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.

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”

UPDATED – Dalhousie Student Union reconsidering membership in CASA, StudentsNS

Members of the Dalhousie Student Union (DSU) council are questioning the value of the union’s membership in both the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) and Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS). According to an article in the Dalhousie Gazette, representatives from both student organizations were present during the January 23 council meeting to make the case for continued membership.

According to the minutes of the March 27, 2013 DSU council meeting, a motion was passed to downgrade DSU’s membership in CASA from full status to associate status. A page on the DSU’s website gives a brief explanation of the situation as it currently stands. This followed an earlier presentation given by Zach Daylor, former CASA National Director, to the DSU council.

The Dalhousie Gazette published another article earlier in January which discussed a report, prepared by the Advocacy Review Committee, which was presented during a December 4, 2013 DSU Council meeting. In a response to an email inquiry, Aaron Beale (DSU’s vice president education) informed me that “the report is not public yet” but would be passed along to me when it is.

The DSU has posted its annual general meeting agenda which is scheduled to take place tomorrow, February 12, 2014. In the meeting package, the following constitutional amendment is proposed regarding “external advocacy”:

Motion: BIRT The Constitution be amended in the following way: (red
denotes changes)

By-law VII – Other Organizations

5. The union shall not enter into an agreement, partnership and/or
membership with an external advocacy group where the external
organization’s by-laws, policy and/or constitution propose to supersede those
of the Union.

6. The Union shall not renounce its full membership within an external
advocacy group unless a successful referendum is run according to By-law XIV of the Constitution in which the result is in favor of renouncing its full membership with its external federal advocacy group. the appropriate process consistent with that organization’s bylaws is followed. Editor’s Note: This constitutional amendment was recommended by the DSU Advocacy Review Committee, in its exact form, and appears on page page 58 of the committee’s report.

7. The Union shall not enter into any new agreements or partnerships with
external advocacy group including but not limited to, the Canadian Alliance of
Student Associations (CASA) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS),
unless a successful referendum is run according to By-law XIV of the
Constitution in which the result is in favor of joining an external federal
advocacy group.

8. Any proposal to join an external advocacy group shall first be subject to a full review of legal, operational, and financial considerations by the Board of Operations prior to coming forward to Council.

8. The Union may change its existing membership level within an external advocacy group through a vote at Council, provided Council has been provided with thirty (30) days notice, and the information made public via the DSU website, and the Board of Operations has reviewed the proposal for operational, financial, and legal considerations.

We look forward to reading the Advocacy Review Committee’s report in the near future. We’ll continue follow this story and report on future developments.

UPDATED ON FEBRUARY 13, 2014

Studentunion.ca has obtained the DSU Advocacy Review Committee’s report simply entitled Strengthening Advocacy. In its conclusion, the report states: “Students Nova Scotia and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations have significant misalignments with the DSU in terms of their overall approach and their vision of post-secondary education.” It goes on to say that:

… the risks of remaining in the organizations outweigh any risks associated with independent advocacy strategies while offering greater benefits in terms of available advocacy strategies, quality of policy recommendations, and increasing the ability of the Dalhousie Student Union to represent students to the provincial and federal government.

The committee report then goes on to recommend that the DSU council determine its status within both external organizations and proposes the following motions (Only the “Be it resolved” portions of the motions will be reproduced here; The entirety of the motions can be found at pages 58-59 of the report):

Motion 1: DSU Membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations

Be it therefore resolved that the Dalhousie Student Union terminate its membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Any unpaid membership dues for the 2014 winter semester shall be paid to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

Motion 2: DSU Membership in Students Nova Scotia

Be it therefore resolved that the Dalhousie Student Union terminate its membership in Students Nova Scotia. Any unpaid membership dues for the 2014 winter semester shall be paid to Students Nova Scotia.

More to come…

Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association president Jared Perry resigns

Perry-Jared-President

Further to the disgraceful chant, led by Frosh leaders at Saint Mary’s University, the President of the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association (SMUSA) Jared Perry has resigned.

More to come…

Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations gets a new name

Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Association’s (ANSSA) logo

Recently, the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations (ANSSA) changed its name to Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS). According to the organization’s website:

The new organization was established to advocate on behalf of students with all levels of government, with institutions, in the media, and within Nova Scotia communities. It was, and is, focused on post-secondary education across the province, not just on single campuses.

Students Nova Scotia’s (StudentsNS) logo

StudentsNS’s members include the Acadia Students’ Union, the Atlantic School of Theology Student Union (paired with Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association), the Cape Breton University Students’ Union (also a member of the Canadian Federation of Students), the Dalhousie Student Union, the Saint Francis Xavier University Students’ Union and the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association. The newly branded provincial student organization has already been busy at work. The organization has made a draft position paper regarding funding and accountability available for comment on its website. This allows its members to actively participate in the organization’s policy-making process. At the beginning of September, StudentsNS released its 2012-2013 annual plan. This document includes the organization’s budget which shows that its membership dues were originally estimated (in May 2012) to be $176,084.40. This number was revised in July 2012 to $169,111.95. What is most interesting about this annual plan is that it includes a section at the end of the document entitled Summary of Results and Outcomes which outlines key outcomes and results found throughout the plan. This section is included “to facilitate evaluation at the end of the year.” Nova Scotia students can thus consult the various goals set in the plan and track the organization’s progress. If StudentsNS isn’t meeting the goals outlined in its annual plan, students are able to hold the organization accountable. In fact, the StudentsNS website states:

Students NS strives to always practice honesty, integrity, humility, openness, cooperation, democracy, responsible financial management, and long-term vision. We are committed to transparency, and records of decision-making, planning, and finances are available on our website.

This level of openness is in stark contrast with other major Canadian student organizations (such as the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and the Canadian Federation of Students) who do not provide their members with online access to such documents via their respective websites. StudentsNS is a model to be replicated in terms of transparency and accountability.