The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council passed a motion last Wednesday to proceed with a referendum on the Society’s membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
Hours before PGSS Council began, they received a letter from CFS chairperson Katherine Giroux-Bougard, condemning the motion.
The motion states that the referendum would be held over a four-day period, from March 29 to April 1. It also says that the referendum would proceed even if the full Referendum Oversight Committee – consisting of two members of the PGSS and two members of CFS – fails to meet an agreement on the referendum rules by March 10, 2010.
The motion passed with only one objection and one abstention.
Giroux-Bougard’s letter indicated “that any referendum held in contravention [of the federation’s bylaws] will not be recognized nor considered as binding by the Federation.”
However, PGSS president Daniel Simeone claimed that because the Federation is already in a breach of contract due to its violations of its own bylaws, the conclusions of a PGSS referendum would be binding.
“The federation is claiming that it can ignore the bylaws that it wants, and then enforce them later,” Simeone said.
“In a breach of contact situation, you go forward in a way which is appropriate and democratic, and so we are going forward with a referendum to sound out the opinions of the PGSS members on the issue. The conclusions of the referendum will be binding on the PGSS as a corporate body.”
Furthermore, the letter states that “members of the Referendum Oversight Committee have been appointed by the Federation and the McGill PGSS.” However, it was revealed that the PGSS only received the names of those appointed by the CFS to the Referendum Oversight Committee in a letter dated March 4, months after the deadline for appointments as stated by the Federation’s bylaws.
PGSS has been planning to hold a referendum concerning their membership in CFS since October, when the PGSS filed a petition to defederate from the federation.
The CFS letter is seen by some PGSS executives as the next in a series of intimidation and delay tactics that CFS is employing to prevent the referendum from going forward.
“The fact that the CFS presumes that they can prevent Council from making decisions….and that delaying things and imposing procedural hardships on a school can prevent [a referendum from taking place] – I find that absolutely absurd, and quite insulting,” said Ladan Mahabadi, PGSS VP (External). Mahabadi also claims that, in its moves to hold a referendum, the PGSS has followed the CFS bylaws to the best of its abilities.
PGSS Council passed a motion in December mandating the Society to proceed with the referendum process.
The federation only responded in late January, past the 90-day deadline established by its bylaws, without any mention of the dates of the referendum nor of its appointed members to the Referendum Oversight Committee.
Due to what the PGSS considered to be CFS’s violations of its own bylaws, it filed procedures in the Quebec Superior Court to enforce a referendum.
In a letter received shortly before the first court hearing, CFS required that the referendum be held over a period of two days, March 31 and April 1, and, according to Mahabadi, without consultation with the PGSS.
“The PGSS views that any attempt to have a two-day polling period is clearly an attempt to ensure that quorum is not met, and is a stalling and delaying tactic,” Simeone said.