Kwantlen votes to stay in the CFS

Two weeks after SFU, UVic graduate students and Cape Breton U voted to leave the Canadian Federation of Students, Kwantlen decides to remain


Kwantlen University College will remain a member of the Canadian Federation of Students, according to very early results. The initial numbers show that students voted 56 per cent in favour of maintaining membership in Canada’s largest student lobby organization.

The vote comes just two weeks after students at Simon Fraser University and graduate students at the University of Victoria voted to leave the CFS. Cape Breton students also voted to cease membership, although it is unclear whether the CFS will recognize the results due to a dispute about referendum notice.

The Kwantlen results will put an end to weeks-long legal wrangling over the referendum. The students’ association and CFS were in court a number of times in the lead up to the vote, arguing over issues related the referendum including the referendum question, campaign materials, and voting procedures.

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Kwantlen votes to stay in the CFS

  1. Interesting. From what I’ve seen so far the campus population generally votes with the dominant position in the students’ union, on either federation or defederation referenda. I’m curious when was the last time this didn’t happen.

    I noted that the KUSA website had a “We got out!” party scheduled on April 10th.

    As they say, “il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir chassé” (or for the unilingual English, “don’t count your chicken before they hatch”).

  2. I doubt this one is over yet. The CFS broke the rules in a stop gap attempt to modify the result in their favour. The KSA should be challenging this one as it’s simply not a valid reflection of Kwantlen students.

    The CFS broke many rules when polling is open. It’s hardly a valid result and I expect this one will be (rightfully) struck down by the Supreme Court.

    The CFS was handing out doughnuts, mints and coffee less than 50 feet from polling stations. In addition, despite refusing to fix the Kwantlen Student Association’s ISIC card machine for months leaving the KSA unable to issue ISIC’s the CFS was handing out ISIC’s whilst telling people how to vote – they were even breaking ISIC regulations and not even checking if students were full time.

    Kwantlen didn’t decide to stay – when you look at factors such as this nobody can see it as a valid result.

  3. Tony –

    About the handing out of food: was this forbidden by the rules set in place by the CRO (Fred Schiffner)? Based on a comment by a member of the pro-defederation side on their Facebook group, they were also distributing food. We need to get more information to know if that was an infraction. The fact that a practice might be seen as objectionable doesn’t matter if the rules allowed it, especially if both sides used it.

    About the ISIC cards: I’m not sure how the fact that the ISIC machine was broken would enter into this, and we would have to wait for the legal judgement if any. But the fact is that the students are still members of CFS during the referendum, so they are entitled to free ISIC cards.

    Also, outside these legal questions, it would be tough to miss the disrepancy between what happened at Kwantlen and at SFU. SFU voted out by 2/3, despite the fact that both student unions campaigning strongly for defederation, and that the campaigning by CFS was maybe even more important at SFU than at Kwantlen. And I’m not even comparing to the UVic GSS referendum where the pro-defederation side did a very discrete campaign and still won.

    Then it seems quite clear that no donuts would have prevented SFU from leaving, which leads one to question whether the executive at SFU was more in line with their members’ opinions than at Kwantlen, did a better outreach work, or both.

  4. Ole one trick Marchand is getting really tired. Will you ever get tired of pasting the cfs talking points in the little square?

  5. Congratulations to the CFS, who got their wish by manipulating the course of justice and moving the dates to a more favourable position smack in the middle of the exams.

    This result should be struck down and a new referendum held when all students are present on campus, not just those writing exams on those three days.

  6. Tim if you believe the dates set by the court were favourable to the CFS you may be forgetting that the CFS wanted the referendum delayed until the fall. Additionally the KSA seemed to get most of what it wanted in the judges rulings. It would seem that the KSA was simply out of touch with the membership. I would also note that the KSA sent out a press release yesterday acknowledging the results and saying that it is “time for us to move forward” . Perhaps in terms of this referendum, we all should as well.

  7. @Marchand

    The KSA never handed out food. The idea was floated and the CRO turned it down as it would be too close to a bribe. The CRO took steps to stop the free food from the CFS .

