Let the lawsuits begin!

Two universities vote to leave CFS; Ontario Superior Court rules that Guelph students can vote on CFS membership

Students of Concordia University voted Friday to end their membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Canada’s largest student lobby group. However, disputes over referendum scheduling and unpaid membership dues may mean the CFS won’t accept the outcome of the referendum.

According to the McGill Daily, 2312 members of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) voted to cease membership in the CFS, while 855 students voted against defederation. The CFS stands to lose approximately $300,000 in annual membership fees if it recognizes the vote.

Whether the referendum is binding is not yet clear. Although the CSU filed a petition requesting a membership referendum in the fall, as per CFS bylaws, continued disputes over ratifying signatures and outstanding membership dues stalled referendum planning. After the CFS refused to approve the referendum dates, president Amine Dabchy pushed the vote forward despite the CFS’s position. “We’ll see what happens and we will make use of all of our legal options and rights,” he told Maclean’s at the beginning of March.

The CFS and CSU will likely face off in court over the referendum results.

For more see “The case of the missing million dollars

Meanwhile, the Ontario Superior Court ruled last week that students at Guelph University may vote on continued membership in the CFS, putting an end—for now—to a legal conflict between the CFS and the Central Student Association at Guelph (CSA).

The legal dispute arose when both the national and provincial arms of the CFS refused to schedule a referendum. The CSA claims a referendum petition was delivered to the provincial chapter of the CFS on September 29. CFS-Ontario denied receiving the petition.

The national body of the CFS refused to schedule a referendum at Guelph because of a dispute over verifying signatures.

CFS treasurer Dave Molenhuis told Maclean’s earlier this month that the national executive faced a lack of support from Guelph’s student association in verifying student signatures on the submitted petitions. When the CFS contacted the Guelph student executive concerning the validation of the signatures, the CSA was unwilling to cooperate, Molenhuis said.

“There’s some obstructionism going on there,” he said. “I requested assistance of the students’ union in validating the signatures and reviewing them and they . . . refused to engage in any dialogue.”

However, the CSA told Maclean’s that they produced a letter from the university registrar verifying signatures from 10 per cent of Guelph students.

Not only did the Ontario Superior Court grant the CSA the right to go ahead with the referendum, but also to set its own rules for the vote.

Last fall, referendum petitions circulated on 12 campuses across Canada. Disputes between the CFS and students’ unions over scheduling and organization of referenda have stalled the majority of the campaigns to cease membership in the national organization. Originally only two universities were approved by the CFS to hold votes. As many as nine student unions may go forward with their referenda in the next year with or without a blessing from the CFS, meaning many of the results will likely end up in court.

The first of the referenda occurred last week when graduate students at the University of Calgary voted overwhelmingly to end their membership in the CFS.

-with files from Jennifer Pagliaro