Union considers bankruptcy
Court decision leaves students group in trouble
The beleaguered Cape Breton University students’ union is seriously considering bankruptcy, according to its president.
Brandon Ellis has confirmed that the CBU students’ union met with a bankruptcy lawyer this week as it continues to deliberate its options following an Ontario Superior Court ruling that it pay the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) nearly $300,000.
Ellis said the under-pressure students’ union has just two weeks to make a decision on how to deal with the issue that has left it between a rock and a hard place.
“We’re seriously looking at bankruptcy, I mean seriously to the point where we had a lawyer in who specializes in bankruptcy,” said the student leader.
“But, we’re still looking at all aspects of the case including an appeal as well.”
The issue dates back to 2008, when CBU students held a referendum that resulted in a 92 per cent vote to withdraw from the CFS over concerns the national body’s tactics were out of date, that some other Nova Scotia post-secondary schools were not members and that services offered by the federation could be provided locally and at less cost.
The national organization challenged the CBU students as it held that federation bylaws called for six months notice for a vote on leaving the organization.
Earlier this month, the Ontario court ordered that the CBU students’ union to pay $293,000 in back dues to the CFS. The court also ruled that because the 2008 vote was invalid, the local students’ union continues to be a full member of the CFS.
“It’s a complicated matter and we’re just looking for the best solution that is available,” said Ellis, who was a high school student at the time of the 2008 student referendum.
The CBU students’ union has an annual budget of about $500,000 and the court ruling leaves the body in dire final straits, he said.
CFS national chairperson Bilan Arte told the Canadian Press that it is willing to accept payments on an installment basis.
“It is not the federation’s interest to put the Cape Breton University student’s union in any sort of precarious financial situation,’’ she said.
“From our perspective, we’re very optimistic and hopeful that we can have constructive conversations on how we work together.’’
But Ellis isn’t so optimistic. He said that dealing with the CFS has been a frustrating experience, but would not elaborate due to an agreement with the national body.
The dispute between the CFS and the CBU students’ union is not the only legal entanglement the national organization has been involved in. According to court records, the CFS has had recent legal disputes with a number of students’ groups - including Kwantlen University College, Simon Fraser University, McGill University, University of Victoria and the University of Guelph - over leaving the national body.