The CFS is the largest post-secondary student union in Canada with over 80 institutions as members. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.
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Only 15 per cent of member approval needed for referendum on leaving CFS

Following their recent National General Meeting (NGM), the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) have made it significantly easier for student unions to leave their organization.

With the NGM’s commencement on Nov. 18 in Gatineau, Québec, proposed motions were brought forward and discussed in subcommittees over two days. The motions were then put to a vote on Monday, Nov. 21.

One of these motions involved making it easier to defederate from the CFS, a process that unions like the University of Toronto Students’ Union have called “overly burdensome” in the past with its 20 per cent signature threshold.

The motion for lowering the signature threshold to trigger a referendum on defederating from the CFS ultimately passed during the NGM.

Now, should a student union wish to revoke its membership from the federation, a petition calling for a referendum on defederation must first receive signatures from 15 per cent of its members.

From there, the petition would be reviewed and, if it is found to be in order, the CFS executive and the member union would schedule a time for the referendum. A chief returning officer for the referendum would be appointed, and a notice of the vote would be given to the member local.

A vote would then be held, and if the vote passes, a formal Procedure for Application of Withdrawal would begin. If the procedure is found to be in order, all voting members would be made aware of the decertification, and a vote would be held at the next NGM to ratify the decision. The defederation would officially begin on June 30 of the academic year in which the petition was launched.

With over 80 post-secondary institutions as member-locals, consisting of a total of over half a million students, the CFS is the largest student organization in the country, providing services such as the International Student Identity Card, assistance with tuition fees, and financial assistance programs.

The CFS was launched in 1981, and according to the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), “for students to be truly effective in representing their collective interests to the federal and provincial governments, it was vital to unite under one banner.”

According to the Varsity, CFS national chairperson Bilan Arte said that the motion for lowering the percentage required for a referendum on leaving the federation comes after “years of discussion.”