Former LGBT* director Jonathan Niemczak said that, during his time with the UWSA, most of the executive’s time was spent on CFS campaigns. – Cindy Titus
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has come under fire after the passage of a controversial motion at their Annual General Meeting (AGM), held on Nov. 28 in Ottawa. The motion, referred to by voting members as “Motion 6,” has made it more difficult for student associations to leave the federation.
The CFS is a national organization that unites post-secondary student associations into one lobby group. The federation organizes national campaigns, such as Target Poverty, to lobby government while providing campus services like the University of Winnipeg student health plan.
Motion 6 raised the number of petition signatures required for a referendum to leave the CFS from 10 per cent to 20 per cent of the student population.
“We average around eight to nine per cent for voter turnout in U of W student elections,” said Jason Syvixay, University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) president, who voted against the motion. “The CFS is asking us to double that [participation] for a petition to leave [the federation].”
Motion 6 also increased the number of years that must pass between referendums from two to five and has limited the number of such referendums to two within any three-month period.
The motion makes it nearly impossible for student associations to leave the CFS, Syvixay said.
Dave Molenhuis, treasurer for the CFS national executive, defended Motion 6 as a democratic decision that was made outside of the national executive’s hands.
“The pros and cons of any motion are weighed by delegates” at the AGM, he said. “This motion received democratic support by those at the AGM and it was not proposed by the national executive.”
The motion was proposed by the Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association and passed, 44 to 19, after lengthy debate. Six delegates abstained from voting, sparking criticism that the motion was passed illegally based on CFS bylaws, which require “at least two-thirds of the voting members present at a general meeting” for passing motions that change CFS bylaws or its constitution.
The national executive will meet to discuss issues that arose out of the AGM sometime this month, Molenhuis said.
Each University of Winnipeg student has a provincial and a federal CFS levy paid through their tuition each year. Both levies together cost each U of W student $13.36. Based on the student population as of October 2009, U of W students pay over $122,000 in levies to the CFS per year.
“Most of the money derived from CFS levies goes toward development of services and campaigns on campus,” said Courtney Maddock, UWSA vice-president internal.
Campaigns and special projects make up only a small percentage of UWSA expenditures, according to UWSA business manager Tom Brown.
Jonathan Niemczak, former Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT*) Director for the UWSA, disagrees. Although he would only comment on events during his time as a director, Niemczak estimated that almost 90 per cent of executive time is spent on CFS campaigns and that those labor costs are unaccounted for. Additionally, he felt that the CFS provided many good ideas but did not aim for concrete political goals.
“Why would this motion pass?” Niemczak said. “It makes them look like they aren’t confident in their membership base.”