This article has been updated.
|February 13, 2017 @ 12 a.m.|
Quotes from the CFS treasurer have been added.
On January 24, UTSU released a statement on their Facebook page announcing its decision to support decertification from the Canadian Federation of Students.
According to the statement, one reason for UTSU’s hope to withdraw was that CFS postponed the announcement of an audit at its national general meeting held in November 2016, due to the findings of a “secret bank account.”
According to UTSU’s president, Jasmine Wong Denike in an email to The Medium, the results of the secret bank account’s investigation will be released in a national general meeting expected to take place in June 2017.
Denike addressed her concerns that a CFS election of new executives, around the time of the meeting, will result in an executive body with “very little knowledge” of the secret bank account.
“Because the CFS will likely disclose little to no information on it at the time, it will not go truly investigated or questioned until the CFS releases a public statement to the contents and usage of the account to the public, before the turnover of both local and CFS Executives takes place,” she wrote.
CFS national chairperson, Bilan Arte, told The Medium in an interview that UTSU’s claims are a “misrepresentation” of the discussion that occurred at a budget committee.
Though Arte conceded that she was not personally present at the committee, she stated that a resolution was reached at the committee wherein CFS members tasked the national executive to prepare a more detailed report of the bank account.
In an email to The Medium, CFS National Treasurer Peyton Veich stated that the account opened in 2010 and was closed upon its discovery in December 2014.
Arte told The Medium that when the account was discovered in 2014, the CFS informed their members about a subsequent general meeting in June 2015 to discuss it.
“At that time, we told our members that we would do whatever was necessary in order to ensure that we were able to provide the correct information for accounting and auditing processes,” she said, adding that the CFS immediately closed the bank account upon discovery, and that regular updates have been given about the bank account in subsequent budget committee meetings.
Another reason presented by UTSU in their Facebook statement mentioned the approval of audits for the last two years, which they claim was added to the CFS national general meeting last November “without notice.”
Mathias Memmel, UTSU’s VP internal and services, wrote in an email to The Medium that members at the meeting were supposed to “accept that the money in the secret bank account had been properly accounted for,” adding that UTSU “had no reason to do that.”
Memmel also claimed that the CFS national executive won’t release the audits to its members, although, according to him, they have been completed.
“The account contained something like $500,000, but we’ve been given no indication of where the money came from or where it went,” he wrote. “The National Treasurer was asked three times if it was spent on pro-CFS slates, and he refused to answer all three times.”
Veich explained that the federation “does not provide financial resources to candidates in member local students’ union elections”.
According to Arte, the CFS’s auditors were able to give the “highest-level of certification” to ensure the federation’s finances were in good standing. In response to UTSU’s claim that a forensic audit is being withheld from release, Arte said that since the forensic audit deals with “personnel issues,” CFS directors are obligated to not divulge such information.
“Our members recognized the need to balance reporting and privacy when they adopted a motion in November about the forensic report,” wrote Veich. “I recognize the need for additional information and I will now work with Grant Thornton to prepare a report for members and appreciate their patience as it is prepared.”
UTSU’s Facebook statement concluded by saying that they can no longer condone membership of CFS.
“[…] continued membership of the Canadian Federation of Students is something that we, as executives, can no longer support,” read part of the statement.
“[…] While the UTSU is explicitly forbidden from initiating the decertification process, we believe that decertification is a necessary step.
“To this end, the UTSU will actively support reasonable member-initiated efforts to hold a referendum on decertification, including the existing You Decide campaign,” it added.
Last September, a students’ campaign, You Decide U of T, was launched at U of T to call for a referendum on CFS membership.
Arte commented on UTSU’s support for withdrawal from the federation by saying that the CFS will still continue to represent students at U of T, as the status of membership is decided by the students.
“I think that our history as a student union has shown us that when we are united, when we are working together, we are able to see the most victories,” Arte added.
The threshold required for a referendum on CFS membership had been amended at the CFS national general meeting last November to become 15 percent of student signatures instead of 20 percent.