Mending a relationship
After last year’s referendum, the U of R and CFS are trying to work together
The University of Regina hasn’t heard much from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) since last year’s referendum, when Kyle Addison called into question the necessity of having a CFS membership. It’s been a year since students went to the polls, and although the results of the referendum were close, it appears CFS is here to stay.
Although many students still struggle to see where CFS comes into their lives, Haanim Nur, Saskatchewan’s elected CFS representative, insisted its services will continue to improve until their place here is established.
The referendum last year ended with only an 88-vote margin, which indicated that Addison was not the only one who had a problem with CFS. Many students still harbour some bad feelings towards the federation.
“I’m aware of them, at least in as much as the referendum. I can’t say I’m deeply and personally involved in their activities,” said Melissa Enns, a third-year linguistics student. “Frankly, unless I was going to see some large-scale changes, CFS wouldn’t be an important part of my life”.
Enns highlighted CFS’s impact on campus; many first-year students do not know of CFS since they missed the referendum last year. Emilien Perron, a first-year anthropology major, said, “I have seen the name, but don’t really know what they do,” when asked if he was aware of their services.
Nur did not comment on the strained relationship between the student body at the U of R and the CFS, but she did emphasize the ways in which the federation is working to repair the relationship. Local 9, the university’s section of CFS, has been working to get discounts on clothing and other necessities for students in Regina through its student saver card. Similarly, it has been attempting to issue as many International Student Identity (ISIC) cards to as many students as possible, which gives students discounts on travel.
While some students are unhappy with the services from the federation, others are welcoming the changes CFS is making for Regina. Bart Soroka, a third-year economics and business student, was against CFS during last year’s referendum, but is impressed with the changes that have been made.
“Though the U of R remained in the CFS, I had hoped that by being loud and demonstrating that we did understand what the CFS owed to us, we could force their hand into working closer with us and providing the same benefits to other schools,” he said. “Fast forward and the University of Regina now has a CFS rep, the Student Discount Cards can now be used at businesses in Regina and in Saskatoon, and I no longer feel like my money is going to waste. Last year I did try to remove the U of R from the CFS, but this year, I appreciate the hard work being done on campus to ensure students benefit from our membership.”
“I would say Local 9 members are well aware of the Federation benefits they receive as members” Nur commented, in regards the lack of knowledge on campus of CFS’s services. While this may not be true for all students, Nur outlined some ways in which the federation will be reaching out to students.
“On-campus outreach is a key focus to the Federation’s approach to service and campaign implementation,” she said. “On-campus tabling took place during Local 9’s orientation this year, and over the last month leading up to the provincial election. Many on-campus events have taken place to promote the Vote Education and Our Future is Now campaigns, such as a candidate’s forum, Kandidate Karaoke, and a fax mob. A student rally and social will take place this Friday Nov. 4 to get students excited about voting in the upcoming provincial election.”
Nur described the federation as “Canada’s national students’ union”, portraying CFS as an equivalent of URSU, but working for universities across the country. Nur described the ways in which URSU works with CFS, saying that, in co-operation with URSU, they had “developed and adopted a national campaign called ‘Education is a Right’. As part of the campaign, students, including representatives from Saskatchewan, met with more than 180 Members of Parliament and Senators in Ottawa last week to present a vision for an accessible, high-quality, post-secondary education system”. However, since CFS’s issues are country-wide, it is difficult to see how their work affects the U of R.
One of the ways URSU co-operates with CFS is through the “Our Future is Now” campaign. Nur stated that the campaign works “seamlessly” with the campaign when integrated with their Vote Education program. The Vote Education campaign, which Nur said, “Aims to equip students with the tools they need to make an educated vote based on the issues that affect them on a daily basis,” has been featured on URSU’s web page.
This year, CFS Saskatchewan has hired its first organizer in four years, Alanna Makinson. Prior to her current work as the prairies organizer for the CFS, Makinson spent a year as the chairperson of CFS Manitoba. Makinson declined an interview for this article, writing, “I feel focusing on my position rather then the organisation as a whole would not be the best way to communicate to students how the organisation is structured and functions.”