    As for the ISIC card machine being broken it has EVERYTHING to do with this. You can not tell me that it is ethical to refuse to fix someone’s ability to produce the cards for months and then start handing them out when you are urging people to keep sending you money. Legality, it was likely fair game but on an ethical front, no way.

    As for the dates – it would have been perfectly acceptable to have it on the original dates. SFU did the exact same actions but they were not taken to court.

    It was all in a plan to get all of their off campus supporters on campus at the same time – thats it. It wasn’t about anything else and the CFS used every trick in the works to get their result.

  8. The lower the turnout, the more favourable the result is for the left-wing on any campus.

    The CFS pushed for the fall knowing they wouldn’t get it, because even pushing it back to the exam period, where only maybe 9-10% of students are on campus at any given time, during that period, to write an exam, was good for them (and the last thing students want to do when they have an exam to write is vote in a referendum, before or after the exam). And nobody is going to go to campus *just to vote* unless they’re there for another reason.

    Had this been on the specified dates, with, as it would have been, more than 1 out of 10 students present at any given time during the voting period, I assure you the results would be dramatically different. 56 percent in favour of remaining in the CFS shows to me no desire to stay. It just shows that the vocal minority were a greater voting body than those who wanted to defederate and showed up to vote, and that’s profoundly unfortunate for hardworking, studious Kwantlen students who I still believe would rather not be bogged down in the bureaucracy and mismanagement of a student Politburo.

    The CFS would have been bitching if they hadn’t gotten even a little bit of a push in the dates. They would refuse to recognise the results if they had lost on the same turnout. The fact that the KSA have accepted the results just shows the defederation side are the bigger people. We’re not out of touch with students. We are VERY much in tune. Low turnout does not accurately capture the voice of students. It accurately captures the voice of the hippies, and we already know how they vote.

    Obviously the KSA feels the same, otherwise they wouldn’t have said “it’s time to move forward”. They would have said “it’s time to move *on*”, and they didn’t.

  9. Hi Tim,

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt on everything except your blanket statement that: “The lower the turnout, the more favourable the result is for the left-wing on any campus.” This might be true of Kwantlen (you’d have to provide some data to back such an enormous claim) but I’ve seen nothing like this at the University of Ottawa, and I’d be curious to know other people’s observations from other campuses.

    Maybe one hypothesis that we could verify is that: “the lower the turnout, the more favourable the result is for the statu quo”, which seems at least reasonable, but I haven’t even seen that. What I have seen is a correlation between turnout and number of candidates, and on both high-turnouts or low-turnouts elections, whoever reached the most people during their campaign and had the best strategy won, irrespective of their politics.

    Also, was the turnout at Kwantlen that bad? Titus’ press release says it was 13,3%, which seems in the general range of values you’d expect for a student union election.

  10. Our turnout was pretty good, looking at the history of KSA elections. The voting did not take place during the exam period because, as I’ve said before, we’re on a slightly different academic schedule. The voting was during the last week of class, though, so students were still naturally busy. As the press release says, the margin was slim enough that we feel this represents a very weak mandate to stay in the federation. Our feeling generally is that — dazzled by doughnuts and ISIC cards or not — the students want us to give the federation another shot. I think we have a large number of very legitimate concerns with the federation’s behaviour and internal workings, and now that the membership knows that the federation exists, I think if things haven’t shaped up in 2 years (a local has to wait 2 years before another referendum can happen) then things will be different.

    A lot of the federation’s campaigners seemed to feel that the CFS was doomed or something. Obviously, student unions across Canada are watching the federation very closely now and I know that we are by no means the only local with concerns. I think that things can go 2 ways in the next few years: Either the fed becomes more transparent, fosters more dissent and multiple viewpoints and lays off the lawsuits; or it clamps down on locals, makes referendum rules more draconian, and becomes even less tolerant of criticism. I think one of these paths will certainly lead to the end of the CFS’s remaining credibility. Remember, the MPs, provincial legislators and such that locals lobby with the CFS are also reading these blogs, and these newspaper stories.

