October 31, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 35  

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CFS and CASA worlds apart

Whether you know it or not, in Canada there are two main federal lobby groups acting on behalf of students -the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

The difference between the two groups is that CFS is more of a social activist group while CASA is more of a political group. CFS is big on the grassroots approach to issues and they deal with broader issues, not just post-secondary ones, including environmental and social issues.

CASA, on the other hand, takes a different approach. They try to work from within, sitting down and speaking with the politicians that can make a difference on post-secondary issues. CASA has had regular meetings with prime minister-in-waiting Paul Martin.

When you look at it, it seems the ideas of the CFS are a bit too radical. While CASA is looking for a reduction in tuition fees, CFS is looking for students to pay NO tuition. Which of these is most realistic?

CFS claims they represent all students, in part because they have been around the longest. The reason for their longevity is their ownership of the Travel Cuts franchise. By owning Travel Cuts, CFS has had money flowing in for years and has been able to sustain itself and its causes. CASA is viewed as a blip on the screen by CFS for having only been founded in the mid '90s.

But the left-leaning CFS, who take part in such activities as protesting globalization, don't necessarily reflect all students' views.

The rivalry has been long and often bitter between the two groups. What would be ideal would be a merger between the two; to bring the ideas of both parties together and to fight on behalf of students.

CASA already has the workings in place to effectively lobby the federal government. They have made the connections and know who to talk to and where to apply pressure.

CFS does not. Their protest-style of lobbying has not garnered them a seat at the table. Instead, it has lead to their being ignored by politicians in the federal government up in Ottawa.

If some of the causes the CFS is fighting for and the tactics applied by CASA are brought together, perhaps a more effective group could emerge. Instead of the CFS seeing CASA as selling out to "the man" or CASA seeing the CFS as "radical hippies," perhaps the two could work out an agreement and meet in the middle for the betterment of students.

However, realistically this is never going to happen. The two groups are like apples and oranges. They are very different in their priorities.

As this happy middle will likely never be found, we're glad Western undergraduates are represented by a group that has the prime minister-in-waiting's ear, as opposed to one who might just throw macaroni in his face.



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