September 4, 2013 – College and University students across the country are beginning the process to end their membership with national lobby group, the Canadian Federation of Students. This initiative to “defederate” includes petitions among students at Dawson College (Local 108), as well as the largest schools remaining in the Federation: the University of Toronto, York University, and Ryerson University. Over 15 student associations are currently taking part and this number may grow throughout the fall. Their aim is to end the Canadian Federation of Students’ control over local campus affairs, but also to begin discussions about alternatives for provincial and national organizing that keep decision-making power in the hands of students.
“Many of us are longtime student organizers and have seen students attempt to reform the CFS from within for decades, but to no avail. We are taking these steps to defederate because of our dedication to students and to the student movement,” said Ashleigh Ingle, a graduate student at the University of Toronto. “Students are realizing that their interests are not served by the Canadian Federation of Students. We are not walking away from organizing at the national and provincial level; we are creating the space for that to happen effectively.”
The Federation has recently lost traction in a number of provinces, with its control loosening on many campuses nationwide. This latest mass defection from the CFS could leave them without representation in British Columbia, Manitoba and Québec. Combined with their lack of representation in Alberta and much of the Maritimes, this significantly challenges the idea that the CFS represents Canadian students.
“Every student – from every part of the political spectrum – has a reason to want to leave the Canadian Federation of Students. For us, we have come to this decision because of what we feel are ineffective organizing practices and lobbying efforts, a bloated bureaucracy, questionable financial decisions, and low standards of democratic processes. We believe students deserve better,” says Brendan Lehman, a student from Laurentian University.
Some students plan to create new organizing bodies directed by principles of free association and direct membership control, the founding congress of which is planned for 2014. The organizers tell us that “the proper approach to student organizing involves limiting dependence on members’ money while maximizing student decision-making in the fight for free public, high quality education. But even if students have no desire to join a new organizing body, they should still consider terminating their membership in the CFS. It’s time to take a stand. If you want to start a petition on your campus or help out with an existing one, email firstname.lastname@example.org. It is time to defend the interests of students; it is time to say no to CFS.”