U of W’s role in controversial CFS

Manitoba student associations speak up at annual general meeting while other schools try to leave

University and college student associations from across the country gathered in Quebec this past November to discuss and debate issues despite controversy surrounding the Canadian Federation of Students on many campuses. Katie Haig-Anderson

While numerous schools are attempting to leave the Canadian Federation of Students, the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) spent much of their time this fall prepping for CFS’s annual general meeting held in Gatineau, Quebec from Nov. 24-27.

“CFS is the umbrella organization that connects over 80 student unions in Canada ... collectively as members of CFS we provide services and advocate for students,” said Katie Haig-Anderson, vice-president advocate for the UWSA and women’s commissioner for CFS Manitoba.

Students pay dues to CFS in their tuition fees. That is one reason why it’s important for students to know where their money is going, according to Haig-Anderson.

“It’s (a students’) organization, the intent is for it to be member-driven and it is. Students have every right to get involved and have their voice heard,” she said.

Motions are presented by student representatives at the beginning of the meeting and then presented to smaller committees for discussion. After debate and adjustments, the motions are voted on at the end of the meeting.

This year, the UWSA put forward a motion for funding for the RebELLEs Pan-Canadian Young Feminist Gathering, taking place in May. They also seconded a motion presented by Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface to include an action component for each annual general meeting.

Both motions were passed by the end of the weekend, a nod to the U of W’s strong presence in the organization.

“(The UWSA) plays a big role in CFS,” said Daniel Gurevich, CFS liaison director to the UWSA. “Every university plays a role but some are less active than others ... we represent a more varied voice than other Manitoba components of CFS and having more delegates than other universities shows we’re concerned.”

Recently, petitions have been circulating around 13 schools to de-federate from CFS, citing high membership fees and a lack of accountability.

“The CFS is useless, it’s not doing anything for students other than elaborate campaigns and calls of action with no results,” said former UWSA LGBT* director Jonathan Niemczak.

Niemczak believes that CFS had a sense of entitlement over the UWSA and that their autonomy was called into question during his time as LGBT* director.

University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) president Heather Laube also attended the annual general meeting, where UMSU presented two motions to be considered.

“Being active in CFS not only gives students the chance to meet new people and gain new skills, it also gives students the opportunity to set the direction for Canada’s national student movement with regards to campaigns that are worked on and services that are offered,” said Laube.

The four-day meeting included speakers such as Justin Trudeau and Jack Layton, as well as workshops on balancing budgets and increasing student involvement in events.

“I feel (the UWSA board of directors) is quite committed and vocal in sharing our opinions and having our voices heard,” Gurevich said. “We were elected by the student body and they pay for us to go to these meetings. We’re utilizing that in the best way possible.”

Published in Volume 65, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 13, 2011)

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