A Cape Breton University student has launched a petition to cut ties with the Canadian Federation of Students after it ordered the students' union to pay more than $300,000 in back dues.
CBU student Brandon MacDonald created the petition because he feels the students' union has been treated unfairly.
“CFS has claimed we've been members of the organization since the last referendum,” he said. “However, they haven't offered us any personal services or students services to the student union and I don't feel they'll continue to offer any services to us.”
More than 700 students have signed the petition, which is just under 30 per cent of the student body at the university.
Students voted to leave the CFS almost unanimously eight years ago. But the national group refused to acknowledge the vote, arguing it had not followed its bylaws.
An Ontario court agreed and order the union to pay almost $300,000 in back dues to CFS, which led MacDonald to launch a petition asking for a new referendum.
“One of the things I’ve actually been concerned about is some students were fearful to actually sign the petition to hold a vote because they were worried about getting in trouble with the organization,” said MacDonald. “That spoke volumes to me about what kind of organization we're part of.”
Since classes resumed, students' union president Brandon Ellis says his office has been bombarded with students angry with the CFS. As a result, he says up to 80 full-time student's jobs could be lost.
“There’s a lot of students that are red hot mad about this litigation and how it has played out with CFS,” said Ellis. “Students still feel passionate that 92 per cent of students did vote to leave this organization.”
As it stands now, CFS can approve the petition and set dates for a new referendum. But it won't be validated unless the $300,000 in dues is paid off.
Ellis is hoping to get financial help from the university.
“Maybe look at some type of payment arrangement to which we can borrow from the university and potentially pay back over a set number of years,” he said.
Ellis says CFS has up to three months to approve the petition.
The students' union is currently working with a national law firm who has filed an appeal against the Ontario court’s decision.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.