Breaking up is now harder to do

CFS passes contentious motion aimed at making it more difficult to defederate

Leaving the Canadian Federation of Students has become more complicated after a controversial motion passed Saturday evening, capping the organization’s three day annual general meeting held in Gatineau. The motion brought forward by the Carleton Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) was likely motivated by a movement launched earlier this year to hold defederation votes at 13 student unions.

Reporting for the Canadian University Press, Emma Godmere writes (You can read the whole story here on page 6):

The sixth motion on the meeting’s original agenda – proposed by local 78, the Carleton Graduate Students’ Association, and dubbed “motion six” throughout plenary, despite a change in motion order – brought forward the greatest debate at the meeting.

The vote on the motion, toward the end of the final plenary of the meeting, was stalled as the hotel’s fire alarm went off in the middle of debate and all present in the room filtered out into the hotel parking lot. After a delay of over 20 minutes, delegates were allowed back into the large room to continue the debate and vote on the motion, which passed 44 to 19.

The motion to bring reforms to the membership referendum process included extending the minimum time period between defederation referendums on a university campus from two years to five years (three years for colleges); limiting the number of such referendums in any three-month period to two for the entire organization; and increasing the number of required referendum petition signatures from 10 per cent of a member local’s student population to 20 per cent.

According to the CUP story, Carleton GSA president Kimalee Phillip says the fact that the motion passed shows “that CFS is stronger than most people assume.” However, due to five abstentions others say that the motion failed to pass with a two-thirds majority as required by CFS rules governing constitutional changes. “Of 69 members present, only 44 supported it. That’s less than [two-thirds], and the question really isn’t more complicated than that,” said CFS-Quebec treasurer Andrew Haig. The CFS chair disagrees and said during the plenary session that constitutional changes require a two-thirds majority of members who actually cast a vote.

No word yet on whether the CFS national executive will consider the matter when they meet in January.