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.

Canadian Federation of Students elects new national executive

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During the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) national general meeting, held last week in Gatineau, Quebec, the plenary elected a new national executive for the 2015-2016 academic year. It should be noted that all three executive positions will be filled by held by women. 

Bilan Arte's March 2012 election campaign poster

Bilan Arte’s March 2012 election campaign poster

Bilan Arte was elected CFS national chairperson for the 2015-2016 academic year. Her involvement in student politics is extensive: she was elected twice as president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) (2011-2012 and 2012-2013), was deputy chairperson (2011-2012) and chairperson (2013-2014) of the Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba (CFS-MB) as well as being the Manitoba representative (2013-2014) on the CFS national executive. Ms. Arte is currently the deputy chairperson on the CFS national executive. 

Anne-Marie Roy - BoD poster - February 2011

Current Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) president (2014-2015), Anne-Marie Roy, was elected as CFS national deputy chairperson. You can read about her record as a student politician as of February 2013 here. She is currently in her second term as SFUO president and as Francophone students representative (2013-2014 and 2014-2015) on the CFS national executive. She will likely continue her fast ascent in the CFS ranks. Earlier this year, Ms. Roy was the subject of explicit Facebook messages which were somehow obtained and subsequently made public. This incident received the attention of the national news media in which ‘rape culture’ was highlighted as becoming an epidemic on Canadian college and university campuses and in society in general. Ms. Roy could very easily become the CFS national chairperson in the next couple of years. 

CFS-NS chairperson Anna Dubinski

Anna Dubinski – Photo credits: The Chronicle Herald

Finally, the plenary elected Anna Dubinsky as CFS national treasurer. She is currently the CFS-Nova Scotia (CFS-NS) chairperson as well as the CFS-NS’s national executive representative. Ms. Dubinsky attended the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here’s her experience in campus politics: 

2010-2011: first year representative on the King Students’ Union (KSU) Council of representatives

2011-2012: KSU’s Vice-president, student life

2012-2013: Student union representative on the University of King’s College Board of Governors; Board of governors representative on the KSU’s Council of representatives

2013-2014: She followed in the footsteps of influential CFS personalities such as Kaley Kennedy, David Etherington, Gabe Hoogers and Nick Stark by becoming the KSU president; she also sat as one of the student representatives on the University’s Board of Governors and on the Board’s executive committee.

2014-2015: CFS-NS chairperson and the Nova Scotia representative on the CFS national executive.

It should be noted that, during her tenure as KSU president, Dubinski’s executive faced a $10,000 deficit. Read the discussions surrounding the budget deficit here and the subsequent decision to hold a referendum to increase student union dues by $9,40 in order to eliminate the deficit.

Petition sought removal of CFS chairperson Jessica McCormick

CFS - Chaining Fellow Students

Students protested outside the Best Western hotel where the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) was holding its national general meeting on November 23, 2013. This banner, which reads “CFS: Chaining Fellow Students” was erected across the street from the protest – Photo credits: Brandon Clim

According to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) Constitution and Bylaws (Bylaw 5, Article 5-b-ii), the removal of the National Chairperson may be initiated when “a petition signed by no less than three (3) member local student associations [is] presented to the National Executive.”

One such petition was presented to the National Executive during the most recent CFS national general meeting. Current CFS national chairperson Jessica McCormick came under fire when, only days before the beginning of the general meeting, two separate petitions seeking a referendum on continued membership were “returned to sender”. Individual members from the Laurentian University Graduate Students Association (GSA) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS) each submitted petitions containing, according to the organizers, at least 20% of their respective student associations (the minimum threshold required to trigger a referendum on continued membership as per the CFS Bylaws). However, the petition organizer from the PGSS were shocked to discover that one of the envelopes containing their petition was returned to sender.

When the petition came up for debate during the CFS NGM, those loyal to the Federation vigorously defended the national chairperson claiming that there are any number of reasons why the packages could have been returned to sender and that delegates should be more concerned about solving the crisis facing students. One student association staffer, Hamid Osman, even went as far as to claim that Canada Post loses 438 million pieces of mail a year (no source was provided) in order to shift the blame on Canada Post. 

