KSA Legal Fees Increased for BCFS Lawsuit

“Regular preparations” lead to $250,000 allocated for legal spending
Alyssa Laube, Associate Editor

CORRECTION: We initially reported this story with the Canadian Federation of Students in place of the British Columbia Federation of Students. We apologize for the error.

Three years into a legal battle with the British Columbia Federation of Students. the Kwantlen Student Association has increased their legal fees to $250,000.

The dispute between the two organizations began years ago, after KPU students signed a petition requesting that the BCFS conduct a membership referendum on-campus. The referendum would then allow KPU students to vote on whether or not they want to remain members of the Federation, meaning that they could opt out of paying fees to the Federation, and delegates from the KSA would no longer have to attend their conferences.

When the BCFS refused to provide that referendum to students, the KSA took legal action.

“Because the registrar at KPU said that enough signatures were reached, we took the position that our students should have gotten a referendum,” says KSA President Alex McGowan. “So on behalf of the 1300 students who signed that petition, the KSA is seeking to support those students and get that referendum—to get the courts to order that. The money that we’re spending on this could very well be offset by no more BCFS fees if that comes to pass.”

The case remains open, and has recently seen a spike in activity with the Association’s fee increase. In the KSA’s 2016 budget, $100,000 was allotted for legal expenses, but by the end of the year that figure had ballooned to $256,739, based on their unaudited financial statements. This year, at a Jan. 27 meeting, KSA Council passed a motion to increase the legal budget to $250,000 to cover upcoming expenses.

McGowan says this money is going towards “regular preparations.”

“Our lawyers had to do a lot of unexpected preparation, and that ended up getting dumped on the fiscal year, so it wasn’t included in the budget,” says McGowan. “It was regular preparations that had to be done earlier than expected, because the pace at which these things move isn’t always easy to plan around.”

Despite the increase in legal spending, McGowan is hopeful that the money the KSA is spending now may be offset by the fact that they may no longer have to pay BCFS fees if their plans come to fruition.

The KSA’s legal fees cover their retainer for lawyers at firms Borins & Co. and Harper-Grey, as well as “any lawsuits and legal matters that [they] might be engaged in from time to time,” according to McGowan.

This isn’t the first time that the KSA and BCFS have gone head-to-head in court. In 2015, the Association lost a case against the Federation, when the former sued the latter for changing a bylaw to state that only student associations—rather than students themselves—are members of the BCFS. The KSA argued that the bylaw amendment was grounds for membership termination, and that, as the only members of the BCFS, the KSA could vote to leave without a referendum the student body. They lost that case within the year.

Five years earlier, the KSA won a case against the BCFS in B.C.’s Supreme Court. When the BCFS Executive Committee refused to recognize the then-director of the CFS-BC, Ex-KSA Director of External Affairs Derek Robertson, for speaking out against the Federation, British Columbian students paying fees to the BCFS without a representative. In response, the KSA took them to court to get Robertson recognized as a director and won.

As for the case currently ongoing, McGowan has no predictions for the outcome.

“It’s uncertain to say that there will be any development in the near future, but there could be,” he says. “There’s a lot of different ways that it could go.”

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