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CFS-BC loses legal battle over barring Kwantlen rep from board

Decision could have consequences for BC societies


 

The Canadian Federation of Students British Columbia chapter lost a legal fight this week when they were ordered to ratify a representative from the Kwantlen Student Association on their board. Since May 2008, CFS-BC has refused to recognize the KSA representative as a voting member of the board, even though each member student union is supposed to have a vote according to CFS bylaws.

Justice Brown ruled Wednesday that CFS-BC was in violation of the Society Act and their own bylaws by not admitting the KSA’s representative, Derek Robertson, who was twice voted to the position by Kwantlen students. The KSA applauded the decision. “I’m happy to see that the court has upheld the rights of individual student societies, and their students, to elect their own representation,” said Steven Lee, KSA chairperson, in a release. “This ruling makes the CFS-BC more accountable, democratic, and open to more than one point of view.”

However, Shamus Reid, chairperson of CFS-BC, warned that the ruling could have grave consequences for societies in BC. CFS-BC was concerned that Robertson “could not represent their interests,” Reid explained in an email to Maclean’s. “The BC Society Act provides that directors of a society are legally responsible for protecting the society from harm,” he added. “Despite this legal responsibility, Madame Justice Brown’s ruling denies directors the legal power to do so.” The KSA claims that CFS-BC directors are worried that Robertson would be disloyal to the CFS.

The KSA has long been in conflict with the CFS over a variety of issues, and last year held a defederation campaign to end the union’s membership in the organization. The referendum failed. Leading up to and during the the referendum, the two organizations were in and out of court.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.


 

CFS-BC loses legal battle over barring Kwantlen rep from board

  1. As a dues paying member of the CFS-BC I am outraged by this ruling. Robertson’s record on the CFS is clear and members have a right to question his ability to represent their best interests on the BC Executive Committee.

    If this ruling proves anything, it proves that there are serious flaws in our justice system. CFS-BC must appeal!!!

  2. “The KSA claims that CFS-BC directors are worried that Robertson would be disloyal to the CFS.”

    Is there any evidence whatsoever that Robertson will be loyal (a director’s duty)? Didn’t he lead the anti-CFS side of the Kwantlen referendum? This is certainly an odd ruling.

  3. ^^ I’m guessing these two aren’t friends of democracy as long as the CFS’s mainstream leftist ideology isn’t being challenged by liberal free thinkers. only guessing…

  4. chairperson of CFS-BC: “The BC Society Act provides that directors of a society are legally responsible for protecting the society from harm,” he added. “Despite this legal responsibility, Madame Justice Brown’s ruling denies directors the legal power to do so.”

    So the CFS is more interested in corporate interests than in democracy. Surprise, surprise…

  5. So a democratically elected student earns the right to represent his school at an organization composed of elected students… and the two first commentators find a problem with that? Here’s a little Civics 101 for you, you know, what they teach you in 10th grade…

    In Canada, we engage in a type of government usually referred to as a representative democracy. Thus, governing organizations are composed of democratically elected representatives who are voted in by their member constituents to represent their interests. Following me? This type of system has often been flouted as one of the pinnacle achievements of all human history and embraced by most countries of the world by the 21st century in their governing bodies.

    So to say that “If this ruling proves anything, it proves that there are serious flaws in our justice system” and “This is certainly an odd ruling” only demonstrates to the rest of Canada, that both of you have no clue what democracy is about and are only concerned with pursuing one perspective in your governing body. Notably, this type of one sided perspective, and subsequent enforcement and challenging of people who don’t accept your view is indicative of fascist or oligarchical types of government systems. Since this is Canada, not Nazi Germany, your opinions, as reflective of democratic ideals, are disparaging to say the least.