The petition to impeach Ms. McCormick was eventually voted down and, ironically, she was reelected as national chairperson for a second term. However, we have since learned that Jessica McCormick did in fact sign for the PGSS’ petition (which had to be separated into two envelopes due to weight limitations for registered mail). Studentunion.ca has obtained evidence which contradicts the various talking points used to defend Ms. McCormick:

Petition from the Laurentian University Graduate Students Association

As you can clearly see below, the envelope containing the Laurentian graduate students’ petition has “RTS” which stands for return to sender. According to official tracking information from Canada Post, the petition was sent on October 18, 2013, an attempt to deliver the package on October 21, 2013 (which was unsuccessful), and the package went unclaimed until finally, on November 15, the package was returned to sender. 

20131129-215018.jpg

Petition from the Post-Graduate Students Society of McGill University

You can also see below that, contrary to various excuses given by CFS officials (clerical error?), the two envelopes containing the petition from members of the PGSS seeking a referendum on continued membership were both signed for by none other than Jessica McCormick herself on Tuesday, October 29, 2013. 

PGSS CFS petition signed for by Jessica McCormick1 PGSS CFS petition signed for by Jessica McCormick2

However, before these envelopes were picked up at the post office, a letter dated October 18, 2013 was addressed to Ms. McCormick from Sa Ge (a graduate student at McGill University and member of the PGSS who helped organize the petition). He indicated that an attempt had been made to deliver the packages containing the petition on October 16, 2013 but was unsuccessful. Ge concluded by asking her to acknowledge receipt of the petition. Ten days later, a legal letter from Ge’s legal counsel was addressed to the national chairperson and concludes as follows: “… should you fail to retrieve our client’s petition from the Post Office prior to October 31, 2013 and address it pursuant to CFS bylaws, legal proceedings shall be instituted without further notice against the Canadian Federation of Students to force a vote for decertification to take place. DO GOVERN YOURSELVES ACCORDINGLY.” Interestingly, the CFS’s legal counsel responded on November 11 stating that “My client was somewhat surprised to receive receive your letter as the status of the PGSS as a member of the CFS is the subject of ongoing litigation. Like your client, the CFS takes the position that the PGSS remains a member of the CFS.” In response, Mr. Ge’s legal counsel writes:

… we were surprised to hear from our client yesterday, that despite having accepted delivery of both packages, and knowing full well what they contained, you proceeded to cross out the address on one of the packages and place it in the mail marked ʻRTSʼ [see below]. It is difficult for us not to conclude that you are acting in bad faith and are indeed deliberately obstructing the decertification process pursuant to CFS’ own bylaws… As a final warning, be advised that should you fail to address our client’s petition, the half returned to our client enclosed herein, at a meeting of the National Executive this month and in accordance with the CFS bylaws, or fail to call a meeting this month pursuant to section 12 of the bylaws to address the petition, legal proceedings will be instituted against CFS without further notice to force a vote for decertification to take place, and claiming any and all damages, including punitive damages, flowing from your attempts to obstruct the decertification process.

20131129-214821.jpg

Isn’t it unfortunate then, that in order for the national chairperson to uphold the legally binding bylaws of the organization she leads, a letter threatening legal action against the CFS must be received? Quite frankly, it’s pathetic! Students have every right to be outraged at how the affairs of their national student organization are managed. Ironically, quoted in Montreal Gazette article, Ms. McCormick claims that elected officials from the PGSS, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Dawson Student Union (DSU) “don’t respect the democratic rules and procedures and, instead, are trying to take actions that are beyond their authority.” Those student associations are currently embroiled in ongoing legal proceedings against the Federation.

It should be noted that both petitions were eventually delivered by hand to the national chairperson during the CFS NGM. So, for those who claim to have absolutely no idea (or who simply choose to ignore the reasons) why concerned students would be protesting against the Canadian Federation of Students outside the hotel where the organization’s general meeting is taking place (Yes, I’m looking at you Anne-Marie Roy), you now have one of many documented examples. Oh, and for those seeking further reasons, you may want to consult the long list of lawsuits involving our national student organization.

EXCLUSIVE: CFS National General Meeting Audio

I know, it’s been a slow month here at studentunion.ca. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) national general meeting recently took place in Gatineau, Quebec, from Thursday November 21 to Sunday, November 24, 2013.

While you’re here, make sure to check out our Facebook pagemake a donation and sign up for email updates.

There’s a lot of ground to cover here so bare with me. This will be one of many short posts.

