CFS-BC to defederate from CFS-National?

If certain members of the Canadian Federation of Students – British Columbia (CFS-BC) get their way, the provincial affiliate of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) might loosen its affiliation with the CFS, or even end it all together.

The agenda of the upcoming general meeting of CFS-BC, scheduled for August 13 – 15, 2015, contains no less than twelve resolutions criticizing the national CFS and urging CFS-BC to distance itself from CFS. Some of these resolutions are not listed as coming from a particular students’ union, which usually means that the resolution was proposed by CFS-BC’s Executive Committee. Other resolutions are listed as coming from a particular students’ unions; these resolutions do not (yet) reflect the official position of CFS-BC.

The CFS has suffered internal conflict since at least the beginning of this year, and the CFS-BC resolutions appear to be related to this ongoing conflict.

One of these resolutions declares that “member local of the Canadian Federation of Students(-British Columbia) in British Columbia have no confidence in the National Executive”:

2015/08:N06 MOTION
Whereas there is a vast and growing divide in the political perspective and goals of the representatives of member local students’ unions in the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services);

Whereas the Preamble to the Bylaws of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) outlines the founding principles as 1) to organise students on a democratic, cooperative basis in advancing our own interests, and in advancing the interests of our community; 2) to provide a common framework within which students can communicate, exchange information, and share experience,skills and ideas; 3) to ensure the effective use and distribution of the resources of the student movement, while maintaining a balanced growth and development of student organisations that respond to students needs and desires; 4) to bring students together to discuss and cooperatively achieve necessary educational administrative, or legislative change wherever decision-making affects students; 5) to facilitate cooperation among students in organising services which supplement our academic experience, provide for our human needs, and which develop a sense of community with our peers and other members of society; 6) to articulate the real desire of students to fulfil the duties, and be accorded the rights of citizens in our society and in the international community; 7) to achieve our ultimate goal—a system of post-secondary education which is accessible to all, which is of high quality, which is nationally planned, which recognizes the legitimacy of student representation, and validity of student rights, and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated;

Whereas the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) no longer upholds the principles outlined in the Preamble to the Bylaws, thus fails to represent those committed to their advancement;

Whereas Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario staffperson Toby Whitfield has been engaged by some individual members of the National Executive to assist with their particular political agenda within the Canadian Federation of Students, resulting in labour relations strife and violations of Federation democracy;

Whereas Bilan Arte and Anna Dubinski, along with former National Chairperson Jessica McCormick, have lied, withheld information, and otherwise made it impossible for other members of the National Executive to uphold their fiduciary duty to the Canadian Federation of Students;

Whereas Bilan Arte and Anna Dubinski, along with former National Chairperson Jessica McCormick, lied to members of the Canadian Federation of Students at the 67th semi-annual general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students;

Whereas at the 67th semi-annual general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services), delegates representing BC members were subject to collective and individual disrespect, belittling, ad hominem attacks, and other intolerable interactions;

Whereas, at that same meeting, an announcement was made during the plenary session that unaccounted moneys of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) existed, which were being used for purposes unreported to members (including at the 67th semi-annual general meeting itself);

Whereas, at that same meeting, it became clear that the personal desires of some had come to supersede the supremacy of democracy within the structure of the Federations, including electoral fraud in the nomination of positions to the National Executive and the duty of the National Executive
to uphold its fiduciary responsability as well as report its activity to members; therefore,

Be it resolved that commitment to the founding principles of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) as outlined in the Preamble to the Bylaws be affirmed;

Be it further resolved that a letter be sent to the National Executive of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) declaring:

  1. that member local unions of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) in British Columbia have no confidence in the National Executive;
  2. that member local unions of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) in British Columbia demand of the National Executive that the following conditions be made to exist:
    • creation of a campaign strategy that seeks to achieve our ultimate goal, as outlined in the Preamble to the Bylaws, through political initiatives with principled immediate demands, detailed immediate tasks, and common support;
    • recognition of the election of Aboriginal Students’ Representative Tl’ehskwiisimka Marshall, and the recognition of the election of Women’s Representative Shayli Robinson;
    • removal of all those from payroll who have not been hired according to standard hiring practices through which the National Executive has ultimate decision making power and the fulfillment of the legal requirement that the hiring of all employees of the Federation to be ratified by a vote of the National Executive, inclusive of all current non-unionised employees;
    • resignation of Bilan Arte and Anna Dubinski in acknowledgement that they have misled the membership of the Federations, failed to share information with other members of the National Executive, and are otherwise incapable of executing their duties;
    • removal of Toby Whitfield from the payroll of the Canadian Federation of Students and/or Canadian Federation of Students(-Services), and a permanent commitment that the Federation entities no longer associate with this person;
    • removal of Jessica McCormick from the payroll of the Canadian Federation of Students and/or Canadian Federation of Students(-Services), and a permanent commitment that the Federation entities no longer associate with this person;
    • public acknowledgement that directors of the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services) were aware of the use of funds that, while not represented in the annual audited financial statements and not regularly reported to general meetings or the National Executive, was used in the best interest of students. This acknowledgement should include absolution of any employee who was aware of this practice;
    • affirmation of the principle of “One Local, One Vote”, including the limitation of no more than three votes afforded to organisations representing students of one post-secondary institution; and,

Be it further resolved that an investigation be launched into the establishment of a national organisation for the purpose of representing post-secondary students.

CFS National Chairperson Jessica McCormick has denied any allegations of improprieties in the CFS’s executive election process, stating that the process was “democratic and occurred just like in previous years.” McCormick also denied any problems in the organization’s human resources management practices.

Another of these resolutions requests the CFS-BC Executive Committee to “review” the “advisability and practical process of of eliminating congruent membership with the Canadian Federation of Students(-Services)”:

2015/08:N05 MOTION TO AMEND BYLAWS

Whereas students began working together through the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia in 1966 as the Assembly of British Columbia Students, later known as the British Columbia Student Federation;

Whereas the British Columbia Student Federation changed its name to Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia in 1981 based on the principles of provincial and national congruency that were key to the development of the Canadian Federation of Students;

Whereas the progressive coalition that once led the Canadian Federation of Students has been irreparably betrayed by forces outside British Columbia and there exists little benefit to maintaining congruency or a unified identity between the provincial and national entities;

Whereas British Columbia student solidarity has proven to be a valuable and powerful tool for progress in the province; therefore,

Be it resolved that Bylaw II be reviewed and a recommendation made to the next general meeting regarding the advisability and practical process of eliminating congruent membership with the
Canadian Federation of Students(-Services).

According to the affiliation agreement signed between the CFS and CFS-BC in 1982, the “practical process” of disaffiliation is not as simple as the current CFS-BC leadership might consider it to be. The affiliation agreement, which prohibits CFS-BC from accepting or maintaining voting member students’ unions who are not members of the national student organization, specifies that only a province-wide referendum is sufficient to allow CFS-BC to defederate from the CFS:

(5) TERMINATION BY PROVINCIAL COMPONENTS

This Agreement may be terminated by the Provincial Component only where a majority of the individual student members in attendance at each post-secondary institution whose local student association is a member of the Provincial Component approve withdrawal by way of referendum.

Québec student movement reorganizes

In the middle of Printemps 2015, a student strike opposing the Couillard’s government austerity measures and the planned TransCanada oil pipeline, the Québec student movement is in the process of reorganizing itself.

Since 2001, student politics in Québec has generally been organized around two different wings: a radical wing, represented by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), and a more moderate wing, represented by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ). Over the past several years, however, many student associations have held referenda to disaffiliate from FEUQ and FECQ, citing a lack of internal democracy and transparency within the organizations.

On March 28, 2015, the Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l’Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM), representing 40,000 students at the Université de Montréal, voted to disaffiliate from the FEUQ. According to its press release, the FAECUM, at a congress of its 83 campus student association members, unanimously decided to disaffiliate from the FEUQ “and to participate in the creation of a new national [Québec] university student organization.” Through this act of disaffiliation, the FEUQ instantly lost one third of its members.

Prior to the vote, FAÉCUM’s executive committee released a seven page report on the FEUQ, which cited the disaffiliation of several members in recent years and claimed that the organization was ineffective in achieving its goals. “In our opinion,” the report concluded, “it is important to focus on the objective of a national [Québec] student association to counter the Québec government’s disengagement in education. It is important to bring student associations together on principles that are more consensual, more transparent, and more flexible. The FEUQ is no longer in a position to respond to the aspirations of its members and is no longer politically effective.”

In response, Mouvement étudiant .info, a Facebook page coming from the “radical” wing of the Québec student movement, said: “Don’t be fooled, the FAÉCUM left the FEUQ because it no longer served as a vehicle for its ascendancy within the the Québec student movement. The new organization that FAÉCUM is trying to establish is merely FEUQ 2.0 with a new look, so that FAÉCUM can continue to pull the strings behind the student movement.. The problem is not the FEUQ as such, but the quasi-imperial attitude of the FAÉCUM, which has operated for years as though the student movement revolved around itself. It is the FAÉCUM that must disappear.”

Meanwhile, four regional student associations (from Rimouski, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, and Saguenay) have released a press release announcing their intention to create a national student organization of their own, to be based on five core principles:

  • “local sovereignty
  • the ability to be understood by all and for all
  • the capacity to form a political common front
  • the primacy of profile [political visibility?] over numbers
  • ease of affiliation and of disaffiliation”

The press release quotes Mathieu Roy, president of MAGE-UQTR, as citing “the predominance of Montreal associations within the existing national associations” as reason for this initiative.

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.

Studentunion.ca first reported on this lawsuit in January 2013

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.” Furthermore, the lawsuit references laws adopted in Australia and New Zealand which ban post-secondary educational institutions from collecting mandatory student association fees.

Read Fondation 1625’s press release here

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.

National Post publishes op-ed touting Voluntary Student Unionism

On August 26, the National Post published an op-ed opposing mandatory fees for students’ unions. This op-ed argued that students’ unions were “spending their levy fees to fund controversial activities and political causes unrelated to post-secondary education,” engaging in “unfair student election practices” and practicing “financial mismanagement.” The op-ed was published by staffers for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a right-wing think tank. The FCPP published a paper entitled “The Case for Voluntary Student Unionism” (PDF) in 2011.

Devon Peters, the President of the University of Regina Students’ Union, published a reply to this op-ed in the Leader-Post, defending students’ unions as incubators of student leadership, through their sponsorship of clubs, societies, student newspapers, womens’ centres, and other organizations.