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Surprise! CFS-URSU dispute goes to court

Disagreement over referendum votes should have been solved long before votes were cast


 

Another day, another court battle between the Canadian Federation of Students and one of its unions.

This time, it’s the University of Regina Students’ Union taking CFS to court, to seek an injunction in the hopes of seeing the results of a referendum to decide whether or not the union will remain with the student lobby group. The ballots for the referendum were cast over a month ago.

Like most CFS disputes that see the inside of a court room, this too seems like a waste of student’s money on legal fees.

Since students went to polls in late October, CFS representatives from the Referendum Oversight Committee have not returned to the university to finish counting the provisional ballots, which had to be verified by the U of R registrar’s office before they could be counted. These ballots have since been approved.

An URSU press release explained that counting is delayed over a dispute between the CFS and the union over the eligibility of ballots cast by First Nations University students, who pay fees to both URSU and the FNUniv Students’ Association. However, each students’ association is its own union local under CFS, with URSU as Local 9 and the FNUniv Students Association as Local 90, meaning FNUuniv will remain a member of the CFS regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

At this point, the ROC knows which way the result of the referendum leans towards, based on the ballots that have been counted, but the results of the provisional ballots are not yet known. According to the union, CFS is delaying the ballot counting process until it is decided whether or not the votes from FNUniv students are eligible.

Shouldn’t this discussion  have happened long before the ballots were even cast? It seems ridiculous that this dispute is happening after FNUniv students have already voted.

URSU’s stance is that the eligibility of FNUniv students was supposed to be left undecided until it was concluded that the votes of FNUniv students would sway the results one way or the other.

CFS claims it did not agree to this arrangement, and has accused the union of disenfranchising FNUniv students. CFS chair David Molenhuis told the Leader Post that the union must acknowledge that all students who cast a vote are “absolutely members of the students’ union and participate in every other way through voting in elections to voting in other referenda.”

URSU, in turn, is accusing CFS of trying to prevent “bad press” over the issue and the potential loss of one of its most active members by delaying the release of the results.

It’s understandable why URSU is getting a bit antsy over seeing the results of their referendum, considering the reputation the CFS has gained for not exactly being the most cooperative organization to work with in these situations. However, this seems like a massive waste of the court’s time and a huge misuse of resources over what seems like a pretty simple disagreement. One that should have been resolved way before the referendum voting even took place.

Then again, is anyone surprised this dispute has escalated to this point? It’s only one in a long line of battles for CFS court watchers to keep tabs on.


 

Surprise! CFS-URSU dispute goes to court

  1. One point I haven’t seen covered is that as far as I know, polling stations were not set up on any of FNUC’s three campuses. Instead, it seems a small number of FNUC students came on to the U of R campus and voted. If it is determined that FNUC students should have been eligible to vote (of which I am doubtful, since the outcome of the referendum does not appear to affect their membership in the CFS) then the whole referendum should be ruled invalid, since most FNUC students din’t have an opportunity vote.

  2. @Foster

    Agreed. As full URSU members, FNUniv students at the UofR campus were actually discouraged from voting.

    Also, there’s talk around campus about how absurd it is for URSU to be seeking the court’s ruling on the rights of its members. URSU is forfeiting its responsibility to protect the rights of its members by turning its back on FNUniv students, telling them that decisions made by URSU will not affect them.

    URSU Exec is really inexperienced and are following the wrong advisors, I think that has been apparent for a while. In the meantime the members of URSU are holding their breath to see if the province will set a precedent – overriding the established constitutions, bylaws and legally binding agreements the FNUniv students association and URSU have well established over the years.

    I’m also told by reliable BOD sources that the decision to seek injunction was strictly that of the URSU exec – they did not consult their BOD or their students.

    They have made it perfectly clear that they do not want to address the membership rights of FNUniv students, or honour them. Fo-shame!

  3. After attending a luncheon at FNuniv yesterday, I learned that FNUniv students can’t afford a lawyer nor do they feel that their membership rights should be questioned, let alone challenged in the courts.

    This isn’t racism, lets be clear – but it is classist and FNuniv students association will not have the resources to represent themselves in the courts – a place where this discussion has escalated without the consultation of the students members who’s eligibility is in question.

    Also, isn’t it ironic that URSU pointed fingers at CFS all year saying that they CFS doesn’t represent URSU students and here we have CFS fighting for the rights of all URSU members while it is URSU who is trying to cut and run from its members through the polling lists and now the courts.

  4. Well, the URSU’s position is that the result of the referendum won’t affect FNUC students’ CFS membership since the latter are members through the First Nations University Student Association (Local 90) not the URSU (Local 9.) If the CFS says otherwise it is they, not the URSU, which is “rejecting” FNUC students. Of course, the CFS would be happy to see the referendum ruled invalid since it would U of R students continue as CFS members.

    I also haven’t been able to find much information about FNUSA, it’s not clear whether it’s an independent legal entity (if not, the URSU argument looks weaker) and it doesn’t currently have a website.

  5. The FNUnivSA is a students’ association from a federated college at the UofR.
    The FNUNivSA, although a separate students’ association who has a separate CFS local, is also a full member of their university’s students’ union, (URSU). As full fee paying members, they are privy to all membership benefits, including voting.

    There is also rumblings of a 2006 Partnership Agreement that specifically acknowledges the rights of full URSU membership to FNUniv students.

    I cannot understand why URSU has went out of their way to exclude factions of their own membership. If URSU felt comfortable with the work they are doing on campus and their handle on student politics, they would have no issue or feel any threat of allowing their members to vote …. on any issue.

    Surely, there will be a re-evaluation of membership for those student groups left out of the referendum vote.

    URSU just made the next four months harder for themselves than ever imagined. And pitching this to a provincial judge just further shows that they are unwilling to work with their own union membership and have no problem throwing student $$$ around like its lottery money.

    CFS bylaws state that All members of a local association have the right to vote in referenda
    URSU bylaws state that All members in good standing have the right to vote in all referenda.
    FNUniv-URSU 2006 agreement says FNUniv students are full members, with full member benefits.
    FNUniv students pay full URSU fees.

    So, As long as an FNUniv student is in good standing with the URSU (by having their dues paid, I imagine) they are able to vote in all referenda at the URSU, just like any other URSU member.

    But I’m not a lawyer.
    But I know if I was the judge, I’d tell URSU to go home, warm up a bottle of milk, pull the blanket out of the dryer, lay on the couch and suck it up.

  6. The URSU position that FNUC students weren’t eligible to vote definitely has something to do with URSU taking the “no” side while most FNUC students would have voted yes. But, we can’t dismiss the point that since FNUC students’ CFS fees are collected through local 90 (FNUSA) not local 9 (URSU) the referendum would not have affected FNUC students’ membership.

    If the CFS is arguing that FNUC students are only CFS members through the URSU, that implies that FNUSA is not actually an independent student association or a CFS local, in direct contradiction to information on the CFS’ own website.

    Where are the constitution and bylaws of FNUSA? Those documents could help shed some light on the situation.

  7. Just wanted to shed some light to an interesting event that has happened since. At the URSU AGM FNUnivSA executive stood up in front of everyone and announced that they were members of Local 9 not Local 90. It was not there referendum to vote in and told members to stop using them as an excuse. Seems pretty clear to me.

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