The 63rd semi-annual national general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students (-Services) (CFS/CFS-S) will be taking place in National Capital Region from May 30 to June 3, 2013.
The opening plenary agenda is now available (Hat Tip to the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU)). It includes motions carried over from the November 2012 national general meeting which were not dealt with as well as a number of new motions proposed by various student unions from across the country.
Once again, Bylaw 1 will be scrutinized. This is the bylaw which stipulates the rules and regulations to be followed in the lead-up to as well as during a referendum to join or to leave the Federation. For example, Motion 2013/05:N22, proposed by the Queen’s University Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS), seeks to strike the last paragraph of Bylaw 1, Section 6.a.:
Any individual member may request that her name be removed from a petition. If the National Executive receives such a request in writing, before the conclusion of the verification process of the petition, the name must be struck from the petition. The name shall not be included in the total number of names on the petition.
Such a clause seems to be included in the Federation’s Bylaws in order to undermine the attempt by individual members to collect signatures that could lead to a referendum on continued membership. Common sense dictates that, when someone asks you to affix your signature a document, you read the document carefully before accepting to do so. And don’t even get me started on the issue of so-called “counter petitions“.
Another issue regarding Bylaw 1: a candidate for the position of the Chief Returning Officer (the person in charge of overseeing all aspects of a CFS referendum), is currently appointed unilaterally by the Federation, “on the exclusive recommendation of the Federation’s Executive Committee, with no requirement that the Executive Committee’s recommendations be developed in consultation with the member local union”. The candidate’s appointment must be ratified by a vote of the general assembly during a national general meeting. The preamble to Motion 2013/05:N24, proposed by the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA), reads in part:
Whereas the decertification referendum process must be fair and democratic, and the process for the appointment of the Chief Returning Officer of the decertifcation referendum must not unreasonably favour either the Federation, or the member local union…
The motion then proposes an amendment to Bylaw 1, Section 6.c. which reads as follows:
For each referendum on continued membership (and to certify or join), the National Executive shall recommend an individual to serve as the Chief Returning Officer, in consultation with the member local association.
Luckily, the CFS has yet to face any referendums since the general assembly voted two years ago to replace the infamous Referendum Oversight Committee (ROC), which was composed four individuals: two appointed by the CFS and two appointed by the member local, with the Chief Returning Officer (CRO). The ROC system was terribly flawed and often criticized. Although it never had the chance to appoint a CRO, history indicates that the national executive would have more than likely appointed someone like Lucy Watson, a long-time CFS staffer, who has sat on numerous ROCs throughout the years. Obviously, if that was the case, one could immediately question the impartiality of the Federation’s CRO appointee. This motion seeks to avoid such a scenario and could potentially save students thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees in the future.
A long overdue proposal may finally make it to the plenary floor. Motion 2013/05: N26, brought forward by the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA), proposes to create a Students with Disabilities Commissioner. This individual would sit as a director on the CFS national executive, along with all the other constituency representatives and commissioners. Hat Tip to the UWSA.
During the November 2012 Canadian Federation of Students national general meeting, five motions were referred to the national executive for further scrutiny. The national executive’s recommendations appear in the opening plenary agenda. SPOILER ALERT: all five motions are recommended for defeat.
Other motions worth pointing out:
Motion 2013/05:N16 – “Men’s Rights Awareness Groups” such as the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) are alleged to “provide environments of sexism, patriarchy and misogyny to manifest and be perpetuated on campus, which should be safe(r) spaces for students” and “promote misogynist, hateful views towards women and ideologies that promote gender equity, challenges women’s bodily autonomy, justifies sexual assault, and decries feminism as violent”. The motion calls on the Federation to oppose “campaigns, forums, groups meetings or events whose purpose is to frighten, intimidate and/or target women students on campus” as well as “the administration’s lack of response to calls for public support and protection of students being threatened, stalked and/or attacked on campus.” You can read more about recent incidents at the University of Toronto here.
Motion 2013/05:N21 – Amend Bylaw V, Section 9.c. (Announcement of Election Results) to read: “the vote count for each candidate” (which removes “if directed to do so by a two-thirds majority of the plenary”).
Motion 2013/05:N23 – Another proposal from the KSA seeks to modify the composition of the Appeals Committee (established for each referendum on membership whether to join or to leave the Federation). Currently, the members of this committee are appointed exclusively by the CFS national executive without consultation of the member local association. The motion seeks to change this by having two individuals appointed by the CFS and two individuals appointed by the member local association. These individuals would not be permitted to campaign during the referendum. Although I think the idea is a good one, this brings me back to the deadlocks which occurred within a number of ROCs.