Canadian Federation of Students goes to court to stall student vote

Three B.C. student unions are holding referenda on leaving the Canadian Federation of Students, but the national organization is not going quietly.

Lawyers for the CFS have applied to the B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction to stop the Kwantlen Student Association’s referendum to leave the federation. On the same days as Kwantlen, March 18 to 20, the Simon Fraser Student Society and the University of Victoria Graduate Students’ Society will hold similar votes on leaving the CFS. The federation wants the KSA referendum delayed until the fall.

“The reason why they want to delay it, I think, is to focus their campaign efforts on one campus at a time,” KSA policy analyst Titus Gregory told the Straight by phone. “The fact is the CFS has almost no support at Kwantlen, and very few people who are Kwantlen students support staying in the CFS.”

According to SFSS president Derrick Harder, the CFS “goes to some level of paranoid control” in representing the interests of the 25,000 graduate and undergraduate students at SFU.

“The CFS doesn’t work for SFU anymore,” Harder said by phone. “It is ossified, it does not incorporate us, it does not react with us, and we don’t feel at home in it anymore.”

Harder said the student society has been a member of the CFS since 1981, making it “almost a founding member”. However, in a vote in March 2007 that canvassed student opinion, 78 percent of respondents expressed a desire to leave the CFS, states the SFSS Web site .

According to the KSA Web site , over 2,500 students—almost one-quarter of Kwantlen students—signed a petition the association circulated asking students to allow it to hold a vote on their membership in the CFS.

CFS B.C. chair Shamus Reid and national chair Amanda Aziz did not return calls by the Straight ’s deadline.

Harder said the CFS “would rather not deal with internal criticism. We are a bunch of lefties up here. What we are seeing is not an ideological fight, but a very broad coalition of people who want to get out of the federation, from all categories—social democrats, anarchists, and right-wingers too.”

Gregory said the KSA will stand by any court decision.

“We will certainly fight a referendum campaign if the court rules that it has to be held in the fall, but we strongly believe that we have done nothing wrong, and we strongly believe that the referendum can and should go ahead as planned,” Gregory said.