Monday, October 23, 2017

CFS tensions continue over Selkirk College student fees

April 12, 2017 by Adam Marsh, student editor

Tensions continue to rise between the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and Selkirk College Students’ Union (SCSU), with the CFS allegedly threatening legal action against SCSU, according to a press release sent out by SCSU on March 21.

The SCSU has sent a petition to the CFS asking to hold a referendum in which students would decide whether or not to leave the national organization, but the CFS says their bylaws prohibit the referendum from happening until outstanding fees are paid. (Camosun College students are also paying members of the CFS.)

Students at Selkirk, which is in Castlegar, pay fees for membership in both CFS and the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS); fees for both organizations are given to BCFS, who then are required to pass along CFS’ share to the national organization, according to a letter sent to SCSU from the CFS’ lawyer. According to CFS national treasurer Peyton Veitch, the BCFS hasn’t passed along those fees, and until it does, the referendum can’t happen; SCSU says that this is why the CFS threatened legal action.

Castlegar’s Selkirk College (photo provided).

According to multiple sources, the BCFS is withholding the CFS fees because CFS also owes BCFS fees.

Veitch says it’s not true that the CFS threatened a lawsuit, but says that there was an ongoing dispute about the outstanding fees.

“It initially looked like a judge might have had to make a ruling on this issue,” says Veitch, “but we’re very happy that it appears we can resolve this issue without a court-imposed solution.”

SCSU spokesperson Santanna Hernandez says that SCSU did everything according to the CFS bylaws, including paying the CFS fees (to the BCFS). BCFS chairperson Simka Marshall says the CFS knows SCSU has paid their CFS membership fees. She would not comment on whether or not the Selkirk CFS fees have been given to the CFS by the BCFS (who are a separate legal entity from the national organization).

“Fees shouldn’t be an issue,” says Marshall. “They’ve been paid to the office here, and we are a component of the national organization.”

Veitch says that students’ money should be going to where they’re told it’s going.

“We have informed Selkirk College Students’ Union that they should direct the BCFS to remit those fees as soon as possible to the federation,” says Veitch, “for the simple reason that these are fees that students at Selkirk College paid with the understanding that they would be used to support national campaigns and services that the federation provides.”

Legal documents sent from CFS’ lawyer say that the BCFS had to remit fees to the national organization on or before March 21. Veitch says that, as of April 11, that hasn’t happened.

Hernandez says that students at Selkirk are scared and upset that these legal complications are taking place, and says that threatening legal action is a tactic the CFS often uses.

“What we’re focused on,” says Hernandez, “is trying to give the students their right to vote, and this lawsuit has basically stopped that from happening.”

Veitch says that the BCFS must remit SCSU’s CFS student fees so that SCSU can hold a fair and democratic referendum.

“It’s a clear requirement of our bylaws that a referendum can’t be scheduled unless outstanding membership fees are remitted,” says Veitch. “And we want to make sure that students have an opportunity to participate in a referendum.”

In February, members of the CFS showed up unannounced at Selkirk College to talk to students without SCSU knowing, according to emails shown to Nexus.

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