‘ This is a ma­jor headache’

CBU stu­dents union or­dered to pay nearly $300,000 to na­tional stu­dent body


An On­tario Su­pe­rior Court jus­tice has or­dered the stu­dents union at Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity to pay nearly $ 300,000 to the Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents af­ter rul­ing a 2008 ref­er­en­dum vote to leave the na­tional group was flawed.

“I am sat­is­fied on all of the ev­i­dence be­fore me that the ref­er­en­dum held by (CBU stu­dents union) was in­valid in that it did not com­ply with the then pre­vail­ing by­laws and that the vote on defed­er­a­tion can­not be rec­og­nized on any other ba­sis,” ruled Jus­tice Robert Beau­doin.

“Only the in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of the (CBU stu­dents union) could ini­ti­ate the process of defed­er­a­tion by way of pe­ti­tion. In this case, it is clear that the process was ini­ti­ated by the vot­ing mem­ber, the ex­ec­u­tive of the (CBU stu­dents union),” Beau­doin said in a de­ci­sion re­leased Fri­day.

As a re­sult of the rul­ing, cur­rent stu­dents union pres­i­dent Bran­don El­lis said Mon­day the ex­ec­u­tive now must con­sider a host of op­tions, in­clud­ing bank­ruptcy, in a bid to pay the or­dered amount.

He ad­mits that some ser­vices of­fered by the stu­dents union could be re­duced or elim­i­nated, and there is still a de­ci­sion whether to ap­peal the rul­ing within the next 30 days.

“We cer­tainly have some se­ri­ous gov­er­nance and bud­get­ing de­ci­sions to make. This is a ma­jor headache and ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment,” said El­lis.

The stu­dents union of­fers a host of ser­vices through a stu­dent fee each stu­dent pays for each en­rolled course. Among the ser­vices of­fered in­clude a con­ve­nience store, lounge, tu­tor­ing ser­vices, a women’s cen­tre and Capers Help­ing Capers, a com­mu­nity char­ity.

“This de­ci­sion is go­ing to hurt ev­ery­one from stu­dents to the com­mu­nity,” said El­lis, not­ing the union of­fers em­ploy­ment through such ser­vices for some 80 peo­ple.

The court or­dered the CBU stu­dents union to pay $293,000 in back dues to the na­tional fed­er­a­tion and that be­cause the 2008 vote was in­valid, the CBU stu­dents union con­tin­ues to be a full mem­ber of the fed­er­a­tion.

Beau­doin heard ar­gu­ments in the case in Jan­uary in Ot­tawa. He heard from sev­eral CBU wit­nesses, in­clud­ing Ian Lind­say, who in 2008 was stu­dents union pres­i­dent.

“In this case, if there is any bad faith, it is one the part of the (CBU stu­dents union)’s ex­ec­u­tive that had a pos­i­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity, as a vot­ing mem­ber, to sup­port the ob­jec­tives of the fed­er­a­tion and to abide by all the pro­vi­sions of the by­laws,” wrote the judge.

He noted that at no time did Lind­say tell the stu­dent coun­cil that the Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents was con­test­ing the va­lid­ity of the ref­er­en­dum. As well, Beau­doin said that from a re­view of meet­ing min­utes there was no time Lind­say in­formed coun­cil mem­bers that the fed­er­a­tion would rec­og­nize a ref­er­en­dum vote if it took place in Septem­ber 2008 with­out trig­ger­ing any ad­di­tional stu­dent fees for CBU.

“This was all part of a plan by the ex­ec­u­tive to defed­er­ate from the (Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents) dur­ing its term of of­fice. There was no ev­i­dence that this ex­ec­u­tive was elected on a plat­form to defed­er­ate from (the Cana­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dents) nor was there any ev­i­dence of prej­u­dice to the stu­dents if the vote were de­layed to Septem­ber ex­cept for a pos­si­ble loss of pub­lic­ity for Mr. Lind­say. This costly lit­i­ga­tion could have been avoided by de­lay­ing a vote by a few months.”

The fed­er­a­tion claimed the March 2008 vote was in­valid be­cause it failed to com­ply with fed­er­a­tion by­laws.

The ref­er­en­dum was held at CBU March 11-13, 2008, with 366 votes cast. The re­sult was 92 per cent vot­ing to with­draw from the na­tional body.

The fed­er­a­tion ad­vised the CBU union in Jan­uary of that year that a March vote would not be valid given the by­law de­mand for six-month no­tice. It said that such a vote could be held in Septem­ber. Ac­cord­ing to Beau­doin’s de­ci­sion, Lind­say tes­ti­fied there were three rea­sons the CBU wanted to with­draw from the na­tional body: ide­o­log­i­cally, he be­lieved the fed­er­a­tion’s tac­tics were out of date; other and smaller Nova Sco­tia univer­si­ties were not mem­bers; and ser­vices of­fered by the fed­er­a­tion could be pro­vided lo­cally and cheaper.


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