CFS looks to spread into CEGEPs

CFS referendum voting underway at Dawson College

The Canadian Federation of Students is looking to expand into Quebec’s Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel. The first stop in their campaign to gain members in this sector is Dawson College in Montreal. The CFS “referendum” is being held this week with voting today and tomorrow.

A large number of students have been trying to run a NO campaign at the college. They put up posters over the weekend stating reasons for not joining the CFS. The posters were promptly removed Monday morning.

They weren’t approved by the Canadian Federation of Students-mandated referendum oversight committee. The students have to get the CFS-mandated committee to approve NO campaign materials. Sources say that the NO campaign can’t get the posters approved through the committee because the committee considers their main points to be “unfactual.”

Melanie Hotchkiss, a student at Dawson College who is one of the leaders of the unofficial NO campaign, said that students are putting up the posters as fast as they are being taken down. The posters consist of a “Vote NO banner” on top and then quotations from student papers. “They are not approving our materials because they disagree with the opinion,” says Hotchkiss. “The information is all from respected student newspapers.” She noted that the committee is made up of four members, two of whom are CFS reps and two of whom are actively campaigning for the YES campaign.

The students involved in the NO campaign feel that CFS is ineffective – especially compared to more effective Quebec student associations – and that they are also a lot more cost-effective.

I estimate that the CFS stands to gain more than $80,000 a year from Dawson students. (NOTE: There are at least 7,500 full time students at Dawson and Concordia students pay $12.30 per year to the CFS.) What Dawson students will get in return is anyone’s guess.

According to Charlie Brentchley, a member of the referendum oversight committee, the NO posters were not approved because they used “out-of-date” citations from student newspapers. “The quotations are six months out-of-date and do not reflect the current reality of the Federation.”

The NO posters are also “unfactual,” according to Brentchley. The posters asked students: “Why pay for an ineffective student lobbying organization?” Brentchley says this is untrue and “misleading the student body.” The oversight committee exists to prevent misinformation according to Brentchley.




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CFS looks to spread into CEGEPs

  1. Apparently, at Dawson College, “Unfactual” means “anti-CFS.” Wonderful.

    Who’s the other half to the ROC?

  2. So, pointing out that CFS stands to gain a certain amount of money from a school is “deliberately inflating”? Seriously? So what if numbers are reported in the aggregate, this is how much money could be expected from Dawson College students. Boyko’s complaint (I guess) could be that focusing on the aggregate downplays the fact that CFS considers all students to be members.

    It is not the school who are members, or even the student union it is the individual students. But the only role regular students are permitted in the organization is through voting in referenda, which at Dawson appears to be a foregone conclusion, especially considering those who are governing the vote are either from the CFS or actively campaigning to join the organization.

    It is student unions, and not regular students who have a vote in the organization’s general meetings. In their by-laws they distinguish between “individual members” and “voting members.” Now this might be a funcionality issue, given that hundreds of thousands of students voting on issues would be unwieldy, but only representatives of the student union ever attend their general meetings. You have to be chosen by the student union as a delegate, and these are for the most part student executives. The role of individual members stops after a school has been flipped.

    And even if individual students had a greater role, it would still be appropriate to point out aggregates because students do not join individually, they join collectively.

  3. Am I the only one that noticed that yesterday this same article had no quotations from the “YES” side and had even a link to the NO campaign Facebook group?

    Is there someone at Maclean’s that is actually moderating Joey Coleman?

    Anyway, it would be good to see the actual full text of the posters being censored to figure if they were libelous or not. I think a key principle is “fair comment”, i.e. in law, an opinion is not libel if it is accompanied with facts and the opinion is a “fair comment” on the facts given.

    Note that here at the University of Ottawa, the student associations’ campaign rules prohibit any negative campaigning in the case of candidates (i.e. posters cannot say anything negative against another candidate, whether it’s true or not). It also applies for referendum in the sense that you have to argue against an idea, not against people.

  4. Couldn`t it just as easily be argued that posters declaring how great the CFS is also misleading the student body? “Out of date“ newspaper articles, by six months. Oh my. If national elections were run this way, the opposition would never be able to talk about the government`s record.

