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The Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Federation of Students-Services were formed in 1981 to provide students with an effective and united voice, provincially and nationally. At the time, it was recognized that for students to be truly effective in representing their collective interests to the federal and provincial governments, it was vital to unite under one banner.
Today, over one-half million students from more than 80 university and college students’ unions across Canada belong to the Federations.
Because universities and colleges are funded primarily by the federal government and administered exclusively by the provincial government, government policies and priorities determine the quality and accessibility of post-secondary education in Canada.
Tuition fee levels, student financial assistance programs and funding for research are all set directly or indirectly by both levels of government. Thus, it is vital that students collectively organize at the provincial and national levels to ensure that students’ rights and concerns are fully represented.
No individual students’ union, no matter how big or active, has the resources or the political clout to effectively influence the post-secondary education policies of the provincial and federal governments on its own. At best, an individual students’ union could have an impact on only a few federal electoral ridings. Governments ignore groups that pose no political threat to them. It is also much more cost effective for a large number of students’ unions to pool their resources and work in partnership than for each to undertake this work on its own. The Federation serves this purpose, giving campus students’ unions across the country a united voice and powerful influence.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Services enables students’ unions to collectively pool their resources to provide student owned and operated services such as Travel CUTS, the International Student Identity Card, the Studentsaver Card, Homes4students.ca, the Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP), and the National Student Health Network.
Each students’ union has an equal say in setting the policies, direction and priorities of the Federation including how funds are spent. All major decisions are made at provincial and national congresses four times annually at which every member students’ union is represented.