The McGill undergraduate student union wants thousands of dollars back after a drawn out legal battle and being kicked out of provincial and national lobby student groups.
The Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) is seeking reimbursement of $30,000 in membership fees from both the Canadian Federation of Students National (CFS) as well as the provincial component (CFS-Q). SSMU is no longer part of either organization. In a national conference last November, Federation members voted to not renew its prospective membership.
This came after a legal dispute between members of the Quebec component, which rendered the provincial wing entirely unable to function as a lobby group for months.
Max Silverman, VP External of the SSMU, charges that him and his fellow VPs were mislead by representatives from the CFS. According to Silverman, they were told that McGill undergrads were eligible to run for executive positions on the Quebec component.
Amanda Aziz, president of the CFS, oversaw the election and nominated, a McGill undergrad.
However, the recent court ruled against Nina Amrov, an undergraduate student, and her claim to the position of chair because the SSMU was does not pay full membership fees. It went in favor of the Concordia Student Union’s interpretation of CFS-Q bylaws.
Silverman said that as a result of the debacle, he wants all fees to be refunded to the SSMU during its time as a prospective member.
“This accounts for money paid to attend general meetings, money spent on CFS materials and products. [It is] generally money spent over the course of our prospective membership, which we now have no choice but to believe was taken under serious misrepresentations on the part of the CFS and CFS-Q.”
According to Silverman, him and his fellow VPs hope to settle the fee issue “amicably,” and said if that fails, the SSMU council would decide whether to sue for the money.
However, he said that “certainly suing CFS and CFSQ is on the table, but no more or no less than walking away and forgetting about it…”
The Concordia Student Union (CSU) made it clear that relations between the two student associations are far from amicable.
“From our point of view, [the CSU] should be suing them for the legal fees that we wasted going to court for that one day,” said Noah Stewart, VP Communications of the CSU.
When told of the amount the SSMU is wants back from both the federation and the provincial component, Brent Farrington, deputy chair of CFS national, said: “I have a very hard time responding because I’m just so shocked.”
He stressed that prospective membership fees for the SSMU is a fraction of the cost for full membership (Concordia contributes close to $300,000 per year). He said that McGill undergrads benefited from the full range of services offered by the CFS, which includes the cost-saving International Student ID card, Travel CUTS and health insurance for students among others.
Farrington at first flatly said “no” to the idea of reimbursing the SSMU, but later stressed that the national executive would make the decision.
Representatives of the PGSS (Post Graduate Students Society of McGill) and the GSA (Graduate Students Association of Concordia) say they will be seeking a legal opinion on this matter.
However, Roland Nassim of the PGSS was adamant that the CFS-Q should not have to reimburse any fees to the SSMU on the basis that the majority of the fees went to CFS national and not to the Quebec component.
The Dawson Student Union, a newly made full member, could not be reached for comment.
A different chairperson was voted in at a meeting on Aug. 3 after the election, when SSMU refused to participate in protest, was recognized by the court ruling. Soshima Vera-Cadet, an undergraduate from Concordia, now sits as chair of the CFS-Q.
November 2006 – SSMU joins CFS-Q as prospective member
June 2007 – CFS-Q breaksdown after the election of new chair and deputy chair is contested by the CSU.
July 2007 – Locks at the CFS-Q office were changed four times by opposing factions.
August 2007 – Nina Amrov and Mahdi Altalibi file interlocutory injunction against some CFS-Q members.
Same members respond with injunction of their own attempting to de-seat Amrov and Altalibi.
Sept – Feb. CFS-Q not functional: tied up in court
November 2007 – SSMU voted out of CFS by federation members.