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The McGill Post-Graduate Student Society voted to leave the Canadian Federation of Students in a referendum last month. It has been a long and litigious road to get to this point: since 2010, it has cost the PGSS upwards of $400,000 in legal fees in trying to disassociate from the organization. Now, the PGSS has taken their cause to court once again in order to ensure a fair referendum process. On January 7, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled that some of the restrictions imposed by the CFS on the referendum were unconstitutional, including banning campaigning in the student union building or wherever liquor is served.
The PGSS isn’t the only Quebec student union that is no longer satisfied with the CFS. Since 2009, nearly all Quebec schools represented by the CFS have tried to leave the organization. The Concordia Undergraduate Student Union, the Concordia Postgraduate Student Union, and Dawson College have all been locked into legal battles in order to force the CFS to recognize the results of their respective defederation referendums.
The complaints against the CFS range from corruption, to electoral fraud, to suppression of free speech. In a scathing commentary published by the McGill Daily, former PGSS president Jonathan Mooney wrote, “CFS will stand up for freedom of expression with regard to its own speech but will seek to limit freedom of expression when its members are seeking to leave. This approach…demonstrates the contradiction between CFS’ principles and its practices.”
On their end, the PGSS cites ideological differences for their clashes with Quebec student unions. “Historically, the Federation and Québec students’ unions have had a very different relationship than with schools in other provinces,” says Jessica McCormick, national chairperson of the CFS, via email. “There have been longstanding grievances on both sides.”
Currently, the PGSS have no plans to pursue membership with any other union.
Jessica Prupas is rabble.ca’s Blogs intern.