Kwantlen students win legal fight with Canadian Federation of Students

High court says federation was out of line to block critic's appointment

The Canadian Federation of students (CFS) acted illegally when it blocked a Kwantlen Polytechnic University student from becoming a member of the CFS provincial executive committee, the B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled.

The decision ends a legal battle that began in 2008 when the national student group refused to let Kwantlen student Derek Robertson join the CFS B.C. component’s executive committee as a representative of the Kwantlen Student Association (KSA).

Robertson was among a group of students who wanted Kwantlen to pull out of the 500,000 – member CFS, arguing the national lobby group was not delivering enough to justify the dues it collected from the 18,000 – member KSA.

Before the matter came to a vote, Robertson was appointed as the Kwantlen rep to the B.C. component, but he was withdrawn during the lead-up to the ballot.

After a slim majority of students, 56 per cent, voted in 2008 to stay in the CFS, the KSA council re-appointed Robertson as representative to the organization he’d fought against.

The leaders of that organization were not pleased, and refused to ratify his appointment on three separate occasions.

Since the Kwantlen students refused to appoint anyone else the result was a 22-month standoff where there was no Kwantlen rep on the Canadian federation’s B.C. component.

In court, the Kwantlen students argued the federation is only entitled to decide whether a representative was properly elected and could not refuse an appointment for any other reason.

The federation argued it does have the right to pick and choose reps from those nominated by the 80 university student groups that belong to the CFS, and ordering them to accept Robertson would be interfering in their internal affairs.

Through several court hearings, the CFS has been unable to convince any judges.

The latest to weigh in were three members of a B.C. Court of Appeal tribunal who upheld a lower court ruling that the Canadian federation was compelled to appoint whoever the Kwantlen students selected, so long as the process was proper.

“The executive committee was entitled to satisfy itself that Mr. Robertson had been duly elected and designated, that he was a member in good standing of both the KSA and CFS-BC and that he had agreed to, by oath or affirmation, to assume the duties of a director. It was not entitle to go further determine whether it considered him to be worthy member of the Executive Committee,” the judges said in a written decision published online March 18.

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