Photo by Tamim Sujat/The McGill Daily
MONTREAL — The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) lost two court cases against the Rassemblement des associations étudiantes (RAE) and McGill PhD student Ge Sa on Sept. 5 and Sept. 9 respectively.
The latter decision mandates the CFS to hold a referendum on whether Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS) members should remain members of the CFS. This comes more than four years after the PGSS’s first disaffiliation attempt in 2010.
After CFS refused to acknowledge a PGSS referendum that saw the majority of students vote to leave the organization in 2010, the union sued CFS, asking that they recognize the results of the referendum. With the case still ongoing four years later, McGill graduate students struggled to get CFS to acknowledge a petition that had the signatures of more than 20 per cent of their members earlier in 2014. The petition requested another disassociation referendum.
With the petition still unrecognized, Sa stood before the court on March 18 to request another case against the CFS.
Justice Gérard Dugré, who presided over the case, ruled in Sa’s favour, arguing that the CFS had no right to refuse to hold a disaffiliation referendum, and mandating them to hold a referendum for PGSS members on whether they wish to remain members of the CFS.
“This judgement sets a precedent for all Canadian students who believe in freedom of association,” Sa said in a press release. “We thank the court for recognizing the importance of the voice of students, and in upholding the rights of students to not be held hostage by the CFS.”
Dugré, who during the trial had noted how much more difficult it was to leave the CFS than it was to join it, said in the decision, “Any delay in holding this referendum clearly causes an irreparable prejudice to the right of the plaintiff to not be affiliated with CFS.”
The CFS, however, did not see the judgment as a loss.
“As part of (the judge’s) ruling, he says that the members have the right to decide on their affiliation to the organization,” CFS staffer Brent Farrington told the McGill Daily. “We could not agree with that more.”
In 2009, 13 student unions held petitions to leave the CFS. The organizations cited a disillusionment with the CFS’ transparency and legal tactics. In 2013, the CFS faced another mass exodus as 15 student societies petitioned to leave the national student organization.
In both instances, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa did not express any desire to leave the CFS.
The other judgment, related to the RAE and delivered four days earlier by Justice Claude Dallaire, ends a five-year legal battle over fees paid by CFS member associations in Quebec between 2007 and 2010.
—With files from the Fulcrum