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PGSS seeks to withdraw from Canadian Federation of Students

Canadian Federation of Students legal case

Graduate students at McGill are seeking once more to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

On Nov. 6, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS) heard from a group of graduate students who have started a petition to withdraw from the national student association.

“Individual PGSS members […] have mobilized to demonstrate to CFS once more that the members of PGSS do not want to stay within CFS,” PGSS Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney said. “We support this effort to get CFS to recognize that PGSS is no longer a member.”

PGSS Councillors Ge Sa and Matthew Bouchard, two organizers behind the petition, started the petition to leave CFS because they said it lacks transparency and because PGSS’s interests are already represented on a provincial level by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ).

“As a member of PGSS, I do not believe our membership to CFS is a trustworthy, efficient, nor productive relationship,” Bouchard said. “There are certain things that you can lobby for on a federal level, but we’re already affiliated with other organizations on a federal level that would lobby in our defence, like […] the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities.”

Sa also cited financial reasons behind their desire to leave.

“[CFS] never publish their budget […] so we have absolutely no idea how they operate, how they use our money,” Sa said.

PGSS, which has been a CFS member since 1993, has attempted to leave the organization before. On Oct. 19, 2009, members submitted a petition to CFS asking to hold a referendum to leave, also citing issues regarding CFS’s transparency. Although PGSS’s petition acquired the mandatory number of signatures required to hold a referendum, CFS did not set the dates for the referendum within the required 90-day-period.

Consequently, PGSS filed court proceedings to ensure that the referendum would take place. One day before the court hearing was set to take place, CFS set the referendum period to take place Mar. 31 to Apr. 1, 2010. Eighty-six per cent of the 869 PGSS members who voted were in favour of leaving CFS at that time.

“CFS has consistently refused to recognize the results of this referendum and the matter is currently before the courts, with PGSS seeking a declaration that it is no longer a member of the CFS,” PGSS’ executive summary of the case reads.

The new petition aims for CFS to recognize that PGSS members have considered themselves to not belong to CFS since the 2010 referendum.

According to Mooney, PGSS is prepared to pay any necessary court fees through their Special Projects Fund and a Contingency Fund, although these funds were not created with the purpose of paying CFS-related costs.

Since the first unsuccessful attempt to leave in 2010, PGSS has not paid CFS fees but has continued collecting an equivalent fee from students to hold in the Special Projects Fund.

“CFS sends the PGSS letters claiming we continue to owe them dues even after PGSS members voted to leave in 2010,” Mooney said. “All told, we estimate their claim to amount to around $400,000 over the years.  Although we are very confident in our legal case, to be responsible we have to plan for every scenario.”

If PGSS wins the legal case, Mooney said the accumulated Special Projects Fund could instead be used to construct a daycare or to modernize Thomson House.


Association of Postdoctoral Fellows to receive grant

A motion passed at Wednesday’s Council meeting will allocate a grant of $1,500 to the Association of Postdoctoral Fellows (APF).

“The APF is a semi-autonomous association which frequently organizes events and activities targeted at and responding to the needs of postdoctoral fellows at McGill,” the motion reads.

Mooney said the motion would facilitate the allocation of funds for events and activities targeted towards postdoctoral fellows.

“Currently, the APF has no budget and must apply for a grant each time from the executive committee of the PGSS for every activity and event they wish to plan,” Mooney said.

According to the motion, the grant will create a better situation for postdoctoral fellows since neither PGSS nor McGill can fully accommodate their needs.

“Postdoctoral fellows have specific needs and problems which neither the PGSS nor McGill is fully capable of responding to,” the motion reads.

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