Campaigns, little controversy fill CFS meeting


Hundreds of delegates pass new policies at national general meeting

Emma Godmere
CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA (CUP) –– Several hundred students representing campus unions across the country met in Gatineau, Que. last week for the Canadian Federation of Students’ national general meeting.

On the docket for the national student lobbying group’s 29th meeting, held Nov. 24-27, were presentations from speakers such as Council of Canadians national chairperson Maude Barlow and parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, and an hours-long closing plenary where delegates passed decisions on CFS policy, budget and campaigns.

Successful motions included pledging support for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a proposal to expand the We Ride Transit campaign, a move to collect loan and financial assistance data from students to aid national student debt campaigns, and a call to the government to reinstate the long form census, among many others.

All campaign-related motions passed, including an emergency motion to write a letter commending outgoing Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams “for his long-standing commitment to students and their families to increase access to post-secondary student education and reduce student debt.”

Current national treasurer and newly-elected national chairperson Roxanne Dubois – who will take on her new role next spring – explained one of the successful motions aimed at updating an existing campaign.

“‘No Means No’ is our campaign to end violence against women, and there was a motion to revamp it – not only the materials, but also the language that we use to reflect harassment online, and stuff like that,” she said.

Among those motions that failed were a handful proposed by the University of Victoria students’ society. Originally one motion that was broken into multiple parts in opening plenary, the proposals included withdrawing any claims of outstanding fees from the students’ union and launching a referendum on continued membership. In October 2009, union members submitted a referendum petition to the CFS head office and have since filed a court petition to validate their original petition, after the CFS declared the petition invalid earlier this year.

While the proposal to waive outstanding fees was rejected, the referendum-related portion was referred to the national executive through a motion that stated, “It would be highly irresponsible for the member local unions of the federation to endorse a course of action that would result in the violation of its bylaws.”

A UVSS delegation was present at the meeting, as was a small one from the University of Regina, where the students’ union is also currently encountering referendum issues with the CFS.

Student associations who have previously encountered referendum and legal issues with the CFS, such as the University of Calgary graduate students’ association and the Concordia University students’ union were not present at the national meeting.

Additional motions that received majority approval included producing materials that highlight “the victories students have won locally, provincially and nationally through years of activism through the federation” and seeking sports and recreation-related ticket discounts for students across the country.

Members will meet next in May or early June 2011.

With files from Antoine Trépanier.

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