It took me a while to understand the role of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) within the Mount Saint Vincent University Students’ Union. After much research, this is the best explanation regarding the role of CFS for me.
The CFS is a Union of Student Unions and Associations. It offers a forum where we can collectively voice our concerns for student issues.
It is fundamentally essentially that our Students’ Union remains a member of a national student organization, there is no misunderstanding this. And I would never speak negatively of unions – it is a necessary forum to properly express concerns and ideas.
However, the best interest of Mount students must continuously be maintained.
That is why in April 2015, as the Residence Representative on the Students’ Representative Council, I began a discussion on the benefits the Mount receives as a member of the CFS. After paying $41,000 in membership fees, we must receive some benefit. In fact, our CFS membership fees are higher than the amount that is spent on MSVUSU scholarships, sponsorships, and societies combined.
After much discussion, the following resolution was motioned by then-MSVUSU President Paul Whyte and seconded by current MSVUSU President Justin Corcoran.
“Motion for the incoming VP Advocacy to implement a plan of action for CFS to see where the progress lays with MSVUSU
-VP Advocacy makes a report during the summer with MSVUSU’s activity with CFS;
-Present said report to the SRC at the first SRC meeting after fall by- elections
-Conduct a survey in the fall to see the students’ awareness of CFS at MSVU
-Conduct a survey at the end of the 2015/2016 school year to access the progress of CFS on the Mount campus and do a reassessment of their awareness on campus.”
In more understandable terms, the VP Advocacy was asked to do three things:
1. Write a report on MSVU’s involvement with CFS during summer 2015.
2. Conduct a survey in the fall on Mount students awareness of the CFS.
3. Conduct a survey in the spring on Mount students awareness of the CFS once again.
As far to my knowledge, none of this has been done.
With two deadlines passed, the unanimous decision of the Students’ Union governing board was not followed through.
I believe I made the right decision to begin this conversation in the first place. In recent years, the CFS has been involved in several scandals, including:
• A decision by all British Columbia member associations to leave the CFS following “strained relationships due to allegations of corruption… issues surrounding communication, transparency, and services delivered from the national organization. (Source: here)
• Initially refusing to recognize a vote by Concordia University students to leave the CFS, unless they paid $1.8 million in disputed overdue fees. (Source: here)
• Refusing to recognize a vote by post-graduate students at McGill University to leave the organization, even though 85% of students voted in favour. (Source: here)
• Refusing to recognize University of Victoria Students’ Union to leave the CFS, and filing a counter-petition against the vote. The Supreme Court of British Columbia said the CFS “acted outside the bylaws” in their counter-petition, and deemed the vote valid. The CFS initially demanded $100,000 in fees from University of Victoria Students, but then terminated the membership from the school. (Source: here, here, here and here)
• In 2013, fifteen schools across the country sent petitions on leaving the organization to the CFS. In many cases, these petitions were returned to the sender or weren’t picked up at the post office. (Source: here)
• The CFS has a history of campaigning during the vote on a Students’ Union’s future with their organization, despite not actually being students of that university. (Source: here)
• The CFS has been accused of own interests above students. (Source: here)
• Since 2009, nearly all of Quebec’s schools attempted to leave CFS. McGill Post-Graduate Student Society president described how, “CFS will stand up for freedom of expression with regard to its own speech but will seek to limit freedom of expression when its members are seeking to leave.” (Source: here)
• Has made it more difficult for members to leave the organization if they so desire. (Source: here)
• Just last week, Carleton University Students’s Association recommended holding a referendum on leaving the CFS, saying they are “ineffective at implementing their objective.” (Source: here)
I’m not saying “A vote for Ryan Nearing is a vote to leave the Canadian Federation of Students”. The CFS does fantastic work, and the MSVUSU has a rich and long history with the organization.
Additionally, we must work towards the goals of the national student movement, and ensure we are a participant.
However, I strongly and firmly believe that we as Mount students have the right to decide what organization we associate ourselves with – not students in Ontario.
I strongly and firmly believe that we as Mount students have a right to decide where $41,000 of our money goes.
I strongly and firmly believe the national student organization with whom we affiliate ourselves must represent the interests and values of Mount students.
And that is why I strongly and firmly stand by my plan to open this conversation to all Mount students if I am elected President.
Together, we will decide where our money goes. Together, we will decide where our interests lie. Together, we will succeed.