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FEUQ vs. CFS: relevant?

by Archives October 30, 2007

As Concordia students increasingly question the $500,000 dollars they send each year to student lobbyists, groups like the Quebec component of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-Q), and the Federation des etudiants universitaires du Quebec (FEUQ) have been looking more and more divided.
Putting the student groups’ division on display is a petition now being circulated around Concordia by independent student Chadi Marouf to have students vote to opt out of FEUQ, one of the two major Quebec lobbying groups. FEUQ is comprised of 15 CEGEPs and universities in Quebec and receives more than $150,000 annually from Concordia undergrads.
It is noteworthy that the CSU’s recently proposed fee levy increase – scheduled to come before voters at the next referendum – is or almost precisely the amount that the union presently spends to support the FEUQ.
“I’m just like every other student who gets shocked every time I receive the bill.A lot of what we are paying for are useless services,” said Marouf, who believes that students should have been getting more services from FEUQ besides support in research.
Noah Stewart, the CSU’s VP of Communications, defends the funding of both groups, arguing that the two groups provide very different services – all of which benefit Concordia students.
“The CFS-Q is the primary provincial lobby group, and spends a lot of time meeting with the government and really lobbying,” Stewart explained. “A lot of what FEUQ does is research.”
“A lot of the facts that we use to argue with the government, the public, and with our own students. a lot of that comes from research done by the FEUQ.”
That said, Stewart conceded that both organizations are currently experiencing a variety of problems.
For the CFS’ part, the organization’s woes are primarily financial; notably, it is currently the subject of a lawsuit between three member organizations (the CSU, the McGill Students’ Association and the Dawson Student Union) that has seen its bank accounts frozen.
In addition, because of the group’s national affiliations, the CFS-Q only receives $50,000 of the approximately $300,000 paid each year by Concordia’s Graduate Student’s (GSA), the rest being skimmed off by the CFS’ central bureaucracy.
What’s more is that the CFS-Q comprises of only three paying members – the CSU, the GSA, and the Post Graduate Student’s Society of McGill (PGSS), with the majority of the funding coming from the Concordia student groups. According to CFS National Deputy Chair, Brent Farrington, the CFS-Q “isn’t as active [because] it’s not nearly the size [of other provinces].”
Given the group’s current woes, it is unclear how it expects to fund a proposed “Day of Action” on Nov. 22. According to Stewart, although the CSU and the CFS-Q haven’t yet worked out a funding strategy, he doubts that the “CFS is simply going to ask the CSU to incur the whole cost.”
Moving onto the group’s other organizational challenges, Farrington also noted that unlike other CFS organizations, the CFS-Q suffers from linguistic and cultural divisions particular to Quebec that hamper its effectiveness.
The division is apparent before campaigning has even started as l’Association pour une Solidarite Syndicale Etudiante (ASSE), comprised of a number of French universities and cegeps, will be holding a day of action on Nov 15 separate from the one the CSU is planning to attend with Concordia students.
Ultimately, it could be that the lack of a centralized movement is caused by the student leaders, rather than student bodies in general. Marouf is of that opinion.
“I think a lot of students in a lot of campuses are doing [much more] than the English universities. The division [within the movement] is more about bureaucracy,” he said.

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