We are the Student Movement?: Remembering the Rise and Fall of the Canadian Union of Students, 1965-1969

Chris Hurl and Kevin Walby

In Canada today, the terms “student government” and “student movement” are considered synonymous. At least this is how the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) promotes itself. “We are the student movement,” their slogan goes. Yet glossy stock photos of the same old CFS staffers holding identical placards suggest a more problematic relationship between local organizing and the national organization. Repeated attempts at defederation, frustrations with CFS process and policy, and conflicts over the scale and content of organizing have created friction and factions within the organization.

A recent debate in Upping the Anti has addressed the apparent schism in the Canadian student movement between what is positioned as management “from above” and grassroots organizing “from below.” Drawing on her experience with a recent campaign for defederation, Caelie Frampton argues that “because of its bureaucratic structure, the CFS has become incapable of responding productively to student initiatives or mobilizations from below” (102).2 She claims that the democratic possibilities of the CFS are undermined by a stratum of unelected bureaucrats who use their privileged administrative location to take advantage of a transitory membership, provide support for slates toeing their line in local campus elections, and manipulate administrative procedures to marginalize alternative viewpoints. For Frampton, this is all undertaken at the expense of political campaigns, as the bureaucracy cultivates the lucrative service wing of the organization.

In response, Eric Newstadt argues that Frampton doesn’t demonstrate how bureaucrats “actually leverage their positions (which are subordinate to elected officials) so as to move the organization in a particular direction…”3 Newstadt dismisses Frampton’s allegations as “either pure mystification or as the byproduct of a superficial understanding of what it would mean for an organization to be led by its bureaucratic structure” (98). Critics “interested in plugging in to provincial and national debates through the only truly national students’ organization need to develop some understanding of how the CFS works…,” he argues. Although this debate raises important questions regarding the political scope of student organizing, there is a tendency, evident in Newstadt’s intervention, to reduce the “student movement” to the ossified national structure. From this perspective, if initiative does not come from those with so-called expertise in student government, it is deemed to be separate from and harmful to the student movement. On the other hand, by emphasizing grassroots organizing “from below” without positing any strategy for engaging with established structures of student governance, there is a tendency (evident in Frampton’s critique of the CFS) to deny the impact that organizing on the national scale has in shaping the context in which local as well as regional struggles from below take place.

The binary of above and below is problematic. It takes for granted what it seeks to explain by assuming a foundation for organizational and political unity – either through the “bureaucracy” or through “the grassroots” – that is at odds with the fragmented terrain that activists inevitably confront. The terms of debate set by Frampton and Newstadt fail to acknowledge that activists are faced with historically-situated problems that demand the reflexive and strategic mobilization of different organizational scales. Rather than assuming a pure space for student activism from above or from below, we argue that political agency is always assembled across different scales and in response to specific historical circumstances.

The concept of scaling refers to how people understand, organize, and divide social space. First, scaling provides a way of framing socio-spatial relations. In seeking to represent a specific territory, one has to begin from a particular vantage point, making certain sites visible while obscuring or excluding others. Second, the particular way that scale is constructed politically has material consequences. The national, regional, and local are not simply imagined, but provide different ways of organizing socio-spatial relations. Third, to the extent that scales are constituted through relations of inclusion and exclusion, they are sites of struggle between differently positioned individuals and groups.4 Below, we discuss student syndicalism as a means of framing, organizing, and contesting the scale of student government. A common component of syndicalist strategies that emerged in the 1960s student milieu was a commitment to advancing social inquiry as a means of building organizations. With the rapid expansion of post-secondary education through the 1960s, the scale of student government was an open question. Whereas student issues had previously been dealt with under the jurisdiction of the university administration and a student government that advanced claims based on a narrowly-defined student identity, within the span of a few years student governments began problematizing the separation of campus and community. Through experimentation and experience, different scales of organizing were created, mobilized, and modified. As we document below, three varieties of syndicalism emerged, with student organizations coming to be reconceptualized as unions. With the formal adoption of a syndicalist position in 1966, the Canadian Union of Students (CUS) – a national federation of student governments – assumed the mantle of radical organizing in Canada outside of Québec.

We argue that activists in and around student government in the 1960s could not begin from the presumed unity of student organization as a coherent structure, and we do so to make a broader claim: the balance between organizing and organization in the composition of social movements cannot be settled beforehand, but must be continually engaged as a core question of strategy in the specific conjuncture of struggle itself. Organizational forms do not exist as unified and coherent entities. Within organizations, activists assume positions of leadership at different scales – local, provincial, national – but also in different sections of the organization, and with varying degrees of connection to the membership as well as to other groups and organizations. As New Left activists became involved in student governments based on mass membership and entrenched governance procedures, they were forced to address questions of scale in a tangible way, bringing syndicalist considerations to the fore of student organizing.

Syndicalist strategies involved the production of participatory democratic organization through the integration of organizational scales to address regionally specific problems. First, with the shift from national lobbying to political protest, there was a need to develop strategies for the mobilization of the membership at a local level. Second, the consolidation of student government and the expansion of its service provision activities raised concerns about the increasing bureaucratization of the organization. Third, the experience of co-optation and failure in community organizing fostered a commitment to mass organization and the advancement of coordinated political campaigns. Syndicalist strategies were advanced by activists trying to reconceptualize student politics based on autonomous campus and community unions. While these strategies established an effective basis for the politicization of student government on various campuses, we argue that the uneven development of student syndicalism on a regional scale posed the problem of reconciling the mandatory membership structure of the organization with the participatory sensibilities of the New Left. Incapable of resolving this dilemma on an organizational level, student activists in CUS came to substitute words over deeds, calling for the abolition of capitalism and victory for the National Liberation Front in Vietnam, for example, with little practical significance for organizing on the campus and community scales. The question of how to establish a basis for radical organizing at different scales of student politics requires a nuanced understanding of different periods of struggle and a consideration of what we can learn from them.

From Top to Bottom

Prior to the Second World War, student governments mostly avoided adopting explicit political positions, acting instead as auxiliaries to university administrations. Coordination among student governments on a national scale largely remained restricted to directing extracurricular activities, organizing debating teams, and establishing a national travel program. Their scope of operations changed following the Second World War, as the federal government became more invested in the expansion of the post-secondary system as a national economic growth strategy.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, student governments confronted a public education system that was rapidly expanding, with increasing working class student enrollment, the growth of specialized academic disciplines, and the proliferation of institutions such as community colleges catering to the new technical requirements of the capitalist system.5 Throughout this period, student unions developed formal structures of government that created a basis for autonomy from university administrations. Student organizations came to own property and hire office workers to staff increasingly complex administrative structures. In this context, student government became a locus of struggle for various campus groups in a post-secondary system whose scope had not yet been fully established.6

To direct this expansion, a nationwide political campaign was planned by student governments under the National Federation of Canadian University Students (NFCUS). Though a national office was established in Ottawa, the organization remained divided along regional lines. While the liberal federalists who were affiliated with the young wing of the Liberal Party maintained their dominance in the organization from 1956 to 1961 by aligning themselves with federal policy initiatives, they faced increasing opposition from Québec nationalists, a growing contingent of Progressive Conservative youth groups aligned with university administrations, and other groups who argued that the federal government should have no role in administering post-secondary education. In the ensuing struggles, there was a reluctance to endorse the pursuit of political campaigns on a national scale. Despite adopting a binational structure, the organization remained unable to accommodate the shifting strategic orientation of student organizations in Québec. Student groups from three Québec universities (Montréal, Laval, and Sherbrooke) