Canadian Federation of Students 34th annual general meeting

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Canadian Federation of Students-Services (CFS-S) will hold their 34th annual general meeting from November 22 to November 25, 2015.

Studentunion.ca has obtained the agenda for the opening plenary.

Capilano students vote to leave the Canadian Federation of Students

Photo Megan Kamocki/The Martlet

                                                                                                        Photo Megan Kamocki/The Martlet

According to the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) website, 77% of its members voted to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia Component (CFS-BC). While the official campaign period commenced on March 10, voting in the referendum on continued membership (defederation) took place between March 24-28, 2014. The preliminary results were communicated by the CSU’s scrutineer:

Question: “Are you in favour of continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia?”

YES: 314 votes (approx. 22.4%)
NO:   1,091 votes (approx. 77.6%)

With quorum set at 771 students, at least 1,405 students exercised their right to vote.

CFS sends letter regarding fees two minutes after polls closed

Coincidentally, two minutes after the polls closed, the CSU received a letter from the CFS national treasurer Gabriel Hoogers which questions the student union’s method of calculating the CFS/CFS-BC fees. The whole question surrounds the “pro-rating” students membership fees or the automatic increase of fees, on a yearly basis, based on the Canadian Consumer Price Index (CPI). Hoogers’ letter reads as follows:

Amongst other things, the CFS is responsible for complying with Bylaw 1, Article 2-a-viii which states: “The membership fees described in Bylaw 1, Articles 2-a-vi and 2-a-vii, may be pro-rated for part-time and short-term students in accordance with the practice of the full voting member association with respect to the pro-ration of its own fees.” In other words, in the event that the CSU chooses to pro-rate the Federations’ membership dues for part-time students, rather than collecting the full fee from all members, it must do so in the same manner in which it pro-rates its own membership fee. […] According to Capilano University’s incidental fee schedule for the current academic year, the CSU now collects a basic fee $40,00 from each member, plus $2.50 per credit to a maximum of $65.00. On that basis, the Federations’ fee (including the provincial component portion) should have been restructured to be a basic fee of $5.22 collected from each members, plus $0.33 per credit to a maximum of $8.52. Instead, according to the same Capilano University incidental fee schedule, the Federations’ fee is only being charged on a per credit basis: $0.85 per credit to a maximum of $8.50 per term [emphasis added].

He goes on to claim that if that is the case, “the CSU would be in violation of its obligations to the Federations.” Again, it should be highlighted that the CSU received this letter two minutes after voting in the referendum ended. A press release from the CSU claims that “[t]his is the first time that the CSU has learned that the CFS takes issue with our fee collection structure.”

Was this issue known by the CFS national executive before the referendum occurred and simply kept this potential fee discrepancy in its back pocket in an attempt to nullify the referendum? Could it be a coincidence? Will the CFS/CFS-BC respect the will of the CSU membership and recognize the results of the referendum? Hopefully these and many other questions will be answered in the days to come.

UPDATED: Yes CFS committee volunteers flood Capilano University campuses

Voting in the referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)/Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia Component (CFS-BC) at Capilano University began on Monday, March 24, 2014. Members of the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) have until Friday to cast their ballots in the referendum.

As has been reported in past referendums, the Yes CFS committee has a number of non-Capilano volunteers popping up on Capilano University campuses. We have been in contact with a number of Capilano students who have confirmed that Lucy Watson (CFS national union stewardJessica McCormick (CFS national chairperson), Jessica Thyriar (York Federation of Students president, CFS national racialised students’ representative), Gayle McFadden (York Federation of Students vice-president campaigns and advocacy), Zachary Crispin (British Columbia representative on the CFS national executive), Michael Olson (former CFS national treasurer, current executive director for the Vancouver Island University Students’ Union (VIUSU)), Madeline Keller-Macleod (CFS-BC women students’ liaison) and Jenelle Davies (current CFS-BC chairperson) have been spotted campaigning for the Yes committee. We have also obtained photographic evidence of some of these volunteers:

Gayle McFaydenPictured above is Gayle McFadden speaking to students at Capilano University.

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Zachary Crispin appears in the above picture speaking with a student.

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Michael Olson is seen standing beside the No committee’s campaign table. This appears to be a tactic that has been used throughout the campaign as you will see below.

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Here’s another picture of Michael Olson standing to the left of the No CFS committee’s campaign table.

Michael Olson

Once again, Michael Olson seems very preoccupied with any student who tries to get information from the No CFS committee table.

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Pictured above is Lori McDonald, deputy returning officer and executive director of the Emily Carr Students’ Union (ECSU). Although the process by which she was selected is unknown, a call for applications was put out by Stephen Littley, the CFS referendum chief returning officer.

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Pictured above is Madeline Keller-Macleod (left), the Lansdowne Campus Executive for the Camosun College Student Society (CCSS).

When I reached out to Mr. Littley to ask him some questions pertaining to penalties he handed out to the No CFS committee , he responded with the following:

I am in contact with the Parties and campaigns involved, and will not communicate with media while the referendum is underway. I am not in a position to provide you with any “side”, nor is my deputy returning officer.

With that being said, here’s an outline of just a few penalties imposed on the No committee by the CRO.

Complaints and penalties against the No committee

Initially, the No committee’s website linked to a number of articles on it “Media” page. Mr. Littley handed out a penalty which claimed that most articles that appeared on that page, which were published on major newspaper websites, were “defamatory, misleading, or false.” Although I’m waiting for the list of all the articles that were removed, I can confirm that an opinion piece critical of the CFS, penned by yours truly, was one of them. The No committee posted the following clarification after receiving the penalty:

dumpthecfs.com - Media page

On Monday, the Dump the CFS Facebook page informed Capilano students that it had received a penalty resulting in a 48 hour suspension of its campaign website:

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After this No committee’s video received approval from Stephen Littley, yet another penalty was leveled against the No committee which was forced to take it down because it was “misleading”:

Meanwhile, a complaint was logged against a pro-CFS video, released by the Yes committee which, at the time of publication, had yet to be resolved.

Students I have spoken with have been extremely reluctant to speak about what has been occurring on the ground for fear of having a No result thrown out by the chief returning officer. It should be noted that I emailed the Yes committee (on Wednesday, March 12, 2014) and have yet to receive a response.

UPDATE – March 29, 2014

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Pictured above is long-time CFS employee, Lucy Watson, present at Capilano University during the referendum on continued membership in the CFS/CFS-BC.

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President of the York Federation of Students, Jessica Thyriar, hard at work campaigning for the pro-CFS campaign committee.

Voting in Capilano Students’ Union’s CFS defederation referendum begins today

Members of the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) begin voting in a referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)/Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia Component (CFS-BC) today and run through to Friday, March 28, 2014. We will be publishing more regarding the conduct of the campaign thus far throughout the week. We have received photos of “volunteers” from the Yes committee one of which is the president of the York Federation of Students.

Stay tuned…

Update on the Capilano Students’ Union referendum on continued membership in the CFS

Studentunion.ca has just received the following press release from the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) regarding the current referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)/Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia Component (CFS-BC):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Capilano students prohibited from publishing mainstream media sources on Dump The CFS website

NORTH VANCOUVER – March 19, 2014 – In September 2013, over 20% (over 1,700) of Capilano University students signed a petition to initiate a referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students and Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia. Voting for the referendum is set to take place from March 24 – 28, and is overseen by a CFS/CFS-BC appointed chief returning officer (CRO).

On the official website of the ‘no’ campaign (www.dumpthecfs.com), run by Capilano students, a page titled “media” is dedicated to displaying mainstream media articles focusing on the CFS and CFS-BC. On March 17, multiple complaints were made to the CRO claiming that certain articles posted contained defamatory, potentially libelous, or factually incorrect remarks. The CRO ordered their removal and only two articles now remain on the site.

The removed articles were published in the National Post, Montreal Gazette, and Higher Education Strategy Associates and contained quotes from student leaders across Canada about their experience with the CFS and the CFS-BC. While the articles all remain accessible on the Internet, the ‘no’ campaign has been forbidden from displaying links to the articles on dumpthecfs.com.

‘No’ campaign spokesperson Teresa Grant says: “The ‘no’ campaign feels like it is fighting a referendum with one arm tied behind its back. We are disappointed that we have been prohibited from sharing mainstream media articles with Capilano students.

The articles at issue contain statements by student leaders relating to their previous experience with CFS, including lawsuits that the CFS has been involved in with its own members. The involvement of the CFS in litigation with its own members, as well as views of other student leaders, are important factors for Capilano students to consider when deciding whether to leave the CFS and CFS-BC.

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For more information please contact:

Teresa Grant, Campaign Spokesperson
Student at Capilano University
p (604) 990-7965 | e info@dumpthecfs.com

Natahsha Prakash, CSU Spokesperson
Capilano Students’ Union
p (778) 886-8634 | e spokesperson@csu.bc.ca

 UPDATE – March 29, 2014

Here is a list of articles (more to come) that the CFS referendum chief returning officer Stephen Littley ordered the No committee to remove from its website:

The National Post – Student organization has become an out-of-touch, money-squandering bureaucracy, university groups allege – December 27, 2013

Higher Education Strategy Associates – A Persistent Problem with Truth – Alex Usher – April 1, 2013

Maclean’s On Campus –  Carleton should ditch the Canadian Federation of Students – Brandon Clim – March 20, 2013

UPDATED: Canadian Federation of Students won’t recognize UTGSU referendum petition

UTGSU - CFS referendum debate poster

In a sudden turn of events, the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) chief returning officer Stephen T. Littley has informed the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) executive that its members’ petition was ruled out of order less than 24 hours before a scheduled debate on the topic of continued membership in the Federation’s national and provincial branches.

The process by which the petition signatures were verified was unconventional and, to my knowledge, unprecedented. When the U of T administration refused to divulge the personal information of graduate students directly to the CFS (which would have been a breach of provincial privacy laws), the suggestion that the U of T Registrar could verify the validity of the petition signatures was rejected by the Federation. After months of back and fourth, the CFS finally hired a third party auditor, Deloitte, in order to verify the petitions. The UTGSU executive was informed on Sunday night (March 9, 2014) at approximately 11:30 pm by way of email that the Deloitte audit concluded that the required threshold of valid signatures was not met (20% of a student association’s membership). However, at the time of publication, Deloitte has yet to produce any documentation regarding the audit and the results cannot be verified.

What is strange is that the CFS has allowed post-secondary institution’s Registrars to verify the validity of petition signatures in the past. For example, members of the University of Victoria Student Society (UVSS) collected signatures during the Fall 2009 semester and submitted it to the CFS national executive. In a court document, a January 14, 2010 letter from then-CFS national treasurer Dave Molenhuis to the UVSS is reproduced. In it, Molenhuis requests the assistance of the Students’ Society

in verifying the authenticity of the names appearing on the petition… Please ask that each name on the petition be marked as valid (or invalid) by the Registrar’s office. The Registrar must be able to confirm that the names of the individual and the student number as they appear on the petition are legible and therefore verifiable. In addition, a sworn statement from the University of Victoria authenticating the names and confirming undergraduate enrolment numbers for the fall 2009 semester would likely suffice (emphasis added).

In the same document, paragraph 12 states the following:

The Second Petition was submitted to the UVic Registrar who confirmed in a letter dated February 11, 2010 that 2,180 signatures on the Second Petition were valid signatures of undergraduate students at UVic and therefore members of the UVSS (emphasis added).

According to the CFS bylaws, the Federation’s national executive “will have the sole authority to determine whether the petition described in Bylaw I, Section 6.a is in order” and must do so within 90 days of receipt. Unfortunately, in this case, it would appear as though the Federation may have failed to uphold its own legally binding bylaws.

UPDATE – March 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Studentunion.ca has obtained a copy of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario Component (CFS-Ontario) portion of the Deloitte “petition validation report” which sought to verify the validity of the signatures appearing on the UTGSU petition. An important sentence appears in the “Summary results”: “… We have provided a range for our results, as certain attributes tested (i.e. names on the petition must be reasonably legible) may be open to interpretation.”

Out of a total of 3,325 signatures, the following “exceptions” were noted:

  • Not members of Graduate Students’ Union: 320 – 340
  • Duplicate records: 15 – 20
  • Not “reasonably legible”: 0 – 40
  • Did not include “proper full name”: 80 – 90
  • Did not include a “valid student identification number”: 30 – 60
  • Did not include a “unique signature”: 5 – 15

So, at the end of the day, did the petition contain the signatures of at least twenty percent of the UTGSU’s membership required to trigger a referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario Component? Not according to Deloitte:

  • Total population of Graduate Students’ Union members: 14,927
  • Valid petitioners: 2,760 – 2,875
  • % of Graduate Students’ Union members: 18.5% – 19.3%

It should be noted that, according to numerous first-hand accounts, Alastair Woods, CFS-Ontario Chairperson and Anna Goldfinch, Ontario’s representative on the CFS national executive, were spotted on campus handing out the report to students.

UPDATE – March 15, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Studentunion.ca has also obtained a copy of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) national portion of the Deloitte “petition validation report” which sought to verify the validity of the signatures appearing on the UTGSU petition. The verification appears to have the same methodology as the CFS-Ontario portion of the audit.

Out of a total of 3,165 signatures, the following “exceptions” were noted:

  • Not members of Graduate Students’ Union: 320 – 340
  • Duplicate records: 15 – 20
  • Not “reasonably legible”: 0 – 40
  • Did not include “proper full name”: 65 – 75
  • Did not include a “valid student identification number”: 25 – 55
  • Did not include a “unique signature”: 5 – 10

So, at the end of the day, did the petition contain the signatures of at least twenty percent of the UTGSU’s membership required to trigger a referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students? Not according to Deloitte:

  • Total population of Graduate Students’ Union members: 14,927
  • Valid petitioners: 2,625 – 2,735
  • % of Graduate Students’ Union members: 17.6% – 18.3%