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By Mark Brown
Legal fees are mounting for all involved in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed against a federal student lobby group by Western's University Students' Council.
The lawsuit against the Canadian Federation of Students-Services, a branch of the Canadian Federation of Students, is a dispute over the ownership of the Canadian Universities Travel Service Limited, better known as Travel Cuts.
Currently the suit is in the discovery stage, where lawyers for both parties exchange the documents which are relevant to the suit.
While CFS deputy chair Jennifer Story could not comment on the details of the case, she was able to discuss the financial impact this case is having on CFS.
"We are having to find the money in our budget for what we consider a frivolous lawsuit," she said.
According to Story, CFS has had to make budgetary accommodations which will take resources away from its lobbying efforts. "I think that is the biggest tragedy of the whole case."
Claire Sykes, VP-external for the Society of Graduate Students' which is aligned with CFS, agreed with Story.
"The money CFS values goes back into the student movement," Sykes said. She added the general sentiment is the USC is not going to get very far.
While CFS has complained about the extra burden the lawsuit has been on their financial resources, the USC has said they have the money for this expensive process.
"For something like this we are expecting it in the tens of thousands," said USC President Ian Armour.
Armour found it difficult to understand how this lawsuit could be effecting CFS as Story described. "They have a very sizable budget. At this stage in the game it shouldn't be affecting their lobbying efforts."
Although there are many schools who could potentially side with Western in this suit, the University of Alberta Students' Union is the only one so far.
A number of schools approached representatives from the USC in December while they attended meetings in Ottawa and Montreal to collect more information about the suit. "I an not prepared to say if anyone is committed either way," Armour said.
Still, according to David Small, USC VP-finance, Western may receive help in paying for its legal fees. "There is a good possibility of that."
So far this academic year, the suit has cost Western in the range of $10,000, Small explained. He added this has been budgeted for in the USC's legal/audit line.
Neither party could estimate when the discovery period might end or if students could expect a quick settlement.
"By the way the case is framed, the only way that this is going to be settled is if Western drops the case," Story explained, but insisted she has not seen any indication from the USC they intend to settle.
Similarly, CFS will not offer a settlement. "I can't see what we can settle. CFS is the owner of Travel Cuts and this lawsuit is about that ownership and we can't foresee that ownership changing."