    “CFS-BC directors are worried that Robertson would be disloyal to the CFS.” Since when did an autonomous student union need to do a “loyalty check” with an outside organization? If anything, CFS-BC should be bending over backwards to include his perspective, since they are getting paid by him and he has full rights under their own rules, hence the CFS-BC loss in court. Duh…

    Welcome to the reality of living in an open and democratic society which rules with the power of common law instead of tyranny. I’m so sorry, this doesn’t allow you to disenfranchise elected officials.

  6. While directors on a corporation have a fiduciary duty towards the corporation, the claim that Robertson has somehow violated such fiduciary duty while /not yet a member of the board/ is patently ridiculous.

    Furthermore, there is no evidence that any of Robertson’s actions would have violated such fiduciary duty even had he been sitting as a director for the previous several years. It is not a violation to think that an organization is behaving inappropriately. It is not a violation to bring structural reform motions, using the democratic procedures in place, for consideration by an assembly. It is not a violation to circulate petitions, as Robertson, like any other member of the CFS, has the explicit Bylaw-guaranteed right to circulate petitions. (I do not know that he has done so, but it seems reasonable to presume.)

  7. Does anyone have a link to the written decision? I find it interesting. All directors have a “fiduciary duty” to act in the best interests of a corporation they serve on the board of, whether it is a bank, a student union, whether the corporation is a for-profit or non-profit (non profits are called “societies” in BC).

    To me, it seems like the judge is saying it is the director’s duty to act with loyalty, and the organization cannot pre-emptively bar a director from the board because they merely assume he MIGHT NOT fulfill his obligation of loyalty. Nonetheless, if he breaches his obligation, the organization may have cause to remove him.

    The standard of loyalty is obviously not 100% clear though – what does he need to do to be deemed “loyal”…

  8. Thanks for all the great comments above, too bad most of them miss the point entirely. I appreciated the civics lesson from “curtis” but sadly, it is incorrect (I took law in university as well as the grade 10 socials you use as a reference).

    The CFS-BC is not a government and the BC Executive Committee is not a legislative body. The CFS-BC is a non-profit society and the rules that are being quoted about re democracy, etc apply to general meetings of the organisation at which the KSA as a member local can, and do, send delegates. On the other hand, the BC Executive Committee is like the executive branch of the organisation and there are many fiduciary responsibilities that apply to directors who hold a seat on the Executive Committee, because they are to act on behalf of ALL members, not just those who appointed them.

    These rules are not “corporate” they apply to all organisations that have a legal standing (societies, universities, unions, NGOs, etc). They ensure the entire membership that all directors are working in the best interest of the organisation to which they belong. The ruling is bizarre because there is an ample supply of law and case law surrounding a director’s responsibilities and there was evidence presented at trial that the person concerned had acted in a manner that would contradict those responsibilities.

    While I appreciated the rhetoric and creative accusations, I have not read any reasonable justification for this ruling in the postings above.

  9. Although I’m not entirely versed in the arguments made here, I detect the thread of a very common problem associated with the CFS. The CFS generally defines it as “harmful” to their organization, to the student movement generally, to solidarity in the abstract etc. any time a member local wishes to leave. While the CFS is free to adopt this definition of “harm” if it likes, we need to acknowledge this is not a universal definition. In fact, it’s pretty bizarre.

    People join and leave organizations all the time. It’s a normal part of voluntary association. Advocating that the CFS allow member locals to leave, if they no longer wish to be part of the organization, need not be construed as incompatible with fiduciary duty. Quite the contrary, there is a perfectly reasonable position to suggest that draconian rules against defederation have harmed the CFS far more than the departure of a few member locals ever could have.

    I agree that strict reference to democratic principles doesn’t get at the heart of this issue. Most people don’t understand the concept of fiduciary duty and it’s a tough thing to summarize in a forum comment. But it’s a subject I teach, and I find this ruling perfectly defensible. Directors have an obligation to act in the best interests of the corporation. But people can and do disagree in good conscience about what that might mean. And while I realize the majority of CFS proponents will never perceive a position that a member local be allowed to defederate is compatible with this obligation, that doesn’t mean it’s an illegitimate position.

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