Lobbying efforts to continue through membership with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations
Christine Beyleveldt // NEWS EDITOR
Capilano University students will now have a stronger voice in federal matters. This comes after three years of having no representation outside of BC. On July. 26, the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations (CASA) announced that the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) have been accepted as a new member of CASA starting Sept. 1.
For Noah Berson, vice-president external, the incorporation to CASA will not only provide CapU students with the much needed representation federally, but it will also allow the CSU to better serve its student body. “In order to be a true representation of – to truly work for – the students of Capilano, we needed a federal lobbying body,” he said.
CapU students have not been represented at the federal level since the CSU left the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) after a referendum held in March 2014.
The CSU began looking for a new federal organization soon after they left the CFS. Delegates were sent to sit-in on CASA meetings in 2014, as the CSU looked for an association that had a similar governance structure and embodied the same values as the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS).
The ABCS, which the CSU joined as a founding member in 2013, is a not-for-profit advocacy group that serves their interests at the provincial level. While overseeing post-secondary education is a responsibility of the provincial government, the federal government provides a portion of funding for institutions as well as some financial aid and research grants.
Through the ABCS last year, the CSU participated in a province-wide housing campaign that they considered a success because it resulted in the provincial government including new student housing in their mandate. Berson explained that the ABCS has united students through common causes, and under the banner of an organization they have achieved one of their more pressing lobbying goals. “In the past, there have been many different voices coming to the provincial government, all students, but they weren’t united,” he said.
CASA sets itself apart from other organizations that represent Canadian students by driving its members to create policy. All policy that CASA produces is put forward and passed by its student members, while the organization’s staff offer support. “We pride ourselves in making sure that our members are the ones engaging in the research, developing the policies and in the end of it leading the organization,” said Executive Director Michael McDonald.
Each year in November, CASA also hosts an Advocacy Week in Ottawa, where representatives will meet with elected officials, senators and public servants to discuss issues that are important to them.
Membership fees paid towards CASA are also reduced. Former CSU president Brittany Barnes remarked that they were paying more than $80,000 annually to the CFS, and that the organization didn’t suit CapU students’ needs.
The CSU was one of five founding members of the CFS in 1981. However, they felt they weren’t getting their money’s worth and held a referendum to decide whether or not to continue their membership as early as 1984. The CSU will be paying no more than a maximum of $53,029 per year to CASA, based off $3.26 per full-time equivalent, compared to the CFS’ fee of $8.98.
“It’s not only important for our lobbying efforts but it’s also important for getting the Capilano Students’ Union name out there,” said Berson, “For making connections with universities all across Canada and to really show us what other campaigns work at other universities.”
With success already behind them, the CSU is looking forward to making students’ interests heard nationally.