What is the CFS?
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is like the student union of student unions. It is a national organization founded in the 1980s that is comprised of member “locals” such as CUSA. The CFS was originally designed to be a platform for students to advocate lower tuition and societal change but has since devolved into a corrupt and ineffective organization that wastes students’ money.
Why Carleton students want to leave the CFS:
The CFS is corrupt. Last year, it was discovered during an audit that the CFS had a hidden bank account containing $600 000 of students’ money. More recently, the CFS has been accused of using student money to fund ideologically-aligned candidates in student union elections across the country. At the University of Manitoba, it was alleged that CFS resources were improperly used to assist in the election of former CFS national chairperson, Bilan Arte. There are other allegations from various student unions that pro-CFS student union slates at the University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, and Selkirk College received direct CFS assistance in their student campaigns. These are only the reported cases. There could be more instances of CFS collusion. This is a flagrant abuse of power that has been condemned by multiple Canadian student unions including CUSA.
The CFS is inefficient. Carleton students pay $389,000 per year to the CFS. This works out to just over $16 per student. What do Carleton students get in return? The answer: a few posters, buttons, and t-shirts promoting different causes. That’s it. While the CFS does advocate for minority rights and lower tuition, it does so with incredible inefficiency and lack of results. Carleton could easily get far more (and better) minority rights materials for a fraction of the $389,000 price tag. And according to Carleton Central, tuition fees have still been going up.
The CFS is undemocratic. Not only is the CFS allegedly meddling in student union elections, but they make it almost impossible to leave the organization. Thousands of signatures are needed to even call a referendum, with each student needing to sign two separate petitions (one for CFS-Ontario and one for CFS-National). The CFS is also permitted to run a “counter-signature” campaign to negate signatures collected. Presuming the signatures are collected, the CFS has three full months to “review” them. Once a referendum date is decided upon, the student union must pay all fees owing (an amount they typically do not disclose) to the CFS. Now, for the referendum itself: guess who appoints the Chief Electoral Officer? The CFS. Guess who sets all election rules? The CFS. Guess who is the only party allowed to bring in off-campus help? The CFS. Not the mention the 10% minimum mandated turnout, where online voting is forbidden. If the minimum threshold is not achieved, another vote is not allowed for another 60 months. The saddest part of it all is: even if a student union overcomes all these obstacles, the CFS will typically sue the student union for an obscure technicality and attempt to tie up the decertification in court.
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