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.

Dawson College students to vote on Canadian Federation of Students membership

DSU CFS referendum notice

Following a recent settlements between the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) (and its entities1) and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Graduate Students’ Association of Concordia University (GSA), the Dawson Student Union (DSU) is the last Québec student union who holds membership status in the CFS. However, the Federation may no longer be able to claim that it is a national student organisation as the DSU will be holding a referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The CFS chief returning officer, Stephen Littley, recently published the referendum notice which will be held from April 13th to 15th, 2015. 

Consult the DSU CFS referendum rules here

Once again, Mr. Littley has banned the use of “3rd party media, opinion, dialogue, report, blog, or any other source that can not be governed and sanctioned by these Rules.” This is clearly a ridiculous rule that attempts to block out all the negative press that the Federation has received in the past. Coincidentally, as recently as a couple week ago, the Federation’s national office was forced to respond to “allegations of internal corruption and union-busting.” I received the email, which was sent on February 12, 2015 from an anonymous email address. However, due to the fact that we were unable to confirm the allegations, we chose not to publish the email. The letter was then published on February 26, 2015 at cfsunderattackalreadyexists.wordpress.com

The “Yes” and “No” committees have begun publishing their websites, Facebook and Twitter pages, etc. so keep your eyes peeled. 

1. The Canadian Federation of Students has a services organisation, the Canadian Federation of Students-Services (CFS-S) which dispenses the organisation’s services. When students vote to join the CFS, they automatically become members of the CFS-S. 

PGSS votes to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (again)

On January 15 and 16, 2015, members of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS) had the opportunity to vote in a referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

According to the PGSS website, preliminary results indicate that graduate students voted overwhelmingly in favour of cutting ties with the Federation:

Referendum question: Are you in favor of continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)?

Number of votes: 2129* (26.3% voter turnout)
Yes votes: 56* (2.7%)
No votes: 2014* (97.3%)

*All results are preliminary, subject to change pending University verification and receipt of mail-in ballots. The CRO will post the official results in due time. The referendum and formal request to leave the Federation will need to be ratified at the next General Assembly of the CFS.

Readers were reminded in an article published in the McGill Daily that the PGSS continues to be involved in litigation with the Federation stemming from a March 2010 referendum during which members of the PGSS voted to leave the CFS. The CFS would prefer to acknowledge this month’s vote as this would imply that the PGSS has continued to be a member of the Federation since March 2010. This, in turn, would mean that the PGSS owes 5 years worth of membership dues (between March 2010-June 2015). Before the CFS agreed to hold this month’s referendum, the PGSS was forced to pay over $300.000 in outstanding dues as per the CFS Bylaws. The PGSS will continue to pursue the litigation emanating from the 2010 referendum and will now seek to recover that money. Court hearings in that case won’t begin until 2017.

A McGill Tribune article quotes CFS chairperson Jessica McCormick who appears to show that the Federation would likely recognize the results at the Federation’s General meeting in May/June 2015. A statement (http://aboutcfs.ca has already been rendered inaccessible) by the Ms. McCormick was released just before this month’s referendum and deserves to be quoted:

Unlike other votes on membership, the Canadian Federation of Students will not be engaging in a traditional campaign on campus in order to highlight the importance of working together. The reality is that over the past five years, the graduate student members at McGill have been so misled and misinformed by portions of the elected leadership of the PGSS about the work of the Canadian Federation of Students and the formerly positive, supportive relationship with the other members of the organization that it would be virtually impossible to set the record straight in a short campaign period. As an example, there has been so much disinformation that the average McGill graduate student incorrectly thinks that the Canadian Federation of Students has been suing the McGill PGSS. In fact, the PGSS has engaged in a sustained campaign of legal attacks against the other member local unions that comprise the Federation in order to achieve a specific outcome-to isolate graduate students at McGill from students across the country.

While the Federation made it seem like no traditional campaigning would occur, many people were brought in by the CFS to act as poll clerks (May not be an exhaustive list): 

Carole Blank – Kaileigh Macrae  – Munib Sajjad – Carolyn Hibbs – Emma Campbell – Alena Peters – Jasmine Parent – Glenn Burley – Adam Awad – 
Sarah McCue – Alyssa Blank – Nadia Fentiman – Lauren Montgomery – Nick Stark – Brent Farrington – Laurel Walsh – Anna Dubynski

I do hope that as many graduate students will read the entire statement (also available in French) to see how condescending it really is. McCormick’s attempts to speak down to students seem to suggest that graduate students are unable to think critically about the information they have received from the “elected leadership of the PGSS” and judge the organization on its merits. While the PGSS has in fact brought the CFS to court, to characterize the litigation as a “sustained campaign of legal attacks” is exaggerated rhetoric that is often used by the Federation to describe anybody who dares to disagree with and/or criticize the organization. Let this CFS statement be seen for what it really is: a sophisticated, camouflaged admittance of defeat, a throwing in of the towel.

Canadian Federation of Students CRO overstepped authority: Quebec Superior Court Justice

A Quebec Superior Court Justice has ruled that Stephen Littley, Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) chief electoral returning officer (CRO), overstepped his authority by including certain regulations in the referendum rules that are currently governing the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) of McGill University referendum on continued membership in the CFS.

