Union con­sid­ers bank­ruptcy

Court de­ci­sion leaves stu­dents group in trou­ble

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE -

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that re­sulted in a 92 per cent vote to with­draw from the CFS over con­cerns the na­tional body’s tac­tics were out of date, that some other Nova Sco­tia post-sec­ondary schools were not mem­bers and that ser­vices of­fered by the fed­er­a­tion could be pro­vided lo­cally and at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.


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