Canadian Federation of Students ‘under attack,’ says anonymous email

Local News

On Feb. 12, an anonymous email was sent to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) concerning a series of events beginning in October 2014 which allegedly undermine the “fundamental principles” of the organization.

The events described in the email include an orchestrated executive candidate selection at the CFS’s 33rd Annual General Meeting; the email claims National Chairperson Jessica McCormick along with CFS-Ontario staff were involved.

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The CFS formed in 1981 to unite Canadian students under one federation, and provide a voice for post-secondary issues in federal and provincial government. Today, the CFS represents more than 70 universities and colleges, including Victoria’s Camosun College. As of March 2013, UVic ceased its affiliation with the CFS and CFS-BC.

The email alleges that shortly after the 33rd AGM, “McCormick began an attack on the rights of the employees of the Federation, including hiring a well-known union-busting firm.” Reportedly, CFS staff were placed on administrative leave without cause, and a security firm was hired to guard the National Office.

According to the email, CFS-Ontario staff participated in these union-busting events, and took charge of running the 2014 National Lobby Week. It also states that Thomas Mulcair refused to meet with CFS during the week “on the basis that the Federation had clearly lost its way.”

Tyler Cooke, a concerned student from the University of Manitoba and a former Camosun College student, came across the anonymous email from February through a friend.

“The CFS is using students money to bust the union . . . they are wasting student money on things students don’t want them to do instead of good services and campaigns,” he said via email. “It reflects a hypocrisy in the CFS’s values.”

The email also lists a number of services, projects, and campaigns that have been “forsaken” at the cost of recent events. “Union-busting, pet projects (such as the upcoming national forum), and divisive personal jockeying have replaced hard work and clarity in the National Office,” the email said, urging “regular students” to take advantage of the Federation’s democratic structures to “oust the union busters from the National Office.”

The Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) is a member of CFS Local 75. Based on communications with other CFS members and firsthand experience, External Executive Rachael Grant confirms that “pieces” of the email can be verified. Grant also expressed a concern for the decline in the quality of campaigns and services offered by the CFS.

“We are very active in looking [at] the issues to the best of our ability, and getting to the bottom of these very serious allegations,” she said. “There is definitely the potential that Camosun students will be affected long term; we’re very actively working to get to the bottom of what’s going on, and prevent that from happening.”

The CCSS contacted National Chairperson Jessica McCormick within the same day the email was sent, outlining concerns that have not been resolved to date. However, while she didn’t respond to the CCSS, McCormick responded to an information request from the Nexus, Camosun’s student newspaper; “We’re very disappointed that our National Chairperson has chosen to address the concerns of a student newspaper before a local that belongs to the national entity,” Grant said.

The article published on March 26 in the Nexus quotes McCormick  denying some of the allegations made in the email. She states the security firm hired was for a “human resource issue,” and was only needed for six days in November 2014. She referred to the union-busting accusations as “absurd,” and those on administrative leave relate to “specific individuals and their actions.”

The article also includes an anonymous source “close” to the national office, describing recent events as a “hostile takeover.”

The Martlet contacted the CFS by email, but did not receive a response for comment.

Following a petition and referendum, the University of Victoria Students’ Society officially left the CFS in March 2011. Weeks before a referendum to leave the CFS-BC in March 2013, the provincial federation opted to expel the UVSS, concluding years of petitions and legal altercations. The CFS-BC claimed UVic had $160 000 in outstanding membership fees from the 1990s  , which the UVSS has denied.

UVSS Chairperson Kayleigh Erickson declined the Martlet’s request for comment for “legal purposes,” providing a press release from 2013 instead.

“As a progressive student society that is at the forefront of student activism in B.C., the UVSS will continue to work on post-secondary issues as a founding member of the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS),” former UVSS Chairperson Emily Rogers said in a 2013 press release.