  5. i think the fact that the No campaign materials are non factual and libelous, would be grounds for dismissal. The fact of the matter is the No campaign do not know how to run properly, i heard through th grapevine that they decided to run a no campaign the day before the voting days. They then rushed to get any libelous material about the CFS and started printing posters. They are completely misinforming students. For what reason would voting for the CFS be a vote to become unaccredited. And the CFS- Quebec is composed of three CFS members and one prospective member,Dawson. The student society for mcgill undergrads lost their perspective membership , again as i hear because of shear stupidities on their part. The no campaign is trying to scare students into voting no and for a reason i do not know. accreditation and and the fact that the CFS-Q has only three members, two of which are trying to leave, are all things the no campaign was telling me. There is legitimate proof to prove that the NO campaign is spewing lies about the CFS and CFS-Q and about the composition of there membeship

  6. “It is not the school who are members, or even the student union it is the individual students. But the only role regular students are permitted in the organization is through voting in referenda, which at Dawson appears to be a foregone conclusion, especially considering those who are governing the vote are either from the CFS or actively campaigning to join the organization.”

    This is strictly inexact, and one of the main reasons most efforts to change the student movement in Canada are failing right now! People have to look beyond the “official” channels and look how they can mobilize by themselves. It’s like saying that the role of a citizen stops between federal/provincial/municipal elections, which is a very reductive view of politics.

    “It is student unions, and not regular students who have a vote in the organization’s general meetings. In their by-laws they distinguish between “individual members” and “voting members.” ”

    Apart from being a purely practical question, as you said it, this is what creates the “one member student association, one vote” principle. At first glance, people may find it outrageous than the Toronto SU (40 000+ members) and, say, the Carleton GSA (3000 members) have each the same voting right as general meetings. However, if it were proportional to membership, 3 or 4 student associations in Toronto could control CFS-Ontario and the people from Ottawa or Sudbury or Thunder Bay shouldn’t even bother to travel for the meetings.

  7. All the materials from the “No” side are copied and pasted articles from various easy-to-track, incorporated newspapers. Given what we know about CFS, don’t you think they maybe would have pursued these newspapers for libel, if the material were so? Or demanded retractions for untrue materials?

    So why are the materials being denied? Could it be affected by the fact that the “Referendum Oversight Committee” (who is judge, arbiter, and jury for the campaign) is made up of 2 DSU Execs who are clearly in the Yes camp, One CFS Staffer from Ontario with no experience in Quebec, but a passable knowledge of broken French, and one “National Exec Rep” from Quebec who likes to throw around her lofty academic pursuits as a Master’s in Polisci to make people think she’s not totally useless?

    It is nice, however, to see that Jean Chretien is on the Yes side. Makes me happy to be “no”. I didn’t know he was a Dawson student though, let alone a concerned one. But with such great tautology as “Legitimate proof to prove” and comma usage that confuses immensely, I would have to assume it must be M. Chretien. Even an 18 year-old, first-year DSU VP would have better grammar than that…

  8. Yeah, “Concerned Dawson Student” (what an honest nick, by the way), that really doesn’t sound like the CFS line to me. McGill students are dumb, the CFS should oversee the postering of the anti-CFS people, the fact that 18 year-olds prepared at the last minute is in itself grounds for dismissal…you seem to live in a blissful parallel universe (Shall we say the CFS universe?)

    The CFS was more ready to campaign for its money, that’s for sure. I think that’s the whole issue, in fact. But you seem a little too…concerned to take note uf such ethical issues.

    Can the CFS spell “ethical” ? Just a question.

  9. The reasons to vote no to the CFS are scattered in articles all over this site. They are litigious against their own members; do press-relations by lawyer’s letter; play silly-game semantics when caught in anything (“it wasn’t us, it was our local group that we have absolutely no say in”), use any means necessary to prevent students from getting out (including disallowing large numbers of their members to vote electronically when there’s no reasonable way those members could attend the physical campus) and have never, so far as I’ve seen, consulted their actual “membership” on anything (at least, I’ve never heard of the CFS having an Annual General Meeting with provision for every student member to attend, see their financial documents, and make their opinion heard).

  10. “All the materials from the “No” side are copied and pasted articles from various easy-to-track, incorporated newspapers. Given what we know about CFS, don’t you think they maybe would have pursued these newspapers for libel, if the material were so? Or demanded retractions for untrue materials? ”

    So you’re saying that it is true because CFS didn’t initiate legal actions against these newspapers, but if they did, then they would be “spending student money suing student papers”?

