McGill graduate students moved to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) this week, following a four-day referendum that ended Thursday, with 86 per cent voting to terminate their membership in the student lobby.
Further discussion – and potentially litigation – on the federation’s relationship with the graduate student society is likely to follow, however, as the CFS has not recognized the plebiscite as legitimate.
The referendum follows a lengthy round of as-yet unresolved negotiations between CFS and PGSS on the appropriate process for defederation.
PGSS filed a petition to hold the referendum earlier in the year, though CFS failed to respond to the request by the end of its mandated time for doing so. PGSS subsequently filed for an injunction that would ratify the request at the Quebec Superior Court, but the judge deferred a final decision on the matter.
PGSS VP finance Eric Pollanen said that another court date on the referendum’s validity is slated for late May.
“Now the question is whether they’ll recognize this referendum after the fact,” said Pollanen.
He added that in the preliminary negotiations on the referendum bylaws, the CFS had pushed for the voting period to be no longer than two days, while PGSS pushed for four.
“Two days is very unlikely to reach quorum,” said Pollanen. “It’s very difficult to agree to a referendum with little possibility of reaching quorum.”
Between Monday and Thursday, during which time the referendum was held, twelve percent of PGSS students voted, thereby surpassing the five per cent quorum.
Just prior to the referendum Pollanen and Eric Reed – both representatives to the referendum oversight committee – received an email from CFS staffer Lucy Watson indicating that CFS may run a parallel two-day referendum.
In response, PGSS president Daniel Simeone sent an email to all members of PGSS warning them that the federation may make an attempt to undermine the referendum.
Alex Anderson, a member of the three-person pro-CFS Yes committee, argued that the email on the PGSS listserv was premature, and cast the CFS in a negative light without giving them to opportunity to publicly respond.
“Given that students didn’t have the chance to understand the benefits of remaining in CFS, it’s unsurprising that they voted against sustaining PGSS’s membership,” said Anderson.
PGSS has accused CFS of being litigious, corrupt, and undemocratic throughout the year.
Last week, members of the Concordia Student Union also voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the national student lobby.
For more on this topic:
Concordia, Calgary grads leave CFS
PGSS Council approves CFS referendum
CFS involved in three lawsuits in Quebec
Students at 13 unions petition to leave CFS