CSU Takes Fight to CFS’s Front Door

Ongoing Defederation Attempts Prompt Multi-School Protest in Ottawa

Demonstrators from Concordia and nine other schools converged on the Canadian Federation of Students’ annual general meeting in Ottawa yesterday to protest what they say amounts to a lobster trap—student unions can enter the CFS, but they cannot get out.

“The CFS’s refusal to release students who have voted to leave CFS demonstrates a complete lack of respect for freedom of association,” said Concordia Student Union President Melissa Kate Wheeler in a press release. “Students are being held hostage by an organization with questionable transparency and accountability, lobbying the federal government when education is a provincial matter.”

Concordia undergraduate students voted 72 per cent in favour of leaving the student lobby group in 2010, but because of CFS regulations the federation said they did not recognize the referendum results and that the CSU is still a member, and that the union owes the CFS over $1 million.

The past few years have seen multiple waves of institutions of higher education contemplating or attempting to the leave the CFS. The federation encountered a mass exodus of 13 schools petitioning to leave the CFS in 2009, including Concordia.

Earlier this year, students from a second wave of schools issued a statement saying they would contemplate defederating from the national lobby group.

Almost 17 per cent of Concordia undergraduates signed the petition, but when the university attempted to sever ties in a referendum vote, the CFS disregarded the results because two other universities in the region had already attempted to defederate that year—the maximum allowed under CFS regulations.

Like the CSU, McGill’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society has filed a lawsuit against the CFS to recognize the results of its referendum to defederate, which PGSS President Jonathan Mooney said in a press release the CFS, in general, has refused to do for any school.

“Since 2009, students at about 15 schools have petitioned to leave the CFS, yet no student organization has successfully left without a lawsuit,” he said.