KSA takes CFS-BC feud to B.C. Supreme Court

October 18, 2009 by  

One-and-a-half years of bad blood between the Kwantlen Student Association and the Canadian Federation of Students, B.C. Component are about to culminate in a court battle set for Oct. 29 – 30.

The KSA filed a court petition with B.C. Supreme Court in June to settle a dispute over the CFS-BC’s refusal to ratify Kwantlen’s elected CFS-BC representative in May 2008.

“Now we find ourselves going to court, but I’m not sure why,” said Shamus Reid, chairperson for the CFS-BC.

The CFS-BC did not ratify the nomination to appoint Derek Robertson, Kwantlen’s elected director of external affairs and ex-officio representative for the CFS-BC, to the executive committee because of “actions that he took to deliberately undermine the CFS-BC,” said Reid.

“That individual was unfit as a director. The executive committee felt he couldn’t uphold his responsibilities as a director.”

The CFS-BC suggested, prior to court proceedings, that the KSA nominate a different individual to the executive committee. “The KSA has always had the opportunity to appoint another representative to the CFS,” said Reid.

Robertson said the KSA appealed to the courts for acknowledgement that the CFS-BC has no authority to disallow a member student body’s elected representative from joining the executive committee. Doing so would set a precedent avoiding future ratification disputes and would place Robertson on the committee.

“I’m not always just another CFS voice,” he said. “At times I have been very critical of the organization, and I feel that the organization could be doing a much better job.”

Robertson was a member of the CFS-BC executive committee until he resigned in February 2008 prior to a Kwantlen referendum on CFS membership. “I did not feel that I could be faithful to both organizations so I did the right thing and resigned,” he said.

After resigning, Robertson campaigned to convince students to vote against continued CFS membership. Reid said Robertson “was not forthright about his participation in a campaign to undermine the federation.” Documents that show Robertson joining anti-CFS Facebook groups before his resignation are under consideration by the B.C. Supreme Court. Following the referendum, which reaffirmed Kwantlen’s CFS membership, Robertson was re-elected and re-nominated as the CFS representative according to procedures guided by CFS bylaws but was not ratified by the executive committee, which is made up mostly by representatives from other B.C. post-secondary institutions.

The nomination and ratification processes are guided by provisions in the Societies Act and in CFS bylaws, which are being pitted against each other in the court case. While the Societies Act states that a director must act honestly and in a fitting manner, Desmond Rodenbour, general manager of the KSA, said this does not permit an organization to disqualify a person from a board of directors position if they believe someone does not have those qualities. A CFS bylaw states that the provincial executive representative shall be determined in a manner consistent with the bylaws of the local student association.

“The problem is that the CFS is somewhat secretive and chooses not to publicly post many of their internal documents,” said Rodenbour, a sentiment that Robertson shares.

“Frankly, it’s absurd for the CFS to climb in and say, ‘Well yes, there’s a process, but there’s also another process which we’re not gonna tell you about,’” said Robertson.

Rodenbour doesn’t want to elect another person to the position, calling it an issue of principle. “If they honestly believe they’ll work best only with people that they’ll agree with, they’re missing the point of democracy… If you only want one viewpoint, you can do that with one person.”

The court petition, filed during the university’s summer session, has not been revealed to students through public announcements from either organization. But Kwantlen students will be paying legal fees for both sides of the battle.

Rodenbour said legal fees could range from $10,000 to $25,000, “a very reasonable cost to have the petition resolved” when compared to the $150,000 turned over to the CFS every year.

Robertson agreed, saying, “The funny thing about this case is that Kwantlen students are being charged twice, because they’re getting charged once for legal fees with the KSA and they’re also being charged through membership dues to the CFS, which are going to this case.”

CFS membership benefits during the period without representation are questionable, according to Rodenbour, who likened the fight to the United States’ taxation without representation battle cry.

The CFS-BC is a liaison between B.C. post-secondary institutions and the government and lobbies for benefits including the reduction of tuition fees and student debt. “The CFS continues to work on issues that Kwantlen has identified as priorities,” said Reid. “Kwantlen students have given very clear direction that they want to work with other student unions all across Canada… I’m fairly mystified as to why the board of the KSA chose to [petition the court].”

Meanwhile, signatures are being collected at Kwantlen campuses to call for another referendum giving students the option to defederate from the CFS this April, when the required two-year period following CFS membership referendums has ended.


4 Responses to “KSA takes CFS-BC feud to B.C. Supreme Court”

  1. John on October 19th, 2009 4:14 pm

    Oh Shamus. You said, a year and a half ago, that you wanted to work with Kwantlen students. So we voted to stay in the CFS, and you said “Well, not just *any* Kwantlen student, we’re gonna pick someone we like.”

  2. Steve on October 20th, 2009 10:26 pm

    I just want to make it very clear that the court documents are available for anyone to see – from the Provincial Court Registry – or to make life easier, contact our General Manager, Desmond Rodenbour at gm@kusa.ca , and I’m sure he could either e-mail you a copy or arrange to have you come into the office to look at the submissions. They ideally should be on our website, or on the cfstruth.ca website which we run, and I’ll see if we can’t do that asap. We’re not trying to hide anything at all from anyone.

    As the original mover of the motion approved by KSA’s council last year, to move forward with a petition to the Supreme Court of BC asking them to clarify the law on whether or not the CFS can pick and choose a representative, I did so because our Policy Analyst at the time, Titus Gregory, had reported to council that the KSA was no longer receiving any official communication about when CFS executive committee meetings and other events were happening. Very early on after students approved to stay in the CFS, the CFS-BC component kept rattling on about how they didn’t want the student’s chosen representative to be at the table. It’s part of Derek’s job, as per our bylaws and regulations, to represent students to the CFS. If Derek quits tomorrow and Sally becomes Director of External Affairs, then it will be her job to go represent the KSA to the CFS.

    What the CFS is trying to do here is wrong. What would people think if Stephen Harper refused to recognize the elected opposition? Aside from the fact that there is no legal way he could ever do that, the people wouldn’t like it. They would raise hell about it. And that’s what we are trying to do here.

    - Steve Lee, Director of Finance / Chairperson, KSA

  3. David Foster on October 26th, 2009 6:41 pm

    Derek Robertson’s court submission can be found here:

  4. Anonymous on October 8th, 2010 2:07 pm

    [...] Student unions donate to protestor’s legal fund KSA takes CFS-BC feud to B.C. Supreme Court [...]

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