First, I was provided with audio from both the opening and closing plenaries:

Canadian Federation of Student National General Meeting – Opening Plenary – November 21, 2013

Canadian Federation of Students National General Meeting – Closing Plenary – November 24, 2013

More to come…

Protest the CFS you say?

This press release just arrived in my inbox:

POST-GRADUATE STUDENTS’ SOCIETY OF MCGILL UNIVERSITY (PGSS)

Transmitted by CNW Group on : November 23, 2013 07:00

Media advisory – Students across Canada to picket – Canadian Federation of Students general meeting

OTTAWA, Nov. 23, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ – Students across Canada will stage a large demonstration at the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) general meeting to protest CFS’ refusal to liberate students who wish to leave the CFS.  CFS is currently involved in multiple lawsuits trying to force students who have voted in democratic referenda to leave the CFS to continue paying CFS fees indefinitely.

Since 2009, students at about 15 schools have petitioned to leave the CFS, yet no student organization has successfully left without a lawsuit. CFS has refused to recognize the results of several referenda in which students have voted to leave and claims that these students are still members and owe CFS fees.  Students want to send a clear message to CFS: let us out!

Date: November 23, 2013
Place: Best Western Jacques Cartier, 131 Laurier Street, Gatineau QC
Time: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Who: Post-Graduate Students Society of McGill University
Concordia Student Union
Graduate Student Association of Concordia University
Dawson Student Union
University of Toronto Graduate Student Union
Capilano Students’ Union
UBC Students’ Union – Okanagan

SOURCE POST-GRADUATE STUDENTS’ SOCIETY OF MCGILL UNIVERSITY (PGSS)

For further information:Jonathan Mooney
McGill’s Post-Graduate Student Society (PGSS)
514 686 4770
sec-gen.pgss@mail.mcgill.caSarah Drouin
Dawson Student Union
514 743 4374
chairperson@dawsonstudentunion.ca

Melissa Kate Wheeler
Concordia Student Union
514 432 5125
president@csu.qc.ca

Opening plenary agenda for upcoming CFS AGM

Clearly, I was very busy during the month of October. Thankfully, Titus picked up the slack!

Let’s get down to business. We recently received the opening plenary agenda, sent out by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) national office, to be debated during the organization’s upcoming general meeting which will be held from November 21 to November 24, 2013. The agenda includes motions that will be discussed during the the organization’s 32nd annual national general meeting which will take place at the Best Western Hotel in Gatineau, Québec.

You will find many motions condemning a variety events that have occurred since last May’s CFS semi-annual general meeting. Here are a couple examples:

Motion 2013/11:N06 condemns the “misuse of public funds by Senators” and resolves that “reform of the Senate, and the reallocation of those federal resources to other priorities like post-secondary education be supported.”

Motion 2013/11:N11 proposes “that a letter be written condemning Enbridge for their ineffective clean up methods for on numerous oil spills” (editor’s note: text appears exactly as it does in the document, mistakes and all).

An interesting proposal (Motion 2013/11:N22) was brought forward by the Laurentian University Students’ General Association (also known as Local 30). It seeks to amend Bylaw 1.3.b (which deals with membership rights) so as to add, among others, the following clause:

viii. Each voting member of the Federation is entitled to a notice period of two weeks before any Federation staff-person appears on campus. In cases where a permanent staff person exists on campus, any additional staff-people on campus would be subject to the two-week notice period. This right can choose to be waived by the voting member if the Executive of the student association deems it necessary. In cases where a University may have a number of student associations, Federation staff-people may only communicate information to the student association who explicitly invited them.

This motion most definitely stems from the fact that, when the CFS national office caught wind that a petition seeking a referendum on continued membership in the CFS was being circulated by some graduate students at Laurentian University, a number of CFS officials and staff people suddenly appeared on campus wielding, according to one source, so-called “counter-petitions”. These petitions are used to convince students (who have already signed the original petition seeking a referendum) that they were deceived. Then, those same students are asked to sign the counter-petition which effectively renders their signature on the original petition null and void (if they did in fact sign the original petition). Thus, when determining whether a petition has reached the 20% threshold required to hold a referendum, the names of students that appear on both petitions will not be counted. Let’s be honest: This will not pass and even if it did, it would be very difficult to enforce. But, it does raise the important question of how/when the CFS decides to utilize its resources.

For those who still give a damn, enjoy!