By Annie Arnone
Day one in Gatineau, Que. started beautifully. My colleague and I, Noushin Ziafati, boarded our train in Toronto and made our way into the swanky conference hall where the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) Annual General Meeting (AGM) was being held.
My excitement faded in a matter of hours. I was warned that these meetings were hard to get through. Motions are often left untouched, some remain on the agenda for several years. But I didn’t imagine that the federation that so heavily promotes inclusivity, democratic policy and safe spaces would do such a poor job of practicing what they preached.
But I can’t deny their attempts to promote inclusivity. Two full days of the AGM are dedicated to constituency meetings, ranging from racialised students and queer students, to students with disabilities. While the organization aims to be inclusive of marginalized communities, the space that it provides is far from that.
I sat in awe as a motion to extend a question period took up the remainder of the time left for said question, and also bled into the time slot for executive reports—arguably one of the most important parts of the AGM.
I scanned the room and people were visibly upset. People left in tears feeling they weren’t being heard.
In one instance, a delegate across the room proudly addressed the fact that she’d asked another delegate to leave because she “didn’t like them”—other than a short burst of “ou’s” and “ah’s” no one seemed to care about this statement.
The Ryerson Students’ Union pays roughly half a million dollars to the CFS every year. This covers costs that go towards campaigns intended to eliminate tuition, support equity groups and advocacy.
But when some students are leaving a space intended for open dialogue, nauseous because they’re not getting answers about where their money is going, it scares me.
Fight those fees, CFS. Continue to lobby for groups that we desperately need on our campuses, but be transparent like you say you are. I never want to hear the national treasurer answer “I don’t know” to a question again. Recognize when people in the room are hurting. You pay anti-harassment officers for a reason. A chair of an AGM is not qualified to deal with “eye rolls” and “middle fingers.”
This isn’t the democratic and inclusive national student union you represent yourself as. Do better.