Recap: CFS semi-annual meeting

Student representatives from across Canada gathered in Ottawa from June 4-8 for the Canadian Federation of Student’s (CFS) semi-annual meeting to debate issues and discuss policies, services, and campaigns for students.

The CFS is the largest student association in Canada and has been uniting more than 650,000 students in democratic decisions to better the lives of students since its establishment in 1981.

Over the course of the four-day meeting, the CFS expanded its membership, held workshops, and unanimously voted in favour of three emergency motion.

CFS welcomes new member

The semi-annual meeting started with a greeting by the Circle of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students, a presentation by National Executive Team presented a report which updates delegates on the successes of last year; primarily the Federation’s National Day of Action on Nov. 2.

The highlight of the meeting however according to the CFS blog was welcoming their newest CFS member.

After an amendment to increase the vote percentage requirement to federate last year by making it 15 per cent of the student vote instead of 10 per cent, CFS welcomed the Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students (DAGS) as a member after CFS delegates ratified their referendum results.

After the delegates ratified their referendum results and officially welcomed them, the DAGS tweeted, “We’re in! Time to fight for grads across Canada!”

Indigenous students and issues

As Canada prepares for its 150th anniversary celebration, day two of the meeting began with a workshop called Resist 150, a workshop on colonialism which was led by six speakers who focused on mobilizing student movements to challenge racism, xenophobia, and colonialism.

Speakers reminded the delegates that Canada’s 150 anniversary is a celebration of loss of language and culture for Indigenous people.

However, CFS also announced more funding in their 2017 budget to support programs for Indigenous students.

Copyright Modernization Act

CFS also discussed the Copyright Modernization Act and how it impacts students.

They held a workshop called Defending Fair Dealing in Copyright which explained what copyright is, how Canada defines it in current legislation, and how the upcoming review of the Copyright Modernization Act impacts students.

According to the CFS website, “Fair dealing is the ability to use material without permission and payment when the use is fair for these purposes: research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review or news reporting.”

Since students interact with copyrighted material on a regular basis to write papers, conduct research and give presentations, in 2012, CFS worked coalition partners to expand the definition of fair dealing which helps students access copyrighted material without paying high fees.

Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly told CBC earlier this year that will be a review of the Copyright Act done by the Parliament committee on heritage.

The CFS website said, “this workshop was a great way to make student aware of upcoming challenges to copyright and of the Canadian Federation of Students’ upcoming campaign tackling copyright issues.”

Three emergency motions

On the final day of the meeting, delegates voted unanimously to support three emergency motions.

The first was a motion to support Beatrice Hunter, an Inuk Elder who was charged for her actions in protesting the Muskrat Falls project by demanding her freedom and donating two thousand dollars to her legal fund.

The second was a motion to support amendments to Bill S-3, addressing discrimination against Indigenous women.

Finally, delegates voted in favour of supporting students in Newfoundland and Labrador by opposing the government’s action of not fulfilling a commitment to accessible and well-funded education.

Delegates also elected a new National Executive, with Coty Zachariah taking over from Bilan Arte as national chairperson.

Photo credit: Meagan Casalino