  11. I think that’s a very positive response to take from the results, John, and kudos for that. I recall attending a national CFS conferences in Ottawa, and the Kwantlen delegation that year was very skeptical of the CFS on a number of points as, to be frank, was my delegation from UTSC. I have very conflicted feelings about the CFS, which is why I tend not to post widely on the topic. On the one hand, I truly believe in the need for a strong student movement. On the other hand, I really don’t agree with many tactics adopted by the CFS, and I especially disagree with the “with us or against us” mentality often at play, and the common demand to line up behind the CFS as the only game in town, or else be branded anti-student.

    A couple member locals have just decided to leave the CFS. Kwantlen has apparently decided to stay. I hope that student representatives at Kwantlen embrace the opportunity to advocate for change within the CFS (as John’s post suggests), rather than sulk over their failure to defederate. And I hope the CFS more widely takes this opportunity to listen to some of the very well founded criticisms coming from Kwantlen and elsewhere. My experience with the CFS has been that inability to engage in this sort of self-reflection is its greatest weakness. No organization or movement is perfect. Anyone who expects perfection from the CFS will never be satisfied. But equally so, those who insist that the CFS is perfect only blind themselves to clear and persistent problems, which fuel defederation movements and actually damage the solidarity of the movement which we all, believe it or not, feel is important. I hope Kwantlen is up to the challenge of being constructive in the future, and I hope the CFS is ready to listen. Of all possible scenarios, I really wish the CFS was an organization I could believe in without reservation, and I’d love to see it become that.

  12. I agree with Jeff, and would add that people who want to change the CFS can learn a lot about what happened this year too, i.e. the threat, and even success of defederation (SFSS) will not necessarily change how CFS works internally.

    From attending general meetings in the last two years, it seemed obvious to me that when a local who proposes some reform is at the same time engaging in a defederation process, people question their true motives, and unfortunately end up putting everyone who wants to propose reforms in the same bag.

    Although this would need more than one post to explain it, what I think could be done is to have a more grassroots movement for reforming CFS. Right now there might have been a grassroots movement for defederation at SFSS, but it achieved just that, defederation.

    Even the Facebook group “Students against the CFS”, which argued that the Federation should reform, not disappear, clearly had a name and a focus pointing towards defederation as a strategy, which I would personally question. Because it alienates students who want reform but still do not want to be associated with a “against CFS” or defederation group… i.e. people who might think like Jeff right now, and who like Jeff have trouble to find a space to voice their concerns without being polarized on one day or another.

    (Jeff: sorry if I’m overinterpreting what you’re saying here, but I hope you get the sense of the argument.)

  13. You’re not over-interpreting what I’m saying on the side of positive change, Philippe, but perhaps you are understating what I’m saying on the side of resistance to change. My experience is that when any local proposes reform or expresses criticism of the CFS under any circumstances their motives are immediately brought into question. It doesn’t matter whether defederation is on the table or not. Far too many CFSers, perhaps driven to extremes by their sense (possibly justified) that the student movement is under assault by outside forces, adopt a “love it or leave it” attitude, demanding unconditional (and unquestioning) allegiance to the movement in the name of solidarity. I’m not surprised such attitudes contribute to defederation, and in fact create only two polar alternatives – either you’re with with CFS 100% or you might as well get out, because no one is ever going to listen to your opinions again.

    I suppose we’re only debating chicken and egg here, but look at all the CFS stuff that comes out there – look especially at the leaks associated with the CFS-BC wing (for the moment, I’ll accept the distinction between provincial and national entities). Even within the student movement, even within the membership of the CFS, there is a persistent need to define “friendlies” and “antagonists.” Persistent evidence that CFS figures throw their weight around other campuses, working to get “friendlies” elected. Events of this nature can’t help but contribute to fragmentation. Anyone who truly believes in a general student movement can’t define other student leaders as “for” and “against.” There’s only allies who happen to agree with me and allies who happen to not agree with me.

    I’m sorry, I’m getting far more into this than I might wish to be. But speaking as someone who attended four CFS conferences, and found little to no desire to listen to dissenting views … speaking as a local that floated a candidate for a CFS national role (not myself) and lost in -an unopposed vote- because we weren’t from a “reliable” local … speaking as someone who’s simply been in this conversation too many times, I’ve got to say this. Until the CFS stops dividing student leaders into “us” and “them” there will always be member locals just itching to defederate. It’s the only logical step, when you belong to an organization that isn’t interested in listening to what you have to say.

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