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Students want out of CFS

by Archives September 22, 2009

Students at 12 universities across the country, including Concordia, have begun petitions calling for referendums on their student union’s membership in the Canadian Federation of Students.
The CFS is Canada’s largest student lobby group, representing students at over 80 universities across the country.
Both the CSU and Graduate Students Association are currently members of the CFS.
If any of the petitions receive signatures from 10 per cent of students it will automatically trigger a referendum at that school.
According to Lex Gill, one of the organizers at Concordia, the petition began over a week ago. Gill said she did not have hard numbers but that the petition was doing better then expected, and organizers hope it will be finished by the beginning of October.
The petition would need a little over 3,000 signatures for a referendum to be triggered among Concordia undergraduates. The separate graduate student petition would require just over 600.
If the petition is successful a referendum could still be months away. The CFS national executive would have 90 days to set a referendum date, and the vote would then take place between 60 and 90 days later. The vote could not take place during the summer or over the winter break.
According to an organizer who requested anonymity, while students at different schools have been talking, there is no central organization. “Students are working together out of a couple of hubs,” he said.
According to Gill it’s important for Concordia students to look at what they get from CFS membership.
“At the very least students don’t even know that they exist, nor do they know that they’re paying them over $300,000 a year,” she said.
“People have tried for years to leave it from the inside or to reform or change the bylaws, it’s quite clear that these attempts have been totally unsuccessful,” she added.
In an interview with the McGill Daily, CFS National Treasurer Dave Molenhuis disagreed.
“The CFS is the common democratic framework under which the student movements in Canada make decisions on campaign lobbying and services decisions. The by-laws of the federation are voted on by delegates at general meetings. Student unions vote on their common democratic framework; it’s up to them,” he said.

According to Gill and other Concordia organizers the petition has gained supporters from across the political spectrum, and with differing views on whether, or how, Concordia students should participate in student lobby groups.
“There are certainly people we have petitioning who feel that we should be represented at the provincial federal level by another lobby organization and there are some that would rather see those funds redirected locally or put back into the hands of students.
I think that the consensus though among everyone organizing for us, whether their on the right or the left . think that it’s important for all of us to get out of this particular organization.”
CSU President Amine Dabchy said he was not aware of the petition circulating at Concordia and declined comment.
Petitions are also going around at the Dawson Student Union, the Society of Graduate Students at Western Ontario University, University of Windsor Students’ Alliance, Carleton University Students’ Association, the Central Student Association at Guelph University, the Trent Central Student Association, the Kwantlen Student Association, the University of Victoria’s Student Society, the Graduate Students’ Association of the University of Calgary, and the University of Regina Students’ Union.

With files from Erin Hale, McGill Daily

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