Sixteen student representative groups say they want out of the CFS
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Post-secondary student unions across the country are taking steps to opt out of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), the national body that represents the interests of students in over 80 Canadian colleges and universities.
Sixteen unions, spanning from British Columbia to Quebec, have announced their intent to formally dissolve their relationship with the CFS.
This follows an attempt from all but one of Quebec’s post-secondary institutions—Dawson College—to leave the federation in 2009 after referendum results gave these student unions a mandate to do so. The results have not been recognized by the CFS and the matter is currently in the courts as Concordia’s student government seeks the recognition of the referendum results.
The CFS was formed in 1981, tasked with lobbying at the federal level to increase accessibility to post-secondary education. In recent years, however, it has been embroiled in a number of legal cases, arguing the validity of individual referendum results in some schools.
Student unions across the country state that the national organization has become corrupt, operates in a militaristic top-down approach, and does not effectively advocate on student issues. They also claim that CFS’ finances are not properly kept and that use of funding has been questionable.
“Students are realizing that their interests are not served by the Canadian Federation of Students,” said Ashleigh Ingle, a graduate student from the University of Toronto and the spokesperson for the movement to leave the CFS. “We are not walking away from organizing at the national and provincial level; we are creating the space for that to happen effectively.”
This latest exodus from the federation, if successful, would mean that the CFS would be considerably weakened in British Columbia and Manitoba while being completely wiped out in Quebec.
In British Columbia, the University of Victoria and its graduate student society have successfully left the CFS; Simon Fraser University (SFU) voted to decertify the CFS in 2008, and although the CFS failed to recognize the results, they settled out of court and SFU left the federation in late 2011; Kwantlen University College held a referendum in 2008 to leave the CFS, but students voted to remain within the federation.
There has been no public comment from the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) on what their position may be regarding the effort to weaken the Canadian Federation of Students, but the national coordination of the campaign to have schools leave the CFS makes clear that the DSU is, at the very least, monitoring the situation closely.