A students’ campaign has been launched at the University of Toronto, calling for a referendum on the continuation of University of Toronto Students’ Union’s membership with the Canadian Federation of Students.
According to the campaign’s Facebook page, You Decide U of T, they are working on two petitions on continuing membership with both the CFS national executives and the CFS Ontario provincial executives.
The CFS was founded in 1981, and is considered Canada’s largest student advocacy group.
Over 80 student unions are members within the CFS, including UTMSU, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students.
In order to exit the CFS, a petition must be signed by 20 percent of students to be able to hold a referendum on whether or not to leave the organization.
In an interview with The Medium, Daman Singh, who speaks on behalf of You Decide U of T, stated that the last CFS membership referendum was held in 2002, when the UTSU first joined the CFS.
“Since it’s been 14 years since the last referendum, everyone who was excited to join the CFS has now graduated,” said Singh.
“Students at the UTSU deserve to have a democratic vote on whether or not they still want to be part of the organization. Regardless of how effective CFS is as an organization, students should be able to vote periodically on whether or not to remain members of the CFS,” he added.
In 2014, the UTGSU had attempted to exit the CFS, but did not succeed, as the union’s referendum missed the quorum by seven votes.
In an email to The Medium, Bilan Arte, the national chairperson of CFS, stated, “There is so much strength and power in the size of our [CFS] membership, but there is also an imperative to responsibly and effectively represent the diversity of voices that make up our membership.”
“This is why we go to great lengths to open up spaces and channels for debate and dialogue with and for our members to accurately reflect not only diversity of opinions and ideas, but also of lived experiences.”
Arte also highlighted some of the services that CFS has helped take part in and bring to students, including the Ontario Student Grant, which will ease “the financial burden of going to higher education in a province known as the most expensive place to study in Canada.”
“When students can see and feel the real change we can achieve together, they see value in that togetherness,” said Arte.
UTSU has denied its involvement in the campaign.
“The bylaws of the CFS state that any petition must be initiated by students, not by the students’ union. As such, the UTSU takes no position on the petition at this time. We are forbidden from doing so, and intend to respect the rules,” stated UTSU’s president Jasmine Wong Denike in an email to The Medium.
UTM students will not be eligible to vote, as UTMSU is separate from the UTSU’s membership within CFS.