Debate sparked over Canadian Federation of Students involvement at campus

Controversial student group runs tuition affordability event with Queen’s Socialists

The event logo for the Town Hall event that caused contention among students.

On Oct. 23, an advertisement was posted on the Queen’s New Democratic Party’s Facebook page for a Town Hall meeting involving the Canadian Federation of Students on the topic of Ontario tuition fees. 

Aware of CFS’s past reputation, which includes allegations of internal corruption and legal disputes with various university student groups, former ASUS President and current student senator Brandon Jamieson was shocked by their appearance and took to Twitter to voice his disappointment with the NDP group for working with the CFS.

“Students at Queen’s are among the brightest in the country,” Jamieson said. “And I’m confident that they’re smart enough to understand the dangers of ever associating with an organization like this.”

“They’re more interested in spending student dollars suing students than fighting for them,” he said.

“Just last year, Cape Breton University Students Union filed for bankruptcy after the CFS sued them over a by-law dispute. At Concordia, the CFS demanded $1.8M in legal fees from their student union.”

In the past, CFS has also had legal disputes with student unions at Capilano University, McGill, Simon Fraser, Guelph and the University of Victoria. When it comes to the topic of tuition affordability, Jamieson affirmed that holding a Town Hall was not a bad idea — he only took opposition against the involvement of the CFS. 

“I fully support the need to have a robust and full discussion on campus about the issues related to rising tuition costs in the province,” he said. “That said, I’m not willing to have a discussion with a bunch of crooked autocrats disguising their intentions behind a flashy revolutionary banner and a weak slogan.”

After Jamieson took to Twitter, the Queen’s NDP co-chairs Samantha Kilpatrick and Carling Counter clarified that they were not sponsoring the event. Writing to The Journal, they clarified that the event was sponsored by the Queen’s Socialists group.

“While we are not the Queen’s Socialists and do not coordinate events with them, we respect their position as a voice for students on campus,” they wrote.

“The QNDP is committed to fostering debate on issues that matter to students. We are not aligned with CFS, however fair tuition for all students is critical… the QNDP felt the responsibility to make our members aware of
this event.”

The student who posted the event was Jonathan Shepherd, a member of QNDP.

“We’re always sharing events,” Shepherd told The Journal. “We just happened to see that the Queen’s Socialists were having a town hall on free tuition and we shared their event.”

He stated that there was no affiliation between QNDP and CFS, though confirming that there was some overlap between members of the QNDP and the Queen’s Socialists who sponsored the event, himself included.

“I’m aware of the history of the CFS,” he said.

However, he pointed out that the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), which the AMS is a member of, has advocated for higher tuition fees and placed the responsibility on students for their financial situation.

He admitted that CFS itself has high costs of $16 per student versus the $2.90 membership fee of OUSA, however stated that “recently [the CFS] has had incredible success in advocating for an end to gender violence across this country.”

“I can’t speak to lawsuits that happened 10 years ago and are no longer active,” he said of the legal battles with other universities. He concluded that there was no intention from either of his clubs to bring CFS to campus — despite their involvement in the Town Hall.

“It was a little out of line for the [former] ASUS exec to suggest that QNDP and CFS have any sort of affiliation,” he said.

When reached for comment, CFS’s media relation representative said that they were invited to join in the conversation by the Queen’s Socialists group.

“We speak anywhere we’re invited, because the fight for affordable education is not just a fight for some students but a fight for all students,” they stated.

The event took place on Oct. 23 in the Biosciences Complex. 

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