By Kayla Perry
On the weekend of Nov. 23, the Canadian Federation of Students held their Annual General Meeting. Mark Mancini, Vice President of Student Issues for the SGA, who attended the meeting on behalf of the SGA, said the meeting was “certainly stress-inducing.”
The AGM is a four-day long gathering, consisting of events such as workshops, subcommittees and plenary sessions. At the AGM, which was held this year in Ottawa, members are able to file motions of things they would like to see change within the CFS.
One motion Mancini suggested was that the CFS allow a two weeks’ notice before any CFS staff person enters the Laurentian University campus. He said this was in regard to some “funny business” that had happened early in the school year, when CFS members entered the LU residences after hours, seeking petition signatures.
“(The SGA) filed a motion that would create a sort of membership rights charter within the by-laws of the CFS. It would allow associations that want to distance themselves from the CFS, and strike (their) own path, certain rights to rely on.”
The other motion Mancini suggested was a “policy of non-interference in association elections.” Mancini believed that this clause, which currently is not included in CFS by-laws, would protect the SGA from the CFS’ “attempted influence” in SGA elections, which had been suspected in the past.
“(Those) were the big motions that we put forward… (They) were defeated.”
Mancini said the defeat was “to be expected.” He believes that this is due partly to a large deal of division within the CFS, and partly to the fact that many of the CFS staff members are not elected, and not students.
Mancini also said these staff members “control a lot of the debates that happen within these meetings” and that the debate on motions he brought forward were “shut down rather quickly,” something he attributes to a large fear of change within the CFS.
Alastair Woods, the Ontario Chairperson for the CFS, also attended the annual meeting, and had a different perspective on the motions brought forward by the SGA. Woods said the motions proposed by the SGA were “discussed at length throughout the meeting” and in more than four separate meetings, although in the end the “majority of delegates at the meeting did not support the motions.”
He also said he believes the student movement “left the (AGM) stronger and more united than ever.”
The SGA is not the only part of Laurentian trying to gain distance from the CFS. The Graduate Students’ Association has taken a firm stance against the organization.
Brendan Lehman, an LU neuroscience graduate student, played a part in organizing a petition to disassociate the GSA from the CFS at the beginning of the school year. After obtaining the necessary amount of signatures, Lehman mailed the petition by registered mail to the CFS, as their bylaws state – however, Lehman later received the package in the mail, with a note attached saying the envelope had not been picked up.
As an association, we’re paying $85,000 to an organization that routinely shuts down debates, closes out people who want to reform (the organization) in good faith, and closes out people they disagree with. — Mancini
“It’s obviously an issue if the CFS isn’t going to collect the federation petitions. It’s in their bylaws to (pick up the petitions), so it creates interesting circumstances,” said Lehman.
McGill University’s post-graduate students’ society also faced a similar situation: according to Lehman, their petition took two envelopes to mail due to size, and only one was picked up by the CFS, leaving the other envelope to be returned.
“It’s a very childish thing, saying ‘if I don’t go and look at it, it doesn’t exist’ sort of thing,” said Lehman, who since then has traveled to Ottawa on his own dime and hand-delivered the petition to a member of the CFS, while being accompanied by a bailiff.
When asked to comment on the topic, Woods stated that the original package was not received due to a “clerical error, the National office did not receive a notification from Canada Post that a package was waiting for them at the local post office,” but after realizing what had happened “immediately asked for the petitions to be resent.”
Lehman says the petition will now hopefully be reviewed by the CFS, and is waiting for a reply.
Mancini said that the SGA would require 1,200 students to sign a petition in order to further distance themselves from the CFS, although the association is not yet at that point. He said that, for now, the SGA’s next step is to raise awareness about the CFS and what happened at the annual meeting.
“As an association, we’re paying $85,000 to an organization that routinely shuts down debates, closes out people who want to reform (the organization) in good faith, and closes out people they disagree with. I think, as it stands, that money could much better help (the SGA), rather than fund this unworkable political entity that’s not doing a lot for our students.”