    Now this is getting slightly contradictory.

  11. Phillippe, I haven’t posted here previously, and I’m iffy about the CFS though not outright hostile. But your logic doesn’t hold. What we know about the CFS is that they are perfectly willing to bring legal action wherever they can. If anything, they are trigger-happy. Therefore, yes, I think it’s fairly reasonable to assume that where they don’t do that it’s probably because they have no grounds, not because they suddenly have scruples against suing student organizations.

    It isn’t contradictory to point this out. At least not contradictory to logic. No one is suggesting the CFS -should- be suing and threatening to sue the student press. Only that they do. Therefore, when they don’t, it’s valid to infer things from that information.

  12. I still believe that if we start saying that something is true unless a libel lawsuit proves otherwise, we will be creating a situation where everyone (actually, those who can afford it) are pressured to sue everyone who says anything false.

    Now you’re saying that this should not be generalized, but it works for the CFS. And that it’s a “reasonable assumption”. Maybe we should be a little bit more rigorous.

    Let’s say there were F unfounded defamatory statements against the CFS last year (in libel, it’s up to the person making the accusation to prove their truth, so the lack of proof for truth, rather than the proof of falseness). Let’s say that L of them resulted in lawyer letters. (I don’t know of any particular case when there was an actual lawsuit following.)

    So in any statement with grounds for libel, their is a probability of L/F that the CFS sent a lawyer’s letter. Does that mean that the newspaper would have retracted its article? Certainly not, we can think of many examples where there were no retractions (like the Eyeopener case last year), and there was still no following lawsuits. So say that R is the probability (from 0 to 1) that the newspaper will retract. Then the proportion of unfounded accusations that will be retracted is R*L/F, and the proportion of unfounded accusations that will stay in print is 1 – R*L/F.

    Let’s say 1 – R*L/F = 80%, that means that 80% of false statements would not be retracted following a lawyer’s letter. Then your reasonable assumption doesn’t seem that reasonable. My question to you then is how small this % would have to be for you to claim that the lack of retraction is a proof or truth, like you are claiming?

  13. Wow, Philippe, quite an active blogger on this theme.

    It’s almost like you’re the mouthpiece of CFS in charge of spinning this one back in safe territory.

  14. Phillipe. Your fancy logical formulas would be more impressive if you weren’t trying to prove that claims from the mainstream media are inherently suspect, and we should put greater faith in unilateral assertions from the CFS that such information is “unfactual.” Of course we can bat things back and forth in some theoretical sense, and question all information we’re confronted with. But the basic facts come back to this. You’re trying to defend the right of the CFS to admit or fail to admit any statement or claim they disagree with, no matter what the source or basis, without any review or opportunity for disagreement.

    As a Canadian citizen and voter, I take my media consumption with a grain of salt. But in a real vote on anything of substance, there isn’t a politician or advocate in this nation that would seriously argue they should have the power to squelch media coverage simply because they disagree with it. Refute it yes. Attack it even. But entirely suppress it simply because it’s inconvenient? No. The CFS does not deserve the right to unilaterally declare coverage of their affairs to be “unfactual” and they certainly have no basis at all to do so only because it’s out of date, as though they can erase history by declaring it to be irrelevant. How is that their determination to make?

    This is the whole reason I’m so iffy about the CFS. I applaud many of their goals, but their tactics continually disgust me. They offer the worst kind of two-faced political commentary – on the one hand arguing that mainstream politics are corrupt while on the other engaging in actions that no political party in Canada could ever get away with. At some point they obviously decided that the ends justify the means, and the collateral damage along the way. Somehow, I just can’t agree.

  15. Damon: I will reply to you on the other thread.

    Jason: I totally agree with you that the ends doesn’t justify the means, and that open forums are what is needed to counter false information. (Which is exactly what I’m trying to do there, even though some people don’t like it.)

    On the other hand, and maybe that’s why I disagree with some people, I don’t think the CFS legal measures are any effective. I believe both L/F and R in my preceding post are under 50%, and that over 3/4 (rough approximation) of unfounded statements about CFS will remain in the press.

    Of course, that only proves the relative futility of these legal actions on the long run.

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