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A report released by the Ryerson Students’ Union on Sept. 4 has raised questions about the student government’s relationship with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
The report was produced due to a motion filed by a student last April at the RSU’s annual general meeting. It’s the first time the student union has formally evaluated its relationship with the CFS since joining the federation in 1982.
The report concludes that the services provided by the CFS, like online tax-filing and the Studentsaver card, are offered by the RSU at a lower cost through alternate providers and are no longer relevant to students. The report also outlines the RSU’s concerns with the governance of the CFS, including the availability of meeting minutes and the complicated mechanisms for leaving the federation.
“It’s just been many years of history that students just wanted to put on paper,” said Victoria Morton, RSU vice-president education and chair of the report committee. Morton added, “We wanted a very fair but critical document.”
Rajean Hoilett, Ontario chairperson of the CFS, called the report a “skewed document” and said that the CFS was not involved in the report’s production, something he says the RSU promised the federation they would do.
Morton told The Ryersonian that the RSU sent “a long list” of questions to the CFS for their input in July. She said the RSU received answers to some of the questions on Aug. 11 and others a few hours before the release of the report.
“It was really difficult to engage them,” she said.
The 30-page report criticizes the CFS’s efforts to lobby the government for lower tuition fees — one of the federation’s primary mandates. It also chronicles controversial instances where individuals involved with the CFS campaigned for pro-CFS slates during student union elections.
“The concept of the CFS is really great, where you have strength in numbers and when you have different student unions coming together from all across the country,” said RSU president, Obaid Ullah. However, he called the CFS environment “challenging,” and added, “people there see things from a different view.”
Ullah said the RSU has not made a conclusion from the report.
The RSU does not have control over its future involvement with the CFS, however. Federation policy dictates that someone from the RSU membership — likely a student — who is not a part of the board would have to gather the signatures of at least 20 per cent of the student body in order to petition for de-federation.
Morton said the next step for the RSU is getting the report into as many students’ hands as possible. She hopes that the CFS is responsive to the complaints highlighted in the report.
Morton added, “I’m really hoping the CFS takes the report and maybe uses it as an opportunity for self-reflection.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the report raised questions about the university’s relationship with the CFS, rather than the student union’s relationship with the CFS. This version has been corrected.