GSA questions membership with CFS-MB

After finding conflicting documentation surrounding their original application, the University of Manitoba Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) is questioning the validity of their membership with the Canadian Federation of Students — Manitoba.

A preliminary report, titled “What is the relationship between CFS and UMGSA? What is the relationship between CFS-MB and UMGSA,” explains that there are several letters that were found within UMGSA archives “disputing membership status of UMGSA immediately following the alleged ratification of said membership at a national meeting of CFS and continuing through most of that term.”

The report, authored by Liz Gonsalves, GSA research assistant, goes on to explain that GSA’s application for membership in 2001 with the CFS was signed by then-treasurer Vinod Varadharajan, and that there is some documentation within UMGSA archives that may suggest that Varadharajan was not authorized to sign this letter.

“There was confusion as to whether or not they had the authority to sign and enter contracts on behalf of GSA,” Gonsalves explained.

Peter Nawrot, president of GSA, explained that he originally hired Gonsalves go through the UMGSA archives maintained at the CFS-MB office to find documentation of a possible outstanding loan of $5,000 from CFS-MB to the GSA.

Because GSA recently obtained full autonomy from the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, Nawrot said he wanted to ensure that “all our bills were paid” to CFS now that they function as an independent student union under CFS.

Nawrot said he did not want to pay CFS-MB until he found sufficient documentation that the outstanding loan existed.

While searching for documentation of this possible loan, Gonsalves found several other documents that called into question the GSA’s application to become part of CFS and CFS-MB.

“To put it in a nutshell, it started off with a possible loan. That’s all we wanted to know, do we owe them money or not? And then opening up a filing cabinet and seeing all this other stuff . . . it caused grave concern to us,” Nawrot said.

Marakary Bayo, Manitoba chairperson of CFS, said he has been made aware of the GSA’s concerns and CFS and CFS-MB are working to fully address them.

He said the GSA has raised the possibility they may not be members of CFS and CFS-MB, and that CFS-MB is “working tirelessly” with the national office to ensure that the GSA is a full member.

Provincial executives of CFS-MB voted to table the concerns of the GSA until their next meeting in February, he explained.

“At that meeting, the provincial executives will need to decide what to do with the information presented,” he said.

Gonsalves’s preliminary report has been distributed amongst GSA councillors and will be presented to all GSA members at their annual general meeting on Feb. 2. At that time, the GSA executive will ask their membership to vote on what they would like them to do with this information.

The membership will also be asked to vote on whether to hold their fees to CFS-MB. Nawrot explained that he is asking GSA members to vote on this because if the GSA does pay their fees to CFS-MB “that is an admission that we are members.”