SA board votes to reform the CFS

No plans for the SA to leave the CFS, says Casa Loma campus director

Story updated Oct. 19

Members of the Student Association of George Brown College (SA) board have pledged to join 13 other student unions in support of motions to reform the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

The CFS is a national student organization in Canada, representing over 650,000 students at colleges and universities. The SA funds The Dialog.

The proposed reforms are slated to be heard at the upcoming CFS national general meeting (NGM) in November.

There are 14 motions in the reform package including five motions that would change the bylaws which govern the process of decertification, which is the process of leaving the CFS.

Naqeeb Omar, the SA’s Casa Loma campus director, said while he feels there is a disconnect between CFS and students, the proposed reforms are not meant to as an attack on the national student federation and there are no plans for a decertification campaign at George Brown.

“We’re not here to destroy their organization, we’re just here to fix things where we feel like they need to be fixed,” said Omar.

The motion to support the reforms passed unanimously at the Oct. 17 SA board meeting.

Tiffany White, the SA’s director of education, said the most important issue for her is a motion that would see the CFS’ audited financial statements for the last five years published on the CFS website.

“When students pay into anything, they want to know where their money is going, how it is being used, if it is being used wisely,” said White. “This is just creating further transparency and accountability within the organization.”

Following the public release of the reform motions, CFS put three audited financial statements from between 2011 and 2013 on its website.

There are 76 student unions that can vote on the proposed policy changes, but CFS requires only two-thirds of the attending members to vote in favour of a motion to change the bylaws.

Bilan Arte, the CFS national chairperson, said that these kinds of proposed changes are par for the course for the membership-based student federation. Arte said that all of the CFS’ governing documents, “have been crafted by these discussions and debates that have arisen because of resolutions that have been put forward by various member-locals.”

In a Sept. 19 open letter announcing the proposed reforms, 10 CFS member unions said they wrote the motions with the “intention of making the federation more transparent, effective, accountable and—most importantly—focused on our student membership.”

“I do stand by the campaigns and beliefs of the CFS,” said White. “But it is run by people and people make mistakes. Organizations as big as the CFS will always have room for improvement and growth, and that is not a bad thing.”

Arte defended the CFS against criticisms of its transparency and said that most national organizations don’t let their members to set the agenda as much as the federation.

“I think that it is incredible that students across the country are able to lead the discussions on the federation and it’s priorities whether its campaigns, government lobbies, or the services we offer, or even the process that we follow to make decisions.”

The CFS has been working with its member locals across Canada to organize a national day of action for free tuition on Nov. 2. Arte doesn’t think that those working to reform the CFS will affect plans for the day of action, but hopes that the member locals will act in solidarity with students.

“I hope that they will be there with us, I hope that they are doing the work on their campuses to reach out to their members like we’re doing every day to educate them on their campaign.”

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SA board votes to reform the CFS