Last April, the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) ad-hoc committee on the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) released its report, which criticized the federation for being too bureaucratic and called the decertification process “unnecessarily burdensome.”
The CFS is an association of over 80 post-secondary student associations across Canada. The federation offers services such as the International Student Identity Card and free tax filing through UFile.ca, but much of the work focuses on activism and lobbying.
The UTSU has been a member of the CFS since 2002 and pays around $750,000 in membership dues on an annual basis. The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, the UTM Students’ Union, the Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU), and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students are also members.
Should a student union attempt to leave the CFS, the process is as follows:
- A petition to call for a vote on decertification must be signed by a minimum of 20 per cent of the members of an association and sent to the CFS’ National Executive via registered mail.
- The National Executive will then review the petition and determine if it is in order. This decision would have to be made “within 90 days of receipt of the petition.”
- If the petition is deemed to be in order, the National Executive will work alongside the member local association to schedule a referendum. The referendum cannot be held between April 15 and September 15 or between December 15 and January 15, and no more than two member local associations can have a decertification vote within a three month period.
- The CFS’ National Executive will recommend an individual to take on the role of Chief Returning Officer (CRO) for the referendum vote. The appointment of the CRO will then be ratified at a general meeting of the CFS.
- A notice of the vote — which states the dates of the referendum and the referendum question – will be given to the member local association in “no less than two (2) weeks prior to the first day of voting.”
- After campaigning during the CFS-specified campaigning period, a vote will be held under the CFS-set rules to determine whether or not they wish to continue with their membership. Only paper ballots are allowed and quorum is 10 per cent of the membership.
- If the vote passes, the formal Procedure for Application for Withdrawal begins with the member local association giving the CFS a written letter to “notify the Federation of its intention to decertify from the Federation.”
- Once again, within a 90-day period the National Executive will determine if the application is in order. If found to be in order, the National Executive will “make a recommendation to the voting members of the Federation concerning the decertification.”
- During the CFS’ next general meeting, a vote will be held to ratify the member local association’s vote of desertion.
- Lastly, on June 30, the decertification will be in effect – given that “all outstanding membership fees payable to such a date shall have then been received by the Federation.”
The decertification process is often accompanied by litigation as well. The UTGSU is currently in the midst of a lawsuit with the CFS after 66 per cent of the participating members voted against continued membership. Student unions at McGill University, Concordia University, Simon Fraser University, University of Guelph, University of Victoria, and Cape Breton University have also been engaged in legal battles with the CFS.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that 66 per cent of UTGSU members voted against continued membership in the CFS. This percentage represents the voting choices only of those UTGSU members who voted in the referendum.