VISIT THE CFS CRO WEBSITE FOR THE PGSS REFERENDUM

In Justice Gérard Dugré written reasons of his January 7, 2015 judgment, he ruled that Stephen Littley exceeded his authority, as outlined in article 4.b of the CFS Bylaws, by including the following regulations within the PGSS referendum rules

Materials
d. The Chief Returning Officer or his designate will not approve materials that are defamatory, misleading or false, that refer to legal or quasi legal action/s before the courts that relate the Referendum, or to other legal or quasi legal actions, that may undermine the Referendum

Campaigning
f. There shall be no campaigning at any time in a business or service owned or operated by the Students’ Union… in areas or events where alcohol is served…

Justice Dugré also ruled that the above cited rules violate article 3 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedom which states that “Every person is the possessor of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.”

Campaigning in the PGSS referendum on continued membership in the CFS at McGill University began on January 5 while voting will take place January 15 and 16, 2015.

Campaigning in PGSS referendum on continued membership in the CFS begins today

Campaigning in the Post-Graduate Students’ Society’s (PGSS) referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) began today, January 5, 2015. Members of the PGSS will have the opportunity to vote from January 15 to 16, 2015. 

Consult the PGSS’s CFS referendum rules here

This referendum is the result of a lengthy court battle between the national Federation and Sa Ge, a McGill University philosophy engineering doctoral candidate and individual member of the PGSS. Legal proceedings continue to this very day stemming from the referendum rules put in place by CFS chief returning officer, Stephen Littley. Building upon the rules he drafted for the Capilano Students’ Union’s March 2014 referendum on continued membership in the federation which included an outright ban on referencing any media publications, Mr. Littley has taken his information control to further extremes: 

d. The Chief Returning Officer or his designate will not approve materials that are defamatory, misleading or false, that refer to legal or quasi legal action/s before the courts that relate the Referendum, or to other legal or quasi legal actions, that may undermine the Referendum (emphasis added).

While he essentially empowers himself to be the judge of whether the content of campaign material is defamatory, misleading or false (which is obviously prone to be abuse), Littley is now of the opinion that referencing any legal or quasi legal actions involving the Canadian Federation of Students “may undermine the Referendum”. The outright ban on anything referencing the CFS in the media continues to remain in place: 

e. The Chief Returning Officer or his designate will not approve materials that contain links to 3rd party media, opinion, dialogue, report, blog, or any other source that can not be governed and sanctioned by these by-laws (emphasis added).

The soundness of such rules have never been contested in court until now. Mr. Jonathan Mooney, a former member of the PGSS executive and chairperson of the No Committee, submitted a contestation to the CFS Appeals Committee(Bilan Arte, James Bowen and Amy Hammett). Mooney is contesting 3 rules established by the CRO:

1.   “The restrictions on references to legal or quasi legal action/s before the courts that relate to the Referendum, or to other legal or quasi legal actions, that may undermine the Referendum are null and void as ultra vires the jurisdiction of the CRO and as a violation of the fundamental rights of the members of PGSS”;

2. “The restrictions on campaigning in a business or service owned or operated by PGSS are null and void as ultra vires the jurisdiction of the CRO and as a violation of the fundamental rights of the members of PGSS”;

3. “The restrictions on campaigning in areas or events where alcohol is served are null and void as ultra vires the jurisdiction of the CRO and as a violation of the fundamental rights of the members of PGSS”

According to court documents obtained by Studentunion.ca, at the time of publication the Appeals Committee has yet to respond to Mr. Mooney’s December 27th 3-page contestation. The Quebec Superior Court of Justice will rule on Mooney’s motion, which contests a number of aspects of the referendum administration including allegations of negligence and bad faith, on Wednesday, January 7, 2015.

Voting in the PGSS referendum on continued membership will take place over 2 days, January 15 and 16, 2015.

1. As per CFS By-Law 1, section 6 i, the Appeals Committee is composed of: “i. one National executive member or a designate appointed by the Federation’s National Executive; and ii. two individual members elected at a Federation general meeting who are not members of the Federation’s National Executive”.

Update on legal cases involving the Canadian Federation of Students

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Following the
two court losses suffered by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) last month, it has applied to the Quebec Court of Appeal to suspend the execution of the judgement [French only], rendered by Justice Gérard Dugré on September 9, 2014, ordering a referendum on continued membership be held for members of the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS). This is an attempt by the CFS to block the members of the PGSS from having the opportunity to vote on their continued membership in the Federation.

On Tuesday afternoon, October 21, 2014, Ms. Justice Geneviève Marcotte dismissed the CFS’s Motion to Stay the Provisional Execution [French only]. She reiterated that Mr. Sa Ge’s right to vote on the question of PGSS’s continued membership in CFS is quasi-constitutional and added that the criteria of the balance of convenience1 favours the McGill University graduate student. Justice Marcotte also added that the CFS’s appeal on the merits seems to have no serious chance of success. 

All this to say, Justice Dugré ordered that a referendum on continued membership in the CFS must be held at McGill regardless of if the CFS decides to move forward with its appeal or not. 

Today, the PGSS will appear before Justice Gérard Dugré requesting that he select the dates for the referendum and an order to have PGSS’ outstanding membership dues held in trust (dues that have been collected since members of the PGSS voted to cease membership in the CFS in April 2010; the CFS never recognized the results of that referendum and the outcome of that legal battle has yet to be settled). 

Stay tuned…

UPDATE: November 4, 2014
A link to Ms. Justice Geneviève Marcotte’s October 21, 2014 decision to reject the CFS’ Motion to Stay the Provisional Execution was added.

1. According to a paper published by Gowling, Lafleur Henderson LLP, the balance of convenience “involves determining which party will suffer greater damage from granting or refusing the injunction.”