Students’ council may abandon CFS

By in News

ASHLEIGH MATTERN
Editor-in-Chief

    The University Students’ Council’s tenuous relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students was the topic of hot debate at the USC meeting on Sept. 10.

    “The USSU and CFS have had quite the relationship over the past four or five years and we’re going to be the first council to actually do something about it,” said vice-president of external affairs Chris Stoicheff.

    This statement became a mantra for Stoicheff throughout the meeting, as the council discussed why the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union will not hold another referendum and why the USSU should rescind a motion made in 2007 supporting prospective membership in CFS.

“The USSU and CFS have had quite the relationship over the past four or five years and we’re going to be the first council to actually do something about it.”
—Chris Stoicheff

    In 2004, then-USSU president Gavin Gardiner signed a prospective membership agreement with CFS, under the obligation to hold a referendum within 12 months. Some USSU bylaws were violated in the controversial referendum and the close results — 55 per cent yes and 44 per cent no — were thrown out by the Queen’s Bench Court and the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.    

    Stoicheff’s recommendation to the council is to rescind a 2007 motion that both recognized prospective membership and declared a referendum must be held within 24 months. That time will be up in October. If the 2007 motion is rescinded, a decision will have to be made on what to do.

    Stoicheff and USSU president Warren Kirkland told council that they would have to change their bylaws before the end of the month in order to hold a referendum in the time allotted by the 2007 motion but asserted the USSU shouldn’t change their bylaws for CFS.

    There are many differences between the USSU bylaws and the CFS bylaws, making a referendum difficult, though not impossible. Stoicheff listed these differences in a presentation outlining the issue.
A few of Stoicheff’s main concerns included CFS’s lack of spending limits on campaigns, their bylaws against third party campaigns and their stipulation that paper ballots be used.

    Councillor Blair Woynarski asked why the first referendum happened if there are such “flagrant contradictions” between the bylaws.

    “It was a total debacle,” answered Stoicheff. “It was a joke. They had nothing set up.”

    Kirkland insisted the current executive will not speculate why or why not the referendum was held, though he said they “will comment on the process that they went through and the recommendations of previous committees.”

    “The debate on our table right now isn’t whether or not joining the CFS is good or bad,” said Kirkland. “The debate then was whether or not the joining the CFS would be of good sound judgment in lobbying nationally. The decision on our table now is what is the best course of action given that previously we have been sued by our students as the result of the referendum.”

    Former USSU president and current U of S administrator James Pepler spoke up during the meeting, adding some insight as part of the council that made the motion.

    “Two years ago we found ourselves in the exact same spot you’re finding yourselves now,” said Pepler. “If the motion is to be rescinded from 2007, essentially you’re back in the same position you were in 2007.”

    It would be possible to hold a special general meeting, change the bylaws and have a referendum that satisfies the CFS’s bylaws but councillor Kevin Miller pointed out there seemed to be a lack of will to do so.

    “It would be possible to make this work if there was the will,” said Miller. “Obviously there’s not the will.”

If the council votes to rescind the motion, the USSU will no longer recognize themselves as prospective members of CFS, but Stoicheff says the CFS might not see it the same way, potentially leading to a lawsuit.