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Student unions across country to debate unpaid internships, Canadian Senate, campus campaigning

Photo by Jane Lytvynenko

OTTAWA (CUP)—More than 80 schools across the country will send representatives to Ottawa for the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) national general meeting Nov. 21–24.

At the 32nd official general meeting, members will vote on policy and future campaigns for the year ahead. The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) and Graduate Students’ Association (GSAÉD) are both members of the CFS.

SFUO president Anne-Marie Roy said several motions have been tabled that she thinks are important to the U of O student body.

The Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union put forward a motion condemning unpaid internships because of their inaccessibility to low-income workers. Their motion states there are currently between 100,000 and 300,000 unpaid interns across Canada.

Those putting forth the motion want an endorsement of their Work is Work campaign and of letters written by fellow CFS member unions to the provincial and federal governments asking to protect the rights of students participating in unpaid internships.

“Unpaid internships are definitely one of the motions that we’re paying close attention to,” Roy said. “There is such little information on how many students are actually taking part in unpaid internships, so that’s definitely something that we need to take a closer look at, to make sure that students are not doing co-op terms or internships that are unpaid. It is a job, after all.”

Additionally, in light of the resent Senate scandal, a motion has been submitted to support the reform of the Senate. The motion cites that the Senate costs Canadians $92.5 million per year—funds, it states, that can be put toward post-secondary education.

“Funding allocated to post-secondary education is a constant discussion that we have at our annual general meetings, so I look forward to continuing that discussion,” Roy said.

She said the intention is to bring tuition fees back to the 1992 levels when there was more consistency across provinces.

The York Federation of Students is asking members to review the constituency breakdown for CFS representatives. Currently structured by province, the motion states there are other ways to organize member locals and asks a report be produced on the possibilities.

Other motions support the creation of on-campus breastfeeding rooms, the creation of on-campus housing for part-time students with disabilities, and the Elsipogtog First Nation in their ongoing fight with Southwestern Energy in New Brunswick. There is a motion pushing for the integration of the No Means No campaign into orientation activities following the video of students at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax singing a chant that seemed to encourage rape.

Another motion, in light of Russia’s recent laws on LGBTQ+ media, proposes a letter to the Canadian government calling for a boycott on the 2014 Winter Olympics and a second to the International Olympic Committee to “rescind” the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

According to external commissioner Seamus Wolfe, the GSAÉD brought four motions forward.  They include investigating what a zero tuition fee education would look like, looking at the possibility of producing a short documentary on the commercialization of campuses and research, creating materials to support breastfeeding rooms on campus, and supporting safe consumption sites.

Roy is also the Francophone students’ representative for the CFS.

All SFUO and GSAÉD executives are welcome to attend the meeting, as well as one representative from the Board of Administration and one delegate from the students at large.