Proposed exodus of school would be largest in CFS history.
A large movement is assembling to try and begin leaving the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). According to the Sep. 4 news release, “College and University students across the country are beginning the process to end their membership with [the] national lobby group, the [CFS].”
Reportedly, over 15 schools are taking part in this movement, and the release says there may be more. The student groups are attempting to begin the process to write up the petitions. The petition must adhere to CFS bylaws, and then it is submitted to the national executive, who reviews the petition, and then a referendum will be scheduled at that particular Local. “There can be no more than two referendums in any given three-month period” explained Bart Soroka, the Saskatchewan representative to the National Board of the CFS.
The University of Toronto, York University, and Ryerson University are among the schools.
This movement to “defederate” is not necessarily being led by students’ unions, but students, whose aim is “to end the [CFS’] control over local campus affairs,” but interestingly, to also “begin discussions about alternatives for provincial and national organizing that keep decision-making power in the hands of students.”
This acknowledges the need for provincial and national organizing, but is also a symbol of disgruntlement with the CFS.
A Sep. 6 Canadian University Press (CUP) article reads that the CFS internal affairs spokesperson Brent Farrington explained that the “federation is aware of the campaign, [and] it does not have plans to launch any counter campaigns.”
Farrington elaborated further, saying that CFS bylaws can change every six months.
Ashleigh Ingle is a student spokesperson for the defederation movement, and she was quoted in the same CUP article as saying “‘we are trying to follow the bylaws as strictly as we can so we can avoid as much legal hassle as possible.’”
“‘That said, if it does require legal action at some point to get this to happen for our fellow members, we have the resources to follow that through.”
According to the defederation press release, “some students plan to create new organizing bodies directed by principles of free association and direct membership control, the founding congress of which is planned for 2014.”
It explains further that “‘the proper approach to student organizing involves limiting dependence on members’ money while maximizing student decision-making in the fight for free public, high quality education.”
If 15 or more campuses go ahead with these petitions, then this will be the largest attempt to defederate from the CFS ever. According to the Sep. 4 press release, the “latest mass defection from the CFS could leave them without representation in British Colombia, Manitoba, and Quebec.”
This affects U of R students because in a heated and controversial referendum in 2010, an 88-vote margin dictated that URSU, Local 9, would remain a member of the CFS.
According to CFS bylaw, this signifies that University of Regina students can’t have another referendum within five years of the last one. That means 2015.
When asked how much money the CFS spends, of students’ money, in lawsuits per year battling legal challenges, in an interview with the Carillon, Soroka said “in the actual budget, they do not break it down: legal is one line item with ‘Contract, Corporate, Trademark, etc’ that total for the fiscal 2013 year to date in June was 40,351.67.”
A typical, full-time U of R student pays $5.60 a semester to the CFS: $1.40 to CFS Saskatchewan, and $4.20 to CFS National.
URSU President Nathan Sgrazzutti expressed concerns about CFS and it’s relationship with the U of R student body, saying that the CFS was “was created with the correct ideas in mind, they wanted to be a representative body to the federal government.”
“Problem being, over the years the CFS has changed, just like any other organization will change, but the problem is that those changes have created an organization that feeds off of all the students in Canada that are still involved in their program. They take all of this money, they take and take and take, and we don’t see any good from it, and then they don’t allow us to leave if we decided we’re not getting enough out of it.”
Sgrazzutti explained that when he started his term, he faced the CFS questions with two options, the first being to mend the fragile and ineffective relationship. Regrettably, that didn’t work out.
So now, he is “coming to option two, which is sever ties. We may not be able to referendum to separate ourselves, but with such a large group, there are other opportunities to take ourselves out of this defective relationship.”
Dipo Ziwa is the Canadian Federation of Students Liason and U of R student, and he told the Carillon, when asked if he’d like to see URSU break from the CFS, and if that’d be beneficial to U of R students, that “I think that the most beneficial thing for U of R right now is to be provided information and to be able to reap the benefits that the CFS does offer.”
He also pointed out that U of R students are locked in with CFS for another two years, and said that he’d rather the U of R focus on benefiting from the CFS in the upcoming two years: “instead of focusing on whether or not we should defederate, and pretty much the defederation of others, I take it on myself to ensure the possible benefits that can be reaped from the CFS to U of R students are provided for this year, and for next year.”
“Then I feel at that time, if there is anybody on the students’ union or if there’s anybody on the student body that wants to bring up that referendum talk, then at that time it can be addressed.”
Sgrazzutti expressed frustration with the national lobby group: “the CFS has been quiet on the western front, for all we can tell, and quite simply we’re fine with this. It’s just we’re sad to see tens of thousands of dollars of student dollars go to waste being sent to the Canadian Federation of Students and not even seeing it return to Saskatchewan.”
When asked how the CFS was for transparency, the president paused for a long while, and said “it’s non-existent.”
“If I wanted information I would have to go digging, I would have to break down walls, I would have to fight armies of ninjas to get to it.”
“It’s a sad, sad day when students are turning against students. That’s what happened.”