UPDATED: CBUSU suffers major blow in legal defeat against CFS

The Ontario Superior Court rendered a decision in a case pitting the Cape Breton University Students’ Union (CBUSU) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). This long-standing legal battle stems from a dispute of the legitimacy of a March 2008 referendum on continued membership. Out of the 366 students who casted a ballot, 92% voted against continued membership in the Federation. In summary, the CBUSU remains a member of the Federation and is on the hook for 6 years worth of unpaid membership fees, worth $293,159.13. The CFS was asked to submit its costs submission within 30 days of the release of the decision. This will likely add another significant financial burden facing the CBUSU. 

In Mr. Justice Robert N. Beaudoin’s Analysis and Conclusion, he writes: “I am satisfied on all of the evidence before me that the referendum held by the CBUSU was invalid in that it did not comply with the then prevailing Bylaws and that the vote on defederation cannot be recognized on any other basis.”

This charge is based on the fact that, in September 2007, it was in fact the members of the CBUSU executive that initiated the petition that would trigger a referendum. During the trial, it was admitted that members of the executive collected the signature during the first week of classes, September 10-15, 2007. This is where the CBUSU diverged from the CFS Bylaws. According to Bylaw 1, Article 3(a)(iii) of the Federation’s most recently available Bylaws, only “the students collectively belonging to a local student association” (i.e.: the individual students who make up the CBUSU membership) can initiate a petition, not the “voting member” (i.e.: the CBUSU executive is considered a voting member of the CFS).

The consequences stemming from this decision could mean the end of the CBUSU. The student union was ordered to pay nearly $300,000 in damages to the CFS as well as the Federation’s legal fees which could amount to another $100,000. Speaking with CTV News Atlantic, Brandon Ellis, President of the CBUSU, admitted that all options are on the table including laying off some of the student union’s 80 employees or even bankruptcy.

Further reactions to the decision

Students Nova Scotia expressed its concern in a statement regarding the results of the trial.

Paul Wells, political editor at Maclean’s Magazine, weighed in on Twitter leading us to believe he has some knowledge of the Federation’s rocky history:

Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner also took to Twitter to say he is “proud” of StudentNS for its stance on the CBU issue:

Finally, to get further historical context, you can go back and listen to an interview from June 2014 which included Brandon Ellis, President of the CBUSU, and Brent Farrington, CFS Internal Co-ordinator. They both spoke with CBC’s Information Morning Cape Breton’s host Steve Sutherland.

UPDATED: Saturday August 8, 2015

On Friday, we initially posted an article on our Facebook page which indicated that the CBUSU had filed for bankruptcy. However, this was an erroneous report. Later in the afternoon, another article was published in The Chronicle Herald stating that the CBUSU would in fact appeal Justice Robert N. Beaudoin’s decision. Brandon Ellis told the Herald that Toronto-based law firm Borden Ladner Gervais is representing the student union. This is the same firm that represented the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union last year in its legal case against the Federation.

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.

Canadian Federation of Students loses legal battle with its Quebec wing

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The Superior Court of Quebec yesterday released its judgement (in french) in the case “
Rassemblement des associations étudiantes v Fédération canadienne des étudiants et étudiantes“, representing the culmination of a five-year war between the Canadian Federation of Students and the now defunct CFS-Quebec.

Consult more documents relating to this case here

The Court ruled that the Canadian Federation of Students had illegally withheld certain sums of money from CFS-Quebec for a certain period of time between 2007 and 2010, in violation of its own bylaws. The actual amount of money was not specified in the judgement.

This judgement could possibly influence judicial proceedings that are set to be heard in 2015 regarding the validity of disaffiliation referenda that saw three out of four CFS member students’ unions withdraw from the national student organization in 2010: the Concordia Students’ Union, the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association, and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University.

