For the past 12 years, members of the Concordia Student Union have worked with students from across Canada to fight for affordable, high quality post-secondary education through the Canadian Federation of Students. While the CSU’s relationship with the more than 500,000 members of the CFS has been positive for most of those 12 years, this year’s CSU executive has chosen to cut ties with the rest of the student movement and aligned themselves with a Conservative faction seeking to undermine the success of the Canadian student movement. Like most Conservatives, these individuals don’t like to admit their actual politics. Instead, they take a page from the Harper playbook and attack the organization’s credibility. In order to legitimize their claims, the CSU executive has given misleading quotes to the student media and then point to their own quotes as evidence of foul play. This is an old trick that has been used by both the tobacco industry and oil companies that deny the existence of global warming.
Around the country, anti-CFS activists have pretended to represent a spectrum of political beliefs. It’s probably true that they do not all agree on every issue, but make no mistake, the attack against the CFS is organized, well-funded, and comes from the Conservative Party influences. In Ontario, the Conservative Campus Association has launched an official campaign against the CFS. While troubling, this campaign pales in comparison to the training workshops they were caught giving on how to establish fake campus clubs to gain funding for back door campaigns to kick Public Interest Research Groups, and the CFS off campus. Regrettably, some progressive students, including the leadership of the No committee here at Concordia, have joined forces with the Conservatives, but there can be no doubt that the broad push to discontinue membership in the CFS comes from the Conservative Party influence.
In order to ensure that referenda accurately and fairly gauge the opinion of Concordia undergraduates, the CSU has a set of rules and regulations governing referendum campaigns. While these rules have existed for years, the CSU has decided that it doesn’t like being limited in the amount of money and resources it can spend to push its agenda. The CSU and its puppet Chief Electoral Officer have decided that no rules shall govern this vote so that the CSU can spend as much of its $1.8 million budget as it wants and can use resources including a large Facebook group and the email addresses of every student at Concordia, to push its agenda. Some students have tried to go up against the CSU machine but there is little hope. No group of students, no matter how organized, can win against the resources of the CSU.
As YES Committee chairperson I have worked to inform students of the benefits of membership in the Canadian Federation of Students. Sadly, the CSU executive has used shady political tactics to undermine me at every turn. Ironically, they love to sermonize about the CFS’ supposed lack of democracy, yet they completely fail to hold themselves accountable to their own standards. Many students I have spoken with don’t know what the CFS is and the CSU points to this as evidence that Canada’s national student union is out of touch with ordinary students. What they don’t admit is that they have actively worked to hide the services and campaigns of the CFS from you.
Concordia’s vote on continued membership in the CFS will have a lasting impact on the Canadian student movement. Certainly there are legitimate criticisms of the CFS &- like all organizations, it is imperfect. Yet, in the words of Jim Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, “The CFS has been the most effective and articulate voice for students in Canada in many years.” For the first time in years we are faced with a choice: work with over 500,000 students across Canada to fight for affordable and high-quality post-secondary education, or let a small group of clandestine conservative activists give the government free reign to slash our public services. This week on March 23, 24 and 25 vote to work with students across Canada, vote Yes to the CFS!