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Movement marks largest exodus from student federation since 2009

Jane Lytvynenko | CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA (CUP)—More than a dozen post-secondary institutions across Canada have begun a move to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), according to a media release.

The CFS has 83 members across the country; Ontario has the most members.

The release cites “lost traction in a number of provinces” as the reason for the movement. With 15 schools involved, this marks the largest exodus from the organization since 2009, when 13 schools wanted to leave the CFS.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Capilano University from B.C.; the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union, Ryerson University, York University, and Laurentian University from Ontario; and Dawson College from Quebec have confirmed they will apply to host a referendum.

To leave the CFS, members of a student union must collect a petition with signatures and present it to the CFS executive. Once the signatures are ratified, a date is set for the referendum to take place.

Ashleigh Ingle, spokesperson for Ontario, Central, and Eastern Canada, said other universities looking to defederate do not want to be revealed because they’re in the early stages of petitioning.

“There are large groups of students that are very dissatisfied with the way the CFS runs,” said Ingle, who was on the executive for the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union last year. “After a long time of multiple student unions trying to make the same reforms over and over again and seeing no results, we aren’t seeing that as a productive way forward anymore.”

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa is still a member of the CFS and has no intention of defederating, said SFUO president Anne-Marie Roy.

“We are going to continue focusing on the good work that the CFS does,” she said. “I haven’t heard of anybody petitioning on our campus for decertification, and for my part, I think we actually have a great relationship with the CFS. They’re incredibly supportive on a number of issues that we work on locally.”

Previously, the Dawson Student Union was the only member from the province of Quebec that had not mobilized against the CFS. Currently, the Concordia Student Union and Graduate Students’ Association at Concordia University and McGill University’s Post-Graduate Students’ Society are undergoing long legal battles with the CFS to recognize the results of their referendums and leave.

“You can’t be Canada without the province of Quebec,” said Nicholas Di Penna, the francophone spokesperson for the campaign and former director of external affairs for the Dawson Student Union. “They wouldn’t really be able to call themselves the CFS without the major province of Quebec.”

—with files from Kalina Laframboise and Spencer Van Dyk