CUP falls short of its fundraising goal

KeepCUPstrong concert poster

The Canadian University Press (CUP), a national campus newspaper co-operative, started an Indiegogo fundraising campaign at the end of February following significant financial troubles which led to the laying off of 12 part-time staffers. The fundraising goal was set at a hefty $50,000. The Indiegogo campaign came to an end on April 13 but, sadly, only raised $9,206. According to an update on the campaign page, CUP’s president Erin Hudson announced a preliminary total of $11,670.

Read about CUP’s existential crisis

Yesterday, the #keepCUPstrong fundraising finale took place in Toronto which was hosted by CBC Radio One’s Chris Berube and featured The Snipes, a band formed in The Globe and Mail’s business section and Sh*t From Hell. Having fallen short of its goal, CUP’s future remains unclear. The next few months will be crucial for the organization’s future and we will continue to follow any developments.

UPDATED: Canadian University Press facing “existential crisis”

keepCUPstrong

Contribute to the Keep CUP Strong fundraising campaign

It’s no secret that the Canadian University Press (CUP) has been struggling in recent years. The national campus newspaper co-operative, created in 1938, has lost 35 member newspapers in the past 10 years. CUP’s advertising service, the Canadian University Press Media Services Ltd. (more commonly known as Campus Plus), filed for bankruptcy in June 2013. In terms of finances, the organization has posted a deficit for the past two years which has put its very existence in peril. To add insult to injury, following a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) financial audit, CUP was fined $9,000 “for non-compliance with tax laws dating back to CUP 75’s Aug.-Oct. 2012 reporting period”.1 During NASH 76, CUP’s annual national conference, the conference’s chairperson Adam Thomas Young delivered the State of CUP which provided delegates with a jaw-droppingly candid assessment and addressed the high cost of CUP membership fees, a criticism advanced by many campus newspapers which have since left the organization. Some of the largest student newspaper in the country then joined forces to create an alternative (free) newswire service: the National University Wire.

Read Käthe Anne Lemon’s Masters thesis on the history of CUP

Faced with a dire financial crisis, the CUP board of directors was forced to lay off all 12 of its part-time staff effective March 1, 2014. In a memo, CUP president Erin Hudson refers to the current situation as “a state of emergency for the organization.” A February 16th emergency report prepared by Ms. Hudson accompanied the memo and provides a detailed timeline of events which led to these layoffs. It also proposes a crisis response plan which includes, among other things, making arrangements to move out of its current office, cancelling the National Bureau Chief’s cell phone contract, putting a governance consultant on retainer and to formulate a plan to re-establish a reserve fund. According to a cash flow analysis (between February 15 and April 30, 2014), CUP faces a deficit of $7,493.21.

Watch the Keep CUP Strong campaign video

This blog believes that students benefit from a broader variety of content from across the country in their local campus papers. Student journalists play a vital role on every college and university campus by providing local, provincial and national news and information to students, faculty and the surrounding communities. They also play an important role in keeping elected student representatives and post-secondary institution administrations accountable for their decisions. It would be a shame to see an organization such as CUP disappear after 76 years.

While this development is extremely troubling, there remains hope. On March 1st, CUP will be launching a $50,000 fundraising campaign via the crowdfunding website, Indiegogo. CUP launched a $50,000 fundraising campaign via the crowdfunding website, Indiegogo. The funds will go towards the operating budget of the organization. On Twitter, you can follow #keepCUPstrong. Earlier today (February 28), a statement from CUP president Erin Hudson appealing for support was also been published via the CUP website.

Students Nova Scotia launches “More than Yes” campaign

More than Yes logo

More than Yes campaign logo

Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) recently launched “More than Yes”, a new sexual consent campaign “to promote greater understanding of consent among students.” According to the organization’s press release, the campaign is based on evidence from recent report entitled “Student Safety in Nova Scotia: A Review of Student Union Policies and Practices to Prevent Sexual Violence”. Among the 21 recommendations, the report proposes “plan[ning] a strategy for starting the dialogue on sexuality on campus”