Overview of the Federation
The Canadian Federation of Students was formed in 1981 to provide students with a united and effective voice both provincially and nationally. At the time, it was recognized that for students to be truly effective in representing their collective interests to the government it was vital to unite under one banner.
Now with over 500,000 members represented by more than 60 local students’ unions, the Canadian Federation of Students is the largest voice for post-secondary students in Canada. Manitoba’s five-member locals unite over 45,000 full- and part-time students.
In Canada, universities are funded primarily by the federal government and administered exclusively by the provincial government. As such, government policies and priorities at both levels determine the quality, affordability and accessibility of post-secondary education.Tuition fees, student financial assistance programs indigenous student funding and funding for research are all determined either directly or indirectly by both levels of government. For this reason, it’s vital that students organize collectively at both the provincial and national levels to ensure students’ rights and concerns are fully represented.
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The Canadian Federation of Students-Manitoba uses a three-pronged approach to affect changes to post-secondary education policy in the province.
RESEARCH: Reliable research conducted by the Federation provides local students’ unions, government officials, and the media with timely information and analysis of government policies and trends in post-secondary education.
LOBBYING: Over the years, CFS has become a regular presence on Parliament Hill and in the Manitoba Legislature. On a regular basis, CFS representatives hold meetings with elected officials, senior civil servants, and political staff from all political parties. CFS also makes submissions to government and is called upon to offer its perspective and information to government hearings, inquiries, and consultative committees.
MEMBERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: As a grassroots organization, the Federation relies on the involvement of individual members. Regular contact with government and comprehensive research will have little impact unless the government believes the Federation’s message has widespread support. This demonstration of support can take the form of postcard and email/social media campaigns, petition drives and rallies. These raise public awareness of the issues, and in turn, affects the decisions and policies of governments.
Decisions made Democratically
All major decisions of the Federation are made democratically by both our provincial and national membership. Nationally we hold two General Meetings throughout the year while provincially we hold one each spring. At general meetings our membership passes financial budgets, adopts campaigns and devises lobbying strategy. At general meetings of the Federation priorities of all local student associations hold equal weight; one member local equals one vote. This allows for smaller student associations to have the same voting power as larger ones and therefore have a fair say in determining bylaws, setting policy direction and establishing priorities of the Federation.
Structure of the Student Union
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Students Union Board
With strength in numbers, working together as members of the Canadian Federation of Students and alongside our coalition partners and allies, students have Won
- Elimination of interest on Provincial Student Loans.
- Public health care for International students.
- Secured province-wide stand-alone sexual assault & harassment legislation.
- $90 million for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program to improve access to post-secondary education for indigenous learners.
- The creation & expansion of the Canada Student Grants Program & Repayment Assistance Program.
- The right for International students to work through the off-campus and post-graduate work permits.
- Cost – savings for students commutes in the creation of the U-PASS.
- Increase in graduate scholarship funding.
- In 2017: An additional $6 million annually over the next three years to assist colleges and universities in providing mental health services and supports for students, bringing the total amount of mental health funding to $15 million a year.
- 2016: Undemocratic elements of the Fair Elections Act that sought to suppress young voters are repealed
- Improvements to Canada Students Grants for part-time students and adult learners with dependent children
Strength in Numbers
No individual student union, regardless of how big or active, has the resources or political clout to effectively influence post-secondary policy alone. By uniting through the Federation we are able to deliver a provincially and nationally consistent vision when lobbying government. Through unified and coherent advocacy the Federation is a stronger force for change.
As well, through the Federation students’ unions can pool resources to bulk purchase ethically and environmentally sourced materials such as day planners, recycled lanyards, reusable water bottles as well as many other union-made, sweatshop-free products. By coordinating resources we’re also able to provide cost-effective programs and services for students such as health/dental insurance via GreenShield, free online tax filing, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), and the Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP).