By Izabella Balcerzak
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) was nowhere to be found at the Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) annual general meeting in Gatineau, Que. held Nov. 16 to 19.
The CFS is the largest and oldest student movement in Canada. It currently represents more than 650,000 college, undergraduate, graduate, part-time and international students in nine provinces.
A member since 1982, the RSU pays more than $500,000 to the CFS to support its campaigns, movements and resources all geared toward a “United Student Front.”
The RSU decided not to attend since it was too expensive for the union to go, said RSU president Ram Ganesh. They also chose not to ask another local to vote on their behalf.
Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR), Local 105, was in attendance. They were represented by executive director Nicole Picton and Amanda Lin, vice-president services and finance.
CESAR was active throughout the conference, and were clear about their positive thoughts on being a CFS member.
The motions CESAR supported that passed include one to extend membership status for the Mature and Part-Time University Students’ Association (MAPUS) by one year.
BLC makes emergency motion
Ryerson’s Black Liberation Collective (BLC) made an appearance during the emergency motions, urging the CFS to support local and grassroots students campaigns—even those from unions who are not members of the organization.
They requested financial and tangible resources, which would go toward media training, learning organizational tactics, externally facilitated anti-oppression training and understanding institutional mechanics. The resources would be locally available to campuses and online.
Their third request was for an emergency fund to be created for unions, student groups and student organizers, based on financial need for issues like legal representation.
This motion was read by members of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa and echoed by Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, the racialized students’ representative for the CFS, who said the relationship between the two groups and the federation has been that “the CFS doesn’t show up for them.
“It’s becoming more and more evident that [the CFS] is more about politics and more about power and privilege than showing up for the people who need it the most,” she said.
Shanese Steele, the national Circle chair of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students for the CFS who identifies as Black and Indigenous, said she feels the CFS isn’t “about radical organizing” like they claim to be. “If all you can do is write fucking letters and not put yourselves on the line, then what is the point?”
Olson Crow, a member of Ryerson University’s Indigenous Students Rising (ISR) and the CFS’ national trans constituency commissioner, clarified that although ISR took part in activism efforts with the BLC, the language of the emergency motion and what it was about was completely news to him.
The motion was ultimately pushed to the national executive, just before the meeting adjourned.
Former RSU president doesn’t get podcast funding
Another heated topic brought up during closing plenary was a motion suggesting a $1,000 donation be made to the Sandy & Nora political podcast, which is co-hosted by former RSU president Nora Loreto.
Loreto faced multiple online attacks earlier this year after she took to social media to state the overwhelming support given to Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims and their families was influenced by the victims being white, male and young.
A suggestion was made to support her and fund her podcast to make it more accessible. This motion was defeated. The motion that passed was that the federation “investigate tools to combat social media campaigns of fascists and the alt-right.”