B.C. student unions look for a path to independence

Motions passed at semi-annual general meeting just the start of a long process to split from national organization

The recent general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia (CFS-BC) saw several motions that shared the common theme of breaking ties with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) pass virtually unopposed.

CFS-BC spokesperson Steven Beasley confirmed via email that motions N05, N07 and N08, put on the agenda by the CFS-BC executive committee for its recent semi-annual general meeting, were passed without amendments, while N06 was amended before being passed. Motion N05 called for a review of the “advisability and practical process of eliminating congruent membership with the Canadian Federation of Students.” Motions N07, N08 and N09 called for the formal discipline of CFS national treasurer Anna Dubinski, national chairperson Bilan Arte and the CFS national executive as a whole.

Motion N06, which demanded the firing of CFS employees Toby Whitfield and Jessica McCormick also passed with a few amendments. According to Beasley, the amendments included a clause added “to express dismay over the unaccountable behaviour of the at-large members of the Executive Committee as exemplified by their hiring of multiple staff people without authority and without those hirings having been ratified by the Executive Committee.”

The students’ unions at many of B.C.’s major universities and colleges, including TRU, belong to CFS.

TRUSU vice-president external Amber Storvold confirmed that the motions regarding individual behaviors of members of the national office were passed, including the motion to look into separating from the national federation.

TRUSU VP external Amber Storvold was among the union's delegation at the CFS-BC semi-annual meeting. (TRUSU)

TRUSU VP external Amber Storvold was among the union’s delegation at the CFS-BC semi-annual meeting. (TRUSU)

“We were in support on all of them,” Storvold said.

When asked if TRUSU had enough information to conclusively support separation from CFS, Storvold said they’re waiting to see the conclusions of the separation study before re-examining the idea at the next CFS-BC general meeting in January.

“As a province, we decided that the behaviors of the national office were inappropriate,” Storvold said, also saying that no one challenged the versions of events put forth in the agenda.

The next step in the process is for the B.C. representative on the CFS national board of directors to present the motions to the rest of the national executive. Storvold said she expects to hear their response at the January semi-annual general meeting, but has “no idea” how the national executive will respond.

If past attempts by student unions to leave CFS are any indication, the national executive will aggressively oppose a defederation initiative in B.C. In March of 2010, Maclean’s magazine reported that CFS undertook legal action against the Concordia University Student Union to recover more than $1 million in unpaid membership dues after Concordia’s referendum that demanded an exit from CFS.

More recently, CBC reported that the Cape Breton University student union lost a court case brought by CFS over the union’s decision to leave. They had held a referendum on defederation from CFS in 2008, with 92% in favour of leaving. CFS refused to recognize the referendum and lists Cape Breton University as one of its members to this day. The Cape Breton Students Union was ordered by an Ontario Judge to pay over $400,000 in unpaid dues and legal costs. After the ruling, they considered bankruptcy, but now plan to appeal the decision.

No Responses