Court rules in favour of student associations

McGill directed to hold referendum on continued membership.

McGill directed to hold referendum on continued membership.

Graphic by Mark Stewart
(Mark Stewart / The Runner)

By Tristan Johnston
[staff writer]

Earlier this month, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) lost a court decision to two student associations: Rassemblement des associations étudiantes (RAE) and the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS). This ruling requires that the PGSS hold a referendum to stay or leave the CFS. The court battle originated out of the CFS’s non-recognition of the PGSS’s original referendum over disassociation.

The CFS is a national lobbying student organization that claims to represent one-half million students from 80 post-secondary institutions across Canada.

“As part of [the judge’s] ruling, he says that the members have the right to decide on their affiliation to the organization,” said Brent Farrington, internal coordinator for the CFS, in an interview with The Daily at McGill. “We could not agree with that more. It was great to see that the Justice also recognized that they’re members, because the PGSS has been taking this stance since 2009, that they aren’t members of the [CFS].”

Students at Capilano University also held a referendum on continued membership during March 2014, where just over 75 per cent of voters chose to end their membership with the CFS. They are now no longer members of the organization.

“Students have seen a passionate campaign at Capilano University on our membership in the Federation,” said Brandon Hofmarks, chairperson of the Capilano Students’ Union, after voting took place in March. “Despite repeated rulings by the CFS and CFS-BC chief returning officer against the Capilano Students’ Union and the ‘vote no’ campaign, we hope that students have been able to cast informed votes.”

In B.C., membership continues at 15 student associations, including the students of KPU, Emily Carr and Douglas College. Students at the University of Northern B.C. has recently applied to join. Students at KPU began collecting petition signatures to start the referendum process, but did not gather enough.

“They exercised the democracy in our structure … I hope that one day the students at Capilano University decide to rejoin us and work for lower tuition fees and erasing student debt,” says Zach Crispin, chairperson of CFS-BC, regarding Capilano. “This is just the nature of the student movement, and has been for years.”

Crispin adds, “There’s a student union of comparable size in Ontario that decided to join and take up CFS membership. Membership in the federation changes and it tends to go on, it looks quite a bit different than it did a few years ago … I’m sure in the future it will look different again.”

According to Jessica Lar-Son, president of the KSA, in an email: “The KSA is not currently in contact with the CFS.” She failed to respond for a full interview as of press time.