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Kwantlen vote put off

Students at Kwantlen University College will have to wait another couple of weeks to vote whether to remain part of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

The Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) had scheduled a referendum at Lower Mainland campuses this week. The KSA has been pushing to relinquish membership in the national organization, a move that would save a full-time student just $7.60 per semester in fees, but that would deny CFS about $150,000 annually from Kwantlen registrants.

The CFS filed an injunction in the Supreme Court of B.C. at the end of February to have the vote postponed until fall. The petition claimed the KSA had broken several bylaws and had been campaigning outside the scheduled campaign period. The federation also argued the joint committee in charge of overseeing the referendum had made little progress on important matters such as agreeing on the referendum question and voting procedures.

However, at a hearing late last week, a judge decided not to postpone the vote until fall, but gave the referendum committee members until tomorrow (Thursday, March 20) at 10 a.m. to agree on the guidelines – or he’d establish them on their behalf.

He did agree the KSA had circumvented the process by appointing its own chief returning officer (but maintained an impartial third-party is still required), but dismissed claims that campaigning was taking place outside the prescribed timeline.

“This is a textbook example of why students shouldn’t be part of the CFS,” said Laura Anderson, KSA’s chairperson and director of external affairs. “They purposely held up the process so they could have the dates changed purely for their own political advantage.”

The CFS maintains it is not interested in stalling the referendum, but wants Kwantlen to follow the rules agreed upon by the federation’s members.

“This is about ensuring that there is a fair and transparent process in place for the students at Kwantlen to be able to fairly evaluate membership and have a transparent vote,” said Amanda Aziz, national chair of the CFS.

She said referenda are held across Canada regularly to both vote on joining and leaving the federation and such problems are not encountered.

The CFS is Canada’s largest student lobby group and has about 80 member universities and colleges nationwide. It was established in 1981 to provided students a more united, effective voice provincially and nationally. The KSA has been a member since 1982.

The Kwantlen referendum is now scheduled for April 8-10, with the campaign period officially starting March 25.

sreynolds@surreyleader.com

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