Québec Superior Court to hear legal challenge to mandatory student association membership

According to an article in Le Soleil [FR], a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of mandatory student association membership will be heard before the Québec Superior Court on December 9 – 12, 2014.

The lawsuit [PDF; FR] claims that certain sections of the Québec Act Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Students’ Associations violate the Freedom of Association clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The lawsuit is filed against the Attorney General of Québec. Three Québec student federations (FEUQ, FECQ, and TaCEQ) have intervenor status.

The plaintiffs are Laurent Proulx and Miguaël Bergeron, students at Laval University. MM. Proulx and Bergeron were part of the “Green Square” movement, a small group of conservative students supporting the Charest government’s plans to increase university tuition fees and opposing the “Red Squares,” the symbol of the Québec student strike. The lawsuit highlights the role of student associations in organizing the strikes:

42. The monopoly of representation and the mandatory fees therefore suggest to student associations, and in certain cases even educational institutions, that they are entitled to exercise the right to strike and ultimately block access to classrooms….

44. We will spare this Honorable Court the 43 injunctions granted last spring [i.e., 2012]. That said, we would like to recall that among the damages suffered were:

  • the loss of a semester of study
  • delays in taking exams for professional associations
  • delays in entering the labour market
  • loss of paid internships
  • loss of scholarships

The lawsuit also references Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “No one may be compelled to belong to an association.” The lawsuit also references laws adopted in Australia and New Zealand which ban post-secondary educational institutions from collecting mandatory student association fees.

Studentunion.ca first reported on this lawsuit in January 2013.

U of T grads’ CFS petitions: Chinese student signatories deemed invalid by Deloitte

For more context, I suggest that you read “Canadian Federation of Students won’t recognize UTGSU referendum petition“.

DISCLAIMER: Legal documents contained within have been redacted to protect the personal privacy. 

Voting in the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union’ (UTGSU) referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)/Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O) began today and will continue until Friday. As we eagerly await the results, we can only hope that everything goes smoothly (rather than a repeat of the disaster in Regina).

Now, to the point of this post: Earlier today, The Varsity published an article (which appeared on the front page of the printed paper) that touches upon the subject matter of this post. After having read it, I was not surprised to find out that it had already been widely criticized as being inadequate. This article will attempt to fill in the (many) holes.

Studentunion.ca has obtained legal documents which seem to indicate that officials from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O) instructed Deloitte employees not to validate certain names that were included in the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) petitions to initiate a referendum on continued membership in the national and provincial branches of the Federation. As will be outlined below, the documents reveal that at least 75 Chinese graduate students’ signatures were deemed invalid in Deloitte’s final reports due to the fact that they used their “Canadian” names rather than their “proper full name”.

This obviously raises a number of important questions regarding the verification process which, depending on the outcome of the referendum, may or may not be answered.

Background 

On September 4, 2014, as part of the examination for discovery, Ms. Alessandra Nosko (legal counsel for the UTGSU) cross-examined Mr. Terrence Hatherell, a partner at Deloitte LLP who was ultimately responsible for the CFS and CFS-O final reports. She grilled him on the criteria used by his team in determining whether students’ names were valid. In a package of undertakings requested by Ms. Nosko from the CFS/CFS-O, one particular answer provided reveals a startling fact:

With respect to petitioners who used an English variation of their foreign name, it was determined, based on discussions with CFS (National) and CFSO representatives, that those petitioners should not be considered valid as they did not use their “proper full name” as stipulated in the CFS (National) and CFSO Bylaws (Emphasis added).

On April 2, 2014, nearly a month after Deloitte delivered its final reports to the CFS/CFS-O, Ms. Vanessa Hunt contacted Mr. Yasser Youssef (Deloitte) by email and states that:

It has been brought to our attention that there is a discrepancy between the number of signatures that your office verified on the national petition and the number of signatures that was reviewed by the registrar’s office, possibly due to human error during the photocopying process.

Following the conduct of further revisions of the national petition, Mr. Youssef emailed Ms. Hunt informing her that the 19.53% of the petition signatures were valid. However, 9 minutes later, Youssef emailed Ms. Hunt again:

One of the items that I did want to discuss with you related to Chinese petitioners (approximately 75 – 80 instances) who signed the petition using their Canadian names. We have not considered those petitions valid (consistent with CFS-ON). If we were to consider them valid, however, in the case of CFS (National) the 20% threshold would be exceeded (Emphasis added).

That last sentence is very important. If those 75 (or 80) Chinese students’ names were deemed valid, the 20% threshold would have been met for the CFS petition. So while we don’t know exactly what was said during the “discussions” between Deloitte and CFS/CFS-O representatives, we do know that, in the end, those Chinese students’ names were deemed invalid and were not included in the final tally. 

Stay tuned as more legal documents will be released in the days to come. 

NOTE: For clarity, “CFS” refers to the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario in the title of this post.

Canadian Federation of Students adopts new structure; eliminates “individual membership”

Last month, the Canadian Federation of Students adopted a resolution continuing the organization under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. The same resolution radically altered the CFS’s Bylaws by eliminating the status of “individual membership.”

From its inception in 1981 until October 15, 2014, the CFS had two categories of membership:

  • local student associations were called “voting members”
  • individual students who were members of a member local student association were called “individual members”

Under the new structure, there is only one class of member: the member local student association.

Strangely, however, the new CFS Bylaws still claim that a member local student association is “the agent of the Federation with respect to the collection of the membership fees” (Bylaw I, s. 3(b)(vii)), and still prohibits member local student associations from “represent[ing] the membership fees collected on behalf of the Federation as an expense and/or revenue of the member [local student association] in its budgets, its financial statements, its audits or any other documents of the member” (Bylaw I, s. 3(c)(iii)) (emphasis added). This language seems to imply that student associations are supposed to collect membership fees on behalf of the CFS from other parties, i.e. students. But students, under CFS’s new bylaws, are not members of the CFS, and accordingly do not owe any membership fees to the CFS.

Documents:

* Note: These bylaws were further modified effective October 29, 2014. Thus, these bylaws are not the *current* bylaws.