To members in BC,

It is my responsibility as your provincial Chairperson to inform you of a vote that happened at the national general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) today,  Saturday, June 9. At the meeting, student representatives from across Canada voted to sever their formal relationship with students’ unions in BC through the CFS – they voted to expel us.

The strife between students’ unions in BC and the national organization is no secret; in fact, it has been well documented since 2014 in student newspapers and in reports published by the BCFS Executive Committee annually, available online here (the appendix starts on page 59). We attempted to raise our grievances, get answers to our questions, and bring transparency to an organization we helped found. But in all attempts we were shut out, ostracized, and attacked.

When the CFS failed us, students’ unions made the hard decision in BC to begin the process to disaffiliate from the CFS. The process is arduous, and involves a petition of at least 15% of members requesting a referendum on membership. Over the past 18 months students at nearly every CFS-affiliated school in BC have submitted such a petition (in some cases, twice), yet the CFS has denied referendums in every case. Frustrations about this culminated most publicly at Camosun College, and resulted in an open letter being written to Camosun students from other students’ unions about their own, similar experiences. This letter is available online here.

Instead of taking seriously the concerns of BC members and making changes to the organization, the National Executive decided to solve this membership dispute by putting forward a motion to expel BCFS member locals.

Though we would have preferred the organization become transparent and democratic, the motion of expulsion at this meeting was a way to resolve the ongoing dispute without going through the expensive and problematic referendum processes. It also avoids the inevitable lawsuits that have arisen from nearly every recent referendum process the CFS has overseen.

It’s time for us to look to the future. Our provincial students’ union is strong and only getting stronger. Together in BC students have fought for and won incredible victories! Because of our efforts, tuition fees for adult basic education and English language learning courses were eliminated last year. And because of our efforts, interest on student loans was reduced (with a promise from this new government for full elimination).

There is so much more for us to focus on!

Let’s get an investment in open education resources to combat the high costs of textbooks, which are gouging students!

Let’s win a system of need-based grants to stop skyrocketing student debt and help those who can’t afford to pay their tuition fees up-front. 

Let’s get fairness for international students with the implementation of a cap on tuition fee increases. Thanks to unregulated increases, their fees can increase by 5%, 9%, or even 20% (it happened this year!)… a cap will give predictability and fairness so they can budget for their studies in BC.

Let’s get UNDRIP and Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations implemented on our campuses.

We’ll arrive back in BC with reinvigoration in our provincial movement. We will discuss how we move forward. There will be disagreements, but our maturity and competence understands that disagreement and debate is how we grow, and the only thing left for the BCFS to do now is just that – grow.

I am proud to be your Chairperson during this moment in our history. This is not a regretful letter. This is a thank-you letter. Together, we achieved one more victory today – freedom from an organization that claimed to represent us while oppressing our democratic rights at every turn. We will not be silent in our appreciation of you, our members in BC, for coming together in response to this challenge.

Thank you for believing in our capacity as leaders. Thank you for being a unified voice that I could carry to Ottawa. Thank you for believing in the BCFS and all the work I know we will accomplish in the near future.

Together, we are BC students. Together, we are BC strong.

In solidarity,

Aran Armutlu