolve the ongoing dispute without going through the expensive and problematic referendum processes. It also avoids the inevitable lawsuits that have arisen from nearly every recent referendum process the CFS has overseen.”

Membership fees from the BC unions amounted to roughly $400,000 of the CFS’ total dues, which exceed $3.8 million. The 12 student unions that were expelled also represented over 120,000 students of the CFS’ 650,000 total membership.  

CFS national meeting opens with admission of new members, expulsion of British Columbia locals

The Canadian Federation of Students met in Gatineau June 9–12

CFS national meeting opens with admission of new members, expulsion of British Columbia locals

Canada’s largest student organization, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), held their 71st semi-annual National General Meeting (NGM) in Gatineau, Québec this weekend. The meeting on June 9 began with the opening plenary, which included the admission of new universities and the expected expulsion of 12 institutions from British Columbia.

The CFS represents more than 650,000 students in approximately 80 student unions across the country, including five from U of T — the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the U of T Mississauga Students’ Union, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), the U of T Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students.

Before the plenary began, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and keynote speaker Sarah Jama shared her experience as a community organizer. Jama did not hesitate to speak about the contentious topic of decertification, which is the process member institutions must take to leave the federation.

The CFS has had multiple disagreements in the past with member locals over the process of decertification, including a recent lawsuit with the GSU over the validity of the union’s referendum to decertify. The UTSU executive has also endorsed a referendum on the question of decertification. Multiple motions put forward for the NGM address simplifying the process of decertification, which the judge in the GSU lawsuit called “antiquated and impractical.”

Jama challenged the growing decertification movement by saying that “maybe people who continue to be uncomfortable should just leave… Unless there’s a change in the CFS, it’s going to be a waste of everybody’s time.”

Jama argued that the CFS should be used as a platform to combat the growing trend of racism and white supremacy. “We have an opportunity here today to change the direction of the Canadian Federation of Students.”

Following roll call, the opening plenary passed a motion to admit l’Association des étudiantes et étudiants de l’université de Hearst as a new member. According to the agenda, 95 per cent of the 100-member institution voted to join the CFS. Another successful motion granted the Dalhousie Students’ Union observer status. This move is the penultimate step to becoming a full member of the organization.

Discussion then moved to the special motion to expel members of the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS), which include all but two members from the province, from the CFS.

The special motion was announced to members in an email from Chairperson Coty Zachariah, Deputy Chairperson Charlotte Kiddell, and Treasurer Peyton Veitch on April 17. The move was unanimously decided by the National Executive and representatives from BC, though Zachariah stressed that “this is not a direction we hoped for.”

The debate lasted less than 10 minutes, with delegates from the University of King’s College Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Union of the Memorial University of Newfoundland speaking in favour. The motion was passed and enforced effective immediately, with BCFS locals asked to leave the room.

The motion’s success means that the CFS has lost approximately $400,000 in membership dues, or 10 per cent of its annual budget. Only two unions in the province are left in the federation — the Kwantlen Students Association and the College of the Rockies Students’ Association.

The NGM also marks the end of the current term of the National Executive. Although Zachariah will return as Chairperson, Kiddell was defeated in her bid for re-election by National Women’s Representative Jade Peek, and Veitch will be succeeded by CFS-Ontario Treasurer Trina James.

Motions show Canadian Federation of Students to address expelling BC unions, simplifying decertification

What to expect from this weekend's National General Meeting

Motions show Canadian Federation of Students to address expelling BC unions, simplifying decertification

The Varsity has obtained a copy of the motions that will be presented at the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) National General Meeting (NGM) this weekend. Among the more than 30 motions up for debate are proposals to expel all BC unions, to simplify the decertification process, and to approve over $100,000 in spending on various projects.

The CFS is a national student organization that represents almost 80 student unions across Canada, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students of the University of Toronto. Its goal is to lobby for accessible postsecondary education and advance student interests.

Expelling BC unions

In a motion put forward by the National Executive, the CFS is proposing to expel all shared members of the CFS and the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). The 12 unions to be expelled would remain members of the BCFS and continue to have access to the International Student Identity Card program.

The CFS and the BCFS have had a difficult working relationship since 2014, when the national organization and its provincial counterpart began withholding fees from each other. Since then, a large number of BC unions have petitioned to leave the CFS.

In the motion presented for the NGM, the National Executive stated that the dispute has “served as a distraction from the CFS and the BCFS core mandates of serving member students and fighting for progressive change.” As it is impossible for the BC unions to initiate decertification until they pay all their fees, the CFS is proposing to summarily expel all the BC unions to bypass the process altogether.

The motion further states that this action is “not intended to be punitive… but rather serve as a mechanism to allow both the BCFS and the CFS(-S) to continue their work independently from one another, to the mutual benefit of their members.”

Simplifying decertification

Of the 30 motions to be presented at the NGM, seven of them touch upon the process of decertification, which has been criticized in the past as being “antiquated and impractical.”

Among the motions are proposals to lower the number of petition signatures needed for a referendum from 20 per cent of students to 15 per cent, to allow online voting, and to shorten the time given to schedule a referendum from 90 days to 60 days.

A motion forwarded by the Student Union of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (SUNSCAD) also proposes loosening regulations on waiting periods between decertification votes. As it stands, universities must wait 60 months between votes, which SUNSCAD calls “absurdly drawn-out.” They propose lowering the timeframe to 18 months.

The UTSU has also put forward a motion proposing to abolish the petition process altogether. Instead of requiring a petition signed by students to initiate a referendum, they recommend that member unions vote to hold a referendum.  

Approval for spending

In response to what it calls a trend of “terminal decline” in the CFS, the Selkirk College Students’ Union proposed a motion to allocate $100,000 to fund a “congress of student unity.”

The motion states that since “support for the Federation has arguably collapsed in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and New Brunswick,” the CFS needs to bring together all student unions across Canada and “find common ground.”

The Selkirk students union also proposed to donate $1,000 to a political podcast, Sandy & Nora Talk Politics, hosted by Sandra Hudson and Nora Loreto. Hudson was a former Executive Director for the UTSU who recently settled a lawsuit with the union regarding allegations of civil fraud.

The donation is in response to “political attacks on Nora Loreto” from what they describe as “fascist and ultra-right groups in Canada and North America.” These attacks occurred in response to Loreto’s tweets about the Humboldt Broncos hockey players’ accident in April 2018.

Two more motions further propose allocating $3,000 to the Decolonizing Conference taking place at U of T in the fall, as well as $3,000 to fund travel for care workers attending the Reclaiming our Bodies and Minds Conference.

The NGM will take place from June 9-12 in Gatineau, Quebec. Be sure to follow along closely with The Varsity‘s reporting from the scene.