An agreement has been reached in a dispute over control of the Quebec component of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-Q), after incoming board members sought an injunction to force three outgoing board members to step down. The settlement was reached around two a.m. on Friday. The two sides had been scheduled to appear in court on Friday morning.
The CFS-Q represents undergraduate students at Concordia University, graduate students at Concordia and McGill University and students at Dawson College, a CEGEP.
The dispute began in May when new representatives were appointed to the CFS-Q board of directors. Three members of the outgoing board refused to step down and hand over control of the CFS-Q to the new board, according to Gregory Johannson, a Concordia student who is one of the new board members
Johannson said that three days before a scheduled meeting of the new board, members of the outgoing board held a special meeting to overturn the appointment of the new board members.
“We went there,” said Johannson, “then they recessed to another location without telling two of the board members, Graduate Students’ Association’s Erik Chevrier and Adrian Kaats of the Post Graduate Students’ Society of McGill, where they were going.”
“They cancelled our special general meeting, didn’t ratify any of the new board members, he said. “Basically it was an illegitimate meeting. You can’t just recess to another location and not tell two of the board members where you are.”
According to Adrian Kaats, the outgoing PGSS representative on the CFS-Q board, who had sided with the incoming board members, the outgoing board’s term was scheduled to end on May 20.
Under the terms of the agreement, CFS-Q board members Noah Stewart-Ornstein, Colin Goldfinch and Charles Brenchley will step down July 31. Stewart-Ornstein and Goldfinch are former executives of the Concordia Student Union, while Brenchley is a representative of the Dawson College Student Union. Stewart-Ornstein is also the deputy national chair of the CFS.
The agreement will allow the outgoing board to have an audit conducted of the CFS-Q’s finances and to make several payments specified in the agreement. They will not be permitted to hold any board meetings, except to approve the audit. They will not be able access the CFS-Q’s finances for any other purpose without the approval of the incoming board.
The incoming board members will not be allowed to meet officially, or speak for the CFS-Q until July 31.
“The positive aspects of the agreement,” said Kaats, “are that, we hopefully won’t be pulled into a court room, there is a fairly smooth transition, notwithstanding the fact that its going to come more than two months after the end of the previous directors’ term and literally at the threat of having to wrest power from them through litigation.
“There’s only one thing that particularly bothers me,” he said, “is the fact that these guys have insisted on sticking around to approve their own audits, after the board has been effectively denied access to the financial records of the corporation.
“I find it very strange, very bizarre,” he added.
According to Kaats, much of the CFS-Q’s financial information was not shared with board members, despite requests from himself and Chevrier.
Kaats said that the CFS-Q’s financial records are stored at the CFS main offices in Ottawa. He produced a series of emails between himself and Stewart-Ornstein, as well as minutes from board meetings, containing repeated requests from Kaats and Chevrier for access to the books. Kaats said he was eventually allowed to see the CFS-Q’s bank statements for a brief period, but only in the presence of a CFS-Q employee.
The agreement will also require the PGSS and The Graduate Students’ Association of Concordia University to pay back fees to both the Canadian Federation of Students and CFS-Q. The GSA will pay $25,000 to the CFS and $35,000 to the CFS-Q; while the PGSS will pay $45,573.33 to the CFS and $22,769.62 to the CFS-Q.
Calls and emails to Stewart-Ornstein, Goldfinch and the CFS national office were not returned by press time.