UMSU unable to leave federation of students

Union cannot hold a decertification vote again until 2027

The University of Manitoba Students’ Union was unable to present a motion to leave the Canadian Federation of Students at the rescheduled closing plenary of the federation’s National General Meeting this past Thursday.

The most recent Canadian Federation of Students National General Meeting was held in November, where UMSU executives travelled to Ottawa. Initially, the union planned on presenting the referendum results and a motion to leave the federation at the event’s closing plenary session.

However, the conference was suspended unexpectedly, which delayed the closing plenary until last week.

At UMSU’s Jan. 26 board meeting, UMSU president Jaron Rykiss made the announcement that the union could not present the motion. Rykiss claimed that, prior to the motion being ruled out of order, he had received confirmation from Canadian Federation of Students staff that the union would be able to present.

He also said that other federation member locals supported UMSU’s bid to present and debate the motion to leave the Canadian Federation of Students.

At the board meeting, Rykiss cited the results of UMSU’s recent referendum where just over 54 per cent of the 5,747 voters — who made up around one fifth of the total undergraduate student body — chose to leave the federation as a clear indicator that U of M students wish to leave the Canadian Federation of Students.

He claimed that the referendum was protected by the University of Manitoba Students’ Union Act, and that it was court-affirmed after the dismissal of an injunction filed by the Canadian Federation of Students with the Manitoba Court of King’s bench in an attempt to stop the referendum from proceeding.

During referendum campaigning, members of both the side in favour of leaving the federation and the side in favour of staying in the federation confirmed that the referendum would cost around $10,000.

The UMSU referendum manual reads that both sides involved in a referendum can be reimbursed by UMSU for up to $5,000 of campaign expenses. However, an UMSU board-endorsed side may also use UMSU financial resources and staff.

The exact amount of money spent by each side to campaign during UMSU’s most recent referendum has not been made public.

Although UMSU’s bylaws and the Court of King’s bench ruled that the referendum could proceed, the federation’s bylaws do not allow for decertification votes to be conducted online. The bylaws state that decertification voting must be done by paper ballot, and “cannot be conducted in any other manner.” In UMSU’s referendum, voting was conducted entirely online.

For now, Rykiss said that the executive team will “continue conversations with legal counsel to the UMSU board and advisors on what next steps can be taken to see out the decision of our members and to leave [the Canadian Federation of Students].”

According to federation bylaws, UMSU will not be able to hold another decertification vote until October 2027, unless the federation’s national executive waives this restriction with a two-thirds majority vote.

The UMSU Act states that union membership in any external organization must be affirmed by a majority vote of its council every two years. Despite this requirement, currently the union is unable to leave the Canadian Federation of Students without adhering to the federation’s bylaws.

According to Rykiss, the next national meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students is not expected to take place until November.

Rykiss said that the reasoning behind why the union was not allowed to present its motion to decertify at the plenary is unclear, and he added that UMSU will continue to seek clarification from the federation. Rykiss said the union feels that challenges to the chair’s ruling were not adequately addressed, and that it will seek further explanation of this as well.

“UMSU reiterates that [the Canadian Federation of Students] should respect the voices of UM undergraduate students, and recognize that parting ways is the best solution for all parties involved,” Rykiss said.

Regarding the lawsuit that UMSU is currently facing from the federation alleging nearly a million dollars in unpaid membership fees, Rykiss said that UMSU will not be commenting further on the matter for the time being.

“Our team remains determined and dedicated to fulfil our promise of listening to students, and to be held accountable,” he said.

Canadian Federation of Students president Marie Dolcetti-Koros was unable to provide comment on UMSU’s announcement by time of publication.