Eighty-eight vote margin confirms continued membership in national organization
Almost six months after University of Regina students went to the polls, the results of the referendum on the U of R Students’ Union’s continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students have finally been released – and students voted to stay.
The tally was close. Of the nearly 3,000 ballots cast, 1,414 were in favour of remaining in the federation as CFS Local 9, while 1,326 students voted to defederate. CFS president Dave Molenhuis released the results in a letter sent to the Carillon on March 10, and URSU confirmed the results in a post to their website the next day.
But while the U of R finally has the results it’s been waiting for, it’s still tough to figure out why numerous delays, including an URSU-filed court injunction, have kept results from students, especially since both parties have known the results since December 17.
And with each party still airing grievances against the other – such as URSU president Kyle Addison’s online declaration that, “As happy as we are that our members finally have the results, were [sic] disappointed by CFS’s tactics of refusing to work with us” – it’s possible that we may never get direct answers.
In a press release titled “CFS to release referendum results, leaving questions unanswered”, URSU detailed how CFS lawyer Todd Burke had informed URSU in a letter dated March 7 that the national advocacy and lobbying group planned to release the results of the referendum on March 9. Referring to the timing of the release as “convenient and suspicious” based on its proximity to the URSU elections, URSU’s press release outlined the union’s position that “prior issues” – including the eligibility of provisional ballots, such as those cast by First Nations University students – had not yet been settled and the results therefore remained under embargo.
In the March 7 letter, Burke refers to the second paragraph of an agreement between URSU and the CFS that stated, among other things, parameters for the release of the results. Although portions of the letter are blacked, out, the second paragraph of the agreement in question states that, in the event that the tallied provisional FNUniv ballots cannot influence the outcome, the results are to be released.
The same day URSU posted their press release, Burke sent another letter to URSU, offering URSU until noon on March 10 to respond. “Since sending my letter to you on March 7, 2011, I have not heard from you,” Burke wrote. “I would have expected that you would have communicated with me directly should you or your client have had any concerns … You have not responded with any concern with respect to any specific breach of the agreement entered into on December 15, 2010.”
URSU confirmed this via Twitter on March 11, writing that “URSU has not responded to CFS directly, our position has not changed since the ballots were counted in Dec. CFS knows our position.”
In an e-mail interview with the Carillon, Molenhuis stated that the timing of the release was a coincidence.
“The Federation had been working since the vote to ensure all ballots cast by eligible members, including those URSU members who study at First Nations University, were counted and the results released. Ideally, the results would have been released after the completion of the ballot count,” he wrote. “After requests to release a joint statement announcing the results with the University of Regina Students' Union were ignored, the Federation released the results.”
Following the release, said URSU VP external affairs Kaytlyn Barber, the students’ union will be presenting a motion at the March 21 URSU board meeting to ratify the results. She added that URSU has dropped their court case against the CFS.
With both sides using press releases and media interviews to talk around each other, it’s unclear if and how both parties will work to move past the division between them that resulted from the referendum. But Molenhuis expressed hope that, if nothing else, students at the U of R would become more engaged with CFS.
“I think a vote of this nature reinforces the understanding that in order for us to achieve victories, our Federation requires the active involvement and support of the individual members,” he wrote. “It is my hope that the referendum in the fall will have the same effect as so many others in the past – a greater number of students will become involved and help steer the organization in the best possible direction in order effectively work for lower tuition fees, increase funding to our institutions and to generally bring about positive social change.”
And Barber wrote that, while the close vote indicated that the issue was strongly divisive, the current URSU executive “look forward to establishing a positive working relationship and it is our hope that both parties are prepared to move forward and work together to ensure that University of Regina students are rewarded with the quality of service CFS is capable of offering.”
According to CFS bylaws, the school can’t hold a referendum on the issue for another five years. So whether you support the CFS, harbour resentment against URSU, are disappointed in the amount of service CFS has provided for students, or anything in between, one thing is for certain: Local 9 is still a part of the CFS.
“Students at the University of Regina will remain united with students across Canada to fight for First Nations University of Canada, reduced tuition fees, and increased funding for post-secondary education … and will have a voice in the direction of the student movement,” Molenhuis wrote.
Whether the CFS will listen to that voice remains to be seen.