At their general meeting that ran from November 18 to 21, the Canadian Federation of Students approved a motion to lower the threshold for a referendum on exiting its membership to 15 percent of student signatures.
The threshold previously required a petition signed by 20 percent of students to be able to hold a referendum on whether or not to leave the organization.
Last September, UTSU had released a letter to CFS addressing their concerns about the “dominance of the voices of staff over those of students” and a “lack of space for dissent and for constructive criticism” in the CFS meetings.
In an email to The Medium, UTSU’s VP internal Mathias Memmel stated that UTSU was pleased about the approval of lowering the threshold, but criticized how UTSU was not allowed to debate most of their motions.
“Our most important motion was N22, which would’ve banned non-student staff from attending general meetings as delegates,” wrote Memmel.
“We would’ve argued that non-students shouldn’t be speaking and voting on behalf of students, but the motion was never debated.”
Memmel claimed that the CFS meetings are controlled by the federation’s staff and staff of other student unions. He also added that if someone tries to discuss the structure of CFS, they would be accused of “being negative” and “distracting from the real issues.”
“[UTSU] were and are being placated,” he said. “In theory, our motions will be debated next year, but that’s not good enough. We engaged in this process in good faith, and we weren’t even given an opportunity to make our case.”
Bilan Arte, CFS chairperson, told The Medium that out of 40 resolutions in total, 30 were adopted, while 10 were not debated.
“I believe that ratio is still pretty impressive,” said Arte, adding that there was “ample time for discussion and debate for the resolutions that were considered.”
Last September, a students’ campaign called You Decide U of T gathered signatures for a petition on continuing a CFS membership.
As previously reported by The Medium, Daman Singh, who speaks on behalf of the campaign, stated that U of T students deserved to have a vote on whether or not they want to continue being members of CFS.
“The You Decide campaign is very happy to hear that the motion to lower the petition threshold passed,” wrote Singh in an email to The Medium last Friday.
He also expressed that the You Decide campaign appreciates the federation’s “good faith effort” to reform CFS and to make changes to their structure.
“We feel that this change will make this incredibly burdensome process a bit more accessible to students,” wrote Singh.
Another motion that passed at the meeting involved the CFS making “pro-choice” materials, including buttons, stickers, and templates of letters addressed to the universities to restrict the “outreach of graphic and triggering images of abortion on campus,” in addition to resources that “highlight [….] sexual educators, sexual assault and violence support centres, phone lines, and pro-choice abortion clinics.”
CFS members also voted for a new “Trans Constituency” that would be open to the trans community, non-binary people, and genderqueer. As well, the CFS will also create a campaign that lobbies the federal government to provide “adequate health care” for the trans community.
“There were a number of discussion topics this time ranging from bylaw amendments, and revamping the Pro-Choice campaign, to creating a Trans Constituency and reaffirming support for a free and accessible post-secondary education,” wrote UTMSU’s president, Nour Alideeb in an email to The Medium.
“There is nothing more exciting than being surrounded by students from across the country who care about students as much as you do.”
Over 80 student unions are members of the CFS, including UTSU, UTMSU, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students.
According to Arte, the resolutions that were missed at this meeting will be discussed at CFS’ upcoming general meeting that is yet to be set between May and June.