Canada’s largest student lobby group the Canadian Federation of Students has brought in lawyers to fight the latest battle in an on-going controversy that erupted when an email detailing campaign plans was mistakenly distributed to all BC members early last week. The Kwantlen Student Association, which was one of the first students’ unions to make the campaign plans public, said in a news release that they have received a letter from the CFS’ lawyer demanding a public apology.
The controversy first came to light February 4 when the email was mistakenly sent to each member students’ union in British Columbia. It included a detailed plan to campaign in the upcoming defederation campaign at Simon Fraser University. SFU, Kwantlen, and graduate students at the University of Victoria are going to the polls this spring to decide whether to remain members of the CFS. The document includes details about campaign tactics and volunteers from other students’ unions (many in Ontario) that would be presumably flown in. Some of the volunteers listed are not students, but fulltime staffers of other organizations including the NDP.
Student leaders across the country have raised concerns about where the funding to fly students to BC would come from and whether the extensive campaign is an appropriate way to spend funding. The Kwantlen Student Association also pointed out that the document proves that the CFS does attempt to place CFS-friendly people in permanent staff positions at students’ unions, a practice that has been widely criticized. "This document is our ‘smoking gun’ on the lengths the CFS will go to just to maintain membership," said Laura Anderson, Kwantlen chairperson.
However, many students and students’ unions mentioned in the document have denied knowledge of the plan. CFS national chairperson Amanda Aziz told the Canadian University Press that the plan was authored by the BC chapter of the CFS and that the national organization was not responsible for it. She also denied that there are plans to fly volunteers to BC for the campaign but would not speculate whether such flights would be subsidized by the organization.
The letter from CFS lawyers to the Kwantlen Student Association demands a public apology for a press release written when the plan was first mistakenly distributed. The letter states that the plans were not indeed authored by the CFS, as stated in the press release. Rather, they were authored by CFS-BC.