The B.C. section of CFS, now referring to itself as the British Columbian Federation of Students (BCFS), has made several motions since the summer of 2015 to become independent from the national CFS organization.
Over the summer a motion was passed by BCFS to change member unions’ local numbers “from a designation of the order of joining the national organization to a designation of the order of joining the provincial organization.” BCFS wants unions to adopt the BCFS local number rather than the CFS local number, and ultimately leave CFS altogether. TRUSU Director-at-Large Gunveet Singh was present at the provincial meeting and reported the motion back to TRUSU.
The change of local numbers appears to show TRUSU’s solidarity with other student unions in B.C., at least in part. Motions were passed last year, by what was then CFS-BC, to not only condemn members of the national CFS executive and call for several members’ dismissals, but also to look into “eliminating congruent membership with the Canadian Federation of Students.”
Bilan Arte, national chairperson with CFS, described the actions of BCFS as “disheartening.”
“To me, the overall tone of choosing to abandon our federation and to fracture our national unity is quite disheartening, and the B.C. provincial representatives and others in the provincial component are working quite hard to fracture that national unity that stretches from coast to coast,” Arte said, adding that national representatives have tried to reach out to BCFS but have been blocked.
“We believe in the importance and the strength of a national unity.”
Meanwhile Simka Marshall, chairperson for the BCFS, claims that the CFS national executive has not tried to reach out, and also that CFS refuses to acknowledge the issues brought by B.C. representatives. She thinks B.C. has been failed by the national arm.
“A student union should provide advocacy and services, and [CFS National] just hasn’t done that,” Marshall said.
The CFS currently lists 78 unions in every province except Quebec on its website, with almost half of its members being institutions in Ontario.
According to Amber Storvold, TRUSU’s VP external, TRUSU has not discussed whether or not it wants to leave the national CFS, saying that such a change would require consultation and a referendum.
Student unions have run into serious issues when they have tried to separate from the CFS in the past. Cape Breton University, the University of Victoria and the McGill Post Graduate Student Society all had to fight court cases during their process to leave the CFS. Cape Breton University lost its court case, and had to pay the CFS $300,000 in damages and was ruled to still be a member of the national union.
Currently, BCFS is hosting a campaign to protest cutbacks to free Adult Basic Education made by the B.C. government. CFS is campaigning for a day of action in November to bring awareness to rising tuition fees and access to post-secondary education.