BC Supreme Court establishes precedent in KSA v. CFS-BC ruling
January 23, 2010 by Sarah Jackson
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Kwantlen Student Association Wednesday morning, putting an end to a two-year dispute over the Canadian Federation of Students-B.C. Component’s refusal to accept Derek Robertson, the student associations’s representative, on its board of directors.
Madame Justice Brown’s decision, stated that the CFS-BC board of directors was in violation of section 24 of the Society Act-BC and the CFS-BC’s own bylaws. The ruling set a precedent that bars societies in B.C. from applying provisions beyond those set in the Society Act-B.C. to determine qualification for appointment to a board of directors or membership of a society.
Brown awarded the KSA with Robertson’s appointment to the board of directors and legal costs associated with the court petition.
“We’re perplexed,” said Shamus Reid, chairperson for the CFS-BC. “The B.C. Society Act provides that directors of society are legally responsible for protecting the society from harm.”
Robertson, director of external affairs for the KSA and ex-officio representative for the CFS-BC, held office on the board of directors for the CFS-BC previous to a conflict of interest in February 2008, when he resigned to campaign to have the KSA leave the CFS.
Following a referendum, which reaffirmed Kwantlen students’ interest in remaining members of the CFS, Robertson’s nomination to rejoin the board of directors was not ratified by the CFS-BC.
“He intended to do damage to society in all comments. The only check against that is the ratification process,” said Reid.
Many other societies in B.C. have a dual ratification process, he added. “This ruling will have a profound negative consequence for societies all across B.C.”
Robertson said he is thrilled about the decision. “I’ve been quite discouraged by the fact that Kwantlen has been without a representative for almost two years. I have to keep in mind that I do now have obligations to both societies. I am there to represent the views of Kwantlen students and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
He admitted that he doubts Kwantlen students will notice any difference in benefits from their CFS membership. “A representative on the board of directors is simply a symbolic thing… The CFS will go on with business as usual.”
Reid is also concerned about whether Kwantlen students will see any improvement in the benefits they receive. He said Robertson has made it difficult for the CFS to be on campus but it will be a priority to ensure that members have access to services they are entitled to “regardless of whether the local leadership is being antagonistic.”
“I don’t like to speculate on the judge’s background and experience, but I certainly think that this ruling doesn’t show a familiarity with the societies system within B.C.,” he said. “Any court ruling that overturns the democratic rule of a majority ruling is not in the best interest of society so we don’t think that is an appropriate ruling to make.”
Robertson considered the court battle, which included screenshots of his membership in anti-CFS Facebook groups, “a hail Mary.” The KSA focused on the law in the Society Act regarding requirements for being a director of a society, he said.
“The CFS cannot prevent diverging views from the board of directors anymore, which I’m sure they’ve been doing.”
The CFS-BC is honouring the ruling but will be “evaluating our legal options,” said Reid, hinting at the possibility of an appeal.
“We accept that at this point Mr. Robertson is the director and we certainly expect that he will uphold his responsibilities, though I believe that he has shown inability to do that in the past,” he said.
Robertson’s current term as director of external affairs and ex-officio representative for the CFS-BC will end on March 31, 2010.