If motion is approved at its June meeting, more than 120,000 students would no longer be part of the national student union
by Adam Marsh
VICTORIA (CUP)—The national executive of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) announced on Tuesday, April 17 that a motion had been unanimously approved on Friday, April 13 to expel joint members of the CFS and their BC provincial component, the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). The motion will be added to the agenda for the June CFS national general meeting; if approved, it means over 120,000 students will no longer be part of the CFS.
CFS treasurer Peyton Veitch says that nine of the 12 member locals who are in both the BCFS and the CFS have submitted petitions to the CFS to hold a referendum to decide whether or not to defederate from the national student organization.
But because, as far as the CFS is concerned, none of those members are up to date in membership dues, Veitch says the CFS would be violating their bylaws to let members have referendums on continued membership. The member locals in question have been submitting CFS fees to the BCFS. The BCFS says that because they are a provincial component of the CFS, the fees have been delivered to the CFS, while the national organization disputes this, saying the fees are outstanding until they receive them.
Veitch says that he would better describe the decision to pass the motion as “a separation or a re-set,” but says “expel” is the wording used in the CFS bylaws.
“What I would clarify again is that in no way is this meant to punitive,” he says. “We’re not punishing members in BC for some perceived wrongdoing; we are making use of the only mechanism in the bylaws—other than the decertification process.”
The BCFS did not respond to a request for interview for this story.
Michel Turcotte, executive director of the Camosun College Student Society which is a member of the BCFS, says that if the motion is approved, students at Camosun would temporarily not be a part of a national student organization, but he says it would be a mistake to abandon a federal student movement altogether.
Turcotte attended a Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) meeting in March; CASA is the other national student organization.
“I’m not opposed to, and would actually encourage, cooperating with CFS locals on issues of mutual interest as well,” he says. “Student unions from UBC to Camosun to Selkirk cooperated on changes that were being made to The Societies Act and to corresponding ability of student unions to collect their fees. We should build on those sorts of experiences to ensure that the voice of the students are heard by all levels of government.”
The BCFS has held the aforementioned CFS fees for a number of years because the CFS also owes the BCFS money, as well as due to increasing tensions between the two groups. However, the CFS will not attempt to get those fees from the BCFS after the groups separate, if the motion goes through. Veitch says he “doesn’t want to go down that rabbit hole again.” He says the CFS wants to negotiate an agreement with the BCFS to keep issuing International Student Identity Cards.
“What we’re talking about is our ability to do the best work for our members, and likewise for the BCFS do the best work for its members, and that is something that transcends the issue of fees,” Veitch says. “Look, we’ve talked before at length about the dispute around fees. We’ve provided our perspective on that, we’ve provided our estimates on that.”
Veitch has told Nexus in the past that the BCFS owes the CFS approximately $1.7 million, taking off the amount that the CFS owes the BCFS, Veitch told Nexus that the end result is that the BCFS owes the CFS approximately $900,000.
“This is something that is really the end product of many attempts to resolve the conflict. We’ve attempted to resolve these differences around the national executive table,” he says. “It’s been three and a half years; all other avenues have been exhausted, and this is now the means at our disposal to move past the conflict.”
The amount of money owed has been previously disputed by BCFS.
Veitch says that the CFS is not interested in pursuing legal action on the issue of outstanding fees. He says that cost-saving adjustments will have to be made if the motion goes through, as the membership fees from the BC locals that will be expelled if the motion passes makes up about 10 percent of the CFS’ annual budget.
“It would be ridiculous to say that this isn’t significant in terms of budgetary implications,” he says, “but I’m quite confident that we can survive and thrive without that portion of our revenue.”
Turcotte—who says he intends on going to the CFS meeting in June—says he views the motion that was approved by the CFS national executive as a good sign, “in that they do not want the fees to be an impediment to the organizations resolving their differences, and, I guess, [are] divorcing, for lack of a better word.”