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Picture taken at the event, of the CFS protestors. Courtesy of Jake Lavoie

Activists think it’s time to leave CFS

SOME MEMBERS OF the federated bodies made a bold statement to incoming University of Ottawa students at Fedstock this Saturday. At the concert concluding the week’s events, 101 Week guides pulled off their jackets during a cheer, revealing “Stop CFS” T-shirts underneath. They then chanted “Defed!” to over 2,000 students who were at the event.

 

CFS stands for Canadian Federation of Students—an organization that advocates for students on a provincial and national level. Some of their campaigns include the lobbying for lower tuition fees and more accessible education. The move to join the CFS was decided by U of O students in a referendum in 2008, and membership is paid for through student fees to the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO)—$7.50 for full-time students and $3.75 for part-time students per semester.

Although the U of O has been a member for only two academic years, some students already feel that it’s time to separate itself from the CFS.

“Defed is what we believe—some of the students want to defederate from the student federation,” said Jake Lajoie, vp social of the Criminology Students’ Association and third-year 101 Week guide.

Although Lajoie spoke briefly about issues the federated bodies have with the SFUO—including their not allowing federated bodies to defederate from the SFUO after student referendums last year or the lack of press 101 Week got on their website—he said the statement was aimed at the CFS, not the SFUO.

“The shirts are not about the SFUO; we didn’t attack the SFUO personally,” he explained. “The CFS is causing a lot of trouble to our school spirit and social activities on our campus, so without them we would do better.  We don’t have a lot of social events because most of our money goes to different things that are not priorities for our campus, our students.”

Fellow guide and fourth-year biomedical student Amy Sigsworth agreed.

“The point we’re trying to make is not that we should be telling [students] what to do, but rather [to] have an open mind and look into the issues yourself,” said Sigsworth, who encountered some backlash over the incident.

“A couple of people were saying that they didn’t like what we did because they don’t like the fact that we’re trying to tell people what to do,” she stated. “That’s totally not the point—the point is challenging what we believe in.”

Sameena Topan, president of the Conflict Studies and Human Rights Student Association and philanthropic coordinator for the SFUO, was one of the students displeased with the protest.

“I feel some representatives of federated bodies picked a poor time to pull a political stunt at an event [that] was meant to unite students across campus and welcome 101ers to our university,” said Topan in an email to the Fulcrum. “There is a time and a place, and that place wasn’t Fedstock.”

Paige Galette, vp communications for the SFUO, said that although the SFUO was in no way involved with the event, she respected the rights of the students to voice their opinions.

“All students have their own opinion, but we do know the facts—that students enjoy being a part of the CFS,” she stated. “I think it’s really important to re-iterate the fact that we do use the services—we are members. Let’s not forget: We did vote ‘yes,’ so there’s nothing much we can do. Let’s just keep on going with the services and using them as efficiently as we can.”

Lajoie disagrees.

“We just want people to ask us questions, to know what’s going on on campus,” he explained. “It’s my personal opinion, so that’s why I did it—I believe that we’d be better off without them.“

 

—Charlotte Bailey