CFS sets sight on new members
CASA suggests financial woes to blame
By Jessica Leeder
With several membership campaigns slated to begin in the coming weeks, the Canadian Federation of Students has come under fire from critics who accuse the leftist lobby group of trying to bolster membership numbers to counter an uncertain future.
CFS claims to represent more than 400,000 post-secondary students nation-wide and is the largest governmental student lobby group in Canada.
Currently, the organization is embroiled in two costly lawsuits against former student members, one of them filed in the mid-1990s by Western in what has become a $100 million fight over the CFS-owned travel agency Travel Cuts.
In the second lawsuit, recently filed against the Acadia University Students' Union, the CFS is asking for thousands of dollars in overdue membership fees because they claim the union illegally terminated its membership in 1996.
With these issues at the forefront, plans to recruit more students, including 34,000 undergraduates from the University of Toronto, who could increase CFS's revenue by more than $400,000 annually, have drawn speculation from critics questioning the group's motives and internal stability.
"There is just a big push in the last couple years from the CFS to bolster their membership. They have been actively recruiting lots of interest, especially in Ontario at the large universities," said Erin Stevenson, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, a competing federal student lobby group.
"Obviously there could be a lot of reasons they are looking to increase their numbers, but the lawsuits are definite factors," Stevenson said.
Ian Boyko, CFS national chairperson, denied CFS is conducting an "aggressive" recruiting campaign to help cushion the potential impact of the lawsuits.
"Right now, we are cresting in our membership. The student membership in Canada is a powerful organization, and we're a federation founded on the idea that there is strength in numbers," he said.
"We are more effective at lobbying when we have more member unions, but any suggestion that this is motivated by anything else is absurd," Boyko said.
Rocco Kusi-Achampong, president of U of T's Student Administrative Council, said CFS' presence at his campus has divided the SAC board and immersed the campus in controversy.
"Those who are in favour of this school becoming members of the CFS have a majority on [SAC], which is unfortunate," Kusi-Achampong said. "I don't disagree with having students united across the country, but [CFS's] approach to government and the messages they have employed in the past are not representative of a school that maintains a certain candor such as the University of Toronto."
"The students here would feel the organization is not representative of our beliefs, or our way of doing business and, once you get in, it is one of the most arduous things to pull out of," Kusi-Achampong said. "I don't want our students to invest in an organization that is destabilizing, that has ongoing lawsuits against schools."
A referendum to decide whether or not U of T students will become full members of the organization will be held Nov. 5-7; at Windsor, voting takes place between Oct. 8-10.
|Contact The News Department|
© 2002 THE GAZETTE