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Nova Scotia Students Disappointed by CFS Lawsuit Against Cape Breton Students

Student leaders across Nova Scotia expressed concern on Thursday over the recent decision in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) lawsuit against the Cape Breton University Students’ Union (CBUSU). In that decision, an Ontario Superior Court justice ordered CBUSU to pay $293,000 in damages to the CFS, in addition to their court costs. CBUSU was prompted to leave the CFS after a 2008 campus-wide disaffiliation vote where 92% percent supported leaving.

“This decision severely weakens the student movement in Nova Scotia and threatens the autonomy of our associations”, said StudentsNS Chair Fallis Thompson. “It frustrates the very idea of campus democracy and threatens the viability of an organization created to defend student interests in Cape Breton.”

The magnitude of the decision has led the CBUSU to consider all options to meet its payment obligations, up to and including bankruptcy. Services offered to students may be reduced or eliminated as means of paying the CFS. Moreover, much of the costs associated with the lawsuit will simply go towards legal fees that deliver no value to students.

“Any time you see students suing students you know that far too much time, money and energy are being wasted”, said Troy Mrazek, StFX Students’ Union President. “Students’ needs are too serious for unions to spend their money fighting amongst ourselves, so it’s really disappointing that a big national organization is not allowing this little Nova Scotia student union to focus on delivering value to its students.”

The Ottawa-based CFS has been consistently embroiled in legal actions with student unions that attempt to disaffiliate, including at McGill, Concordia, U of T and UVic. Unfortunately, the CFS does not publish figures on legal costs, making it impossible for students to know how much of their funds are being channeled to its lawyers.

One of StudentsNS’ guiding values is ‘student voice’, i.e. the idea that students should have a say in the direction of their government, universities, and student associations. StudentsNS has never engaged in legal action with fellow students. “This decision flies in the face of the ability of students to make decisions on their campuses, the entire premise of the lawsuit is anti-democratic”, said StudentsNS Executive Director Kyle Power. “For StudentsNS, part of being ‘member-driven’ is that we allow members to join or leave through processes that they themselves establish.”

“StudentsNS will continue to support the CBUSU in any way possible during this time, and we have faith they will continue to effectively represent and serve their students,” said Thompson.

Students Nova Scotia is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy and research group that represents postsecondary students from across Nova Scotia. Our members include Acadia, Cape Breton, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities, the Kingstec and Annapolis Valley Campuses of the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.

For more information, please contact:
Kyle Power, StudentsNS Executive Director
Phone: 902 331 0628
Email: director@studentsns.ca

Kate Elliot