Canadian Federation of Students


Overview of the Federation

The Canadian Federation of Students was 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, the Federation comprises more than 450,000 students from 60 university and college students’ unions across the country.

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.

The Federation was founded with the following aims and objectives:

  • To organize students on a democratic, co-operative basis in advancing our own interests and in advancing the interests of our community;
  • To provide a common framework within which students can communicate, exchange information, and share experience, skill and ideas;
  • To ensure the effective use and distribution of the resources of the student movement, while maintaining a balanced growth and development of student organizations that respond to students’ needs and desires;
  • To bring students together to discuss and to achieve necessary educational, administrative or legislative change wherever decision-making affects students;/li>
  • To facilitate co-operation among students in organizing services that supplement our academic experience, provide for our human needs and which develop a sense of community with our peers and other members of society;
  • To articulate the real desire of students to fulfill the duties, and be accorded the rights of citizens in our society and in the international community
  • To achieve our ultimate goal – a system of post-secondary education that is accessible to all, which is of high quality, which is nationally planned, which recognizes the legitimacy of student representation, and the validity of student rights, and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated.

Each of the provincial components of the Federation, along with our provincial and national graduate student caucuses, share these purposes. We meet together in these smaller groupings to ensure that the concerns that are specific to various groups of students are comprehensively discussed and addressed in our campaigns. One thing the national office does in addition to these is represent the voice of the Canadian student movement on an international level.


Decisions Made Democratically

Each students’ union, including the GSU (local 19, and a founding member) 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.

Principles of the CFS
The CFS Approach: An Effective Strategy
Canadian Federation of Students National Website


Activities of the Canadian Federation of Students


Accurate Research

Thorough, accurate and in-depth research is required to justify any proposal put to government.  The Canadian Federation of Students employs full-time researchers across Canada who study and prepare analyses of government policies and trends within post-secondary education, and develop alternatives to government policy.  The Federation’s work on discrediting the ten-year prohibition on student loan bankruptcies is recognized as having set the standard for research on the issue.


Government Lobbying

The primary purpose of the Federation is to represent students’ issues and concerns to government.  Regular contact with elected and non-elected officials and bureaucrats is how the Federation’s message is conveyed to government.  Over the years, the Federation has become a strong presence on Parliament Hill and in provincial legislatures across Canada.  Your Federation representatives meet regularly with elected and non-elected government officials, and frequently make presentations to government committees and task forces.  The Federation meets regularly with federal MPs, other government officials and representatives from all political parties in Ottawa and at the provincial level.


Membership Mobilization

Of course, regular meetings with government and all the research in the world will have little impact unless the government believes a message has widespread support.  The Federation seeks active and demonstrable support of its members through activities ranging from petition drives to mass mobilizations.  These campaigns raise public awareness of and support for the issues, which correspondingly affects the decisions and policies of government.



Tuition fees in Ontario are the second highest in all of Canada. Ontario has the second lowest per capita funding for higher education in the country. Average student debt exceeds $25,000.  Students from the highest quarter income bracket are 50% more likely than students from middle-income brackets to attend university.  Less than half of young people from low-income backgrounds have access to higher education.


The Federation is campaigning:

  • for the progressive reduction of tuition and ancillary fees at public post-secondary institutions across the country with the ultimate goal of eliminating the financial barriers to education
  • an end to the deregulation of tuition fees
  • the reduction of reduce student debt upon graduation
  • to ensure that public post-secondary education is fully funded
  • the restoration of Federal government funding for pse
  • to address the exclusion of marginalized groups from post-secondary education caused by rising tuition fees


Keep the Public in Post-Secondary Education

Deep cuts to government funding have resulted in the increasing privatisation of public colleges and universities. This has compromised the integrity of teaching and research on many campuses and undermines the social value of post-secondary education.

The Federation is campaigning to:

  • halt the establishment or expansion of private degree-granting
    institutions; and
  • end the designation of private, for-profit post-secondary institutions as eligible to receive funds through provincial student loans programmes, the Canada Student Loan Program, and other sources; and
  • oppose the linking of public funding to key performance indicators.


Don’t Trade Away Our Rights

The Canadian Government is participating in the development of international trade agreements that seek to put public education on the table for trade negotiations.  If education is treated as a commodity that can be bought and sold on the international market, Canada could lose the right to publicly fund our education and provide equal access to colleges and universities.

The Federation is actively campaigning to halt the threat posed to post-secondary education by international free trade agreements.


National Graduate Caucus (NGC)

The National Graduate Caucus (NGC) is an entity within the Canadian Federation of Students whose primary objective is to promote the interests of graduate students nationally by advocating for funding for university research, support for graduate students, and the protection of intellectual property rights and academic freedom. The Caucus is composed of the over 60,000 graduate student members of the Federation.

This year, the NGC is campaigning protect academic integrity and the public interest in university research. For more information, visit

Services: Strength in numbers

No individual students’ union, no matter how big or active, has the resources or the political clout on their own to effectively influence the post-secondary education policies of the provincial and federal governments. At best, an individual students’ union could have an impact on a few electoral ridings. Governments ignore groups that pose no political threat to them. It’s also much more cost effective for a large number of students’ unions to pool their resources and to work in partnership than for each to undertake this work on its own.

Through the Federation, students’ unions collectively pool their resources to provide student owned and operated services such as the StudentSaver discount card, the National Student Health Network and the Student Work Abroad Program.