The University of Toronto Students Union issued a letter to the Canadian Federation of Students last Monday, addressing their concerns about the federation.
The letter stated that there is “dominance of the voices of staff over those of students” in the CFS meetings, and a “lack of space for dissent and for constructive criticism.”
It also addressed concerns like the “overly burdensome” process that members have to go through if they want to exit the federation, and that accessing information like bylaws, policies, and financial information is done with “extreme difficulty”.
“I am very sorry that those were some of the experiences [students] had,” said Bilan Arte, the national chairperson of CFS in an interview with The Medium. “I know that our current federation structure allows for many meeting spaces. For example, there are spaces where we talk about anti-oppression training, and we talk about what that means.”
Arte also explained that the CFS has a space where students, including international, indigenous, and racialized students, can come and talk about their experiences.
Earlier this month, the You Decide U of T campaign was launched at U of T, calling for a referendum on the CFS membership. Jasmine Wong Denike, UTSU’s president, had previously reported to The Medium that UTSU was not part of the campaign, and that the CFS bylaws require that any petition be initiated by students, not the students’ union.
Denike has not responded as of press time to The Medium’s request for comment regarding whether the timing of the letter has any relation to the You Decide U of T campaign.
The letter was signed by several other student unions: Ryerson Students’ Union, Cape Breton University Students’ Union, University Students’ Union of Regina, Carleton University Students’ Association, OCAD SU, Kwantlen Student Association, Laurentian University Students’ General Association, Laurentian Students’ Union, and UBC Students’ Union Okanagan.
“We, the undersigned, are members in good standing of the Canadian Federation of Students and we don’t believe the Federation is serving our membership in the way that it must,” stated the letter.
“Our motivation for these reforms comes from a desire to strengthen student organizations in Canada to be truly representative and to further reflect the will of our members,” it also mentioned.
“I think that it’s absolutely that kind of constructive criticism of feedback that we welcome, because we want to talk about how we can build a federation that includes as much as possible of our members and their perspectives,” said Arte, adding that the general meetings of CFS are membership-driven.
The undersigned members of the letter plan on passing a series of motions at the federation’s Annual General Meeting in November.