Let the lawsuits begin! - Macleans.ca

Let the lawsuits begin!

Two universities vote to leave CFS; Ontario Superior Court rules that Guelph students can vote on CFS membership


Students of Concordia University voted Friday to end their membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Canada’s largest student lobby group. However, disputes over referendum scheduling and unpaid membership dues may mean the CFS won’t accept the outcome of the referendum.

According to the McGill Daily, 2312 members of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) voted to cease membership in the CFS, while 855 students voted against defederation. The CFS stands to lose approximately $300,000 in annual membership fees if it recognizes the vote.

Whether the referendum is binding is not yet clear. Although the CSU filed a petition requesting a membership referendum in the fall, as per CFS bylaws, continued disputes over ratifying signatures and outstanding membership dues stalled referendum planning. After the CFS refused to approve the referendum dates, president Amine Dabchy pushed the vote forward despite the CFS’s position. “We’ll see what happens and we will make use of all of our legal options and rights,” he told Maclean’s at the beginning of March.

The CFS and CSU will likely face off in court over the referendum results.

For more see “The case of the missing million dollars

Meanwhile, the Ontario Superior Court ruled last week that students at Guelph University may vote on continued membership in the CFS, putting an end—for now—to a legal conflict between the CFS and the Central Student Association at Guelph (CSA).

The legal dispute arose when both the national and provincial arms of the CFS refused to schedule a referendum. The CSA claims a referendum petition was delivered to the provincial chapter of the CFS on September 29. CFS-Ontario denied receiving the petition.

The national body of the CFS refused to schedule a referendum at Guelph because of a dispute over verifying signatures.

CFS treasurer Dave Molenhuis told Maclean’s earlier this month that the national executive faced a lack of support from Guelph’s student association in verifying student signatures on the submitted petitions. When the CFS contacted the Guelph student executive concerning the validation of the signatures, the CSA was unwilling to cooperate, Molenhuis said.

“There’s some obstructionism going on there,” he said. “I requested assistance of the students’ union in validating the signatures and reviewing them and they . . . refused to engage in any dialogue.”

However, the CSA told Maclean’s that they produced a letter from the university registrar verifying signatures from 10 per cent of Guelph students.

Not only did the Ontario Superior Court grant the CSA the right to go ahead with the referendum, but also to set its own rules for the vote.

Last fall, referendum petitions circulated on 12 campuses across Canada. Disputes between the CFS and students’ unions over scheduling and organization of referenda have stalled the majority of the campaigns to cease membership in the national organization. Originally only two universities were approved by the CFS to hold votes. As many as nine student unions may go forward with their referenda in the next year with or without a blessing from the CFS, meaning many of the results will likely end up in court.

The first of the referenda occurred last week when graduate students at the University of Calgary voted overwhelmingly to end their membership in the CFS.

-with files from Jennifer Pagliaro


Let the lawsuits begin!

  1. I have never met a single person that was able to give one solid reason why I should be represented by the CFS. In my experience, they have been ineffective in every single initiative ever undertaken.

    I’m serious…. Can someone help me out here? Why does this organization exist, other than take money from students?

  2. The CFS: cry out against increasing student fees while taking their own chunk whether we like it or not. Hypocrites

  3. The Guelph ruling sets a good precedent for student unions in Ontario. It means that people who want to leave an anti-democratic can do so following a set of fair rules. Hopefully this can be used as case law in other provinces and can be used similarly. I think that what made the Guelph situation work was that it was a vote for continued membership as opposed to for defederation.

  4. $300,000 annual fee to the CFS! That is a ridiculous fee! Regardless of whether one is a CFS or CASA supporter or both or none, that is one hell of a membership fee. To provide some context, the most a member can pay in CASA this year is $46,466 and that number is only allow to increase by CPI each year.

  5. To be fair the CFS does some pretty awesome lobbying, and despite the ranting of the anti-CFS side, if you look at their reports and track record insteading of blindly listening to bias persons – you would be bloody impressed.

    Moreover, their membership fee is a paltry 41 cents a credit… that’s nothing if you use any one of their services like the ufile thing (that they brokered), or their health alliance network.

    Mind you, i cannot speak to their anti-democratic structure – but services to cost, they rock.

  6. You don’t have to be a member of the CFS to use UFile. And National Student Health Network consistently screws over student unions who are in their back pocket with huge premiums and less than worthy levels of service. Its claim to be a ‘non-profit’ is dubious.

  7. Joey, is that supposed to be a joke?

  8. @Greg – I think it’s an early April Fool’s joke.

  9. perhaps the fee is too high, but i would say the CASA staff get zero done. the CFS fee is something like $14 per student per year, which is lower than most Student Union fees. I think the question of fees is separate from the question of tactics. It is useful, in my opinion, to have well funded offices in Ottawa and in most provinces, with decently paid staffers.

  10. p.s. i disagree with the poster who finds it hypocritical to lobby for lower tuition fees while maintaining a membership fee. The $14 or whatever ($16? 17?) per student fee is paltry compared to paying $6,000 or $25,000 as some university students do.

    Moreover, almost all associations or unions charge fees. CAW charges union dues while simultaneously advocating for higher wages; there is nothing contradictory. I don’t think the CFS fee is what is driving students to the food banks!

  11. EKS, by CASA staff “get zero done”, do you mean that they don’t plot and scheme to interfere with issues at the campus level, or to stack the Board with pawns?

    Or do CASA staff actually carry out the will of the membership, engage in quality lobbying and assisting students with policies, while securing meetings with every national party leader and many other senior staff for CASA lobby activities?

  12. I find it a tad suspicious in terms of timing that even though official campaigning is supposed to cease during Guelph’s referendum, the CFS (which usually only comes at the beginning of the year and only for part of a day or two) has a booth in the university centre peddling “free” ISIC cards.

    The CFS not playing by its own rules? Colour me shocked…

  13. There are some real issues with the CFS. This is basically a money making machine. With all of these campuses leaving the CFS they are getting upset over how much money they are losing when they leave. I completely agree with the author of this article, they would benefit much more from an easy in, easy out membership policy. However, that will never happen with the CFS. My daughter is a member of the CFS because she is a representative for the students association at an Ontario university and most Ontario universities are a part of CFS. If there is any disagreement from a rep with a founding policy of CFS they do all sorts of underhanded things to pressure a student union to kick out their own representative. Its a sad day when a so called “student organization” doesn’t allow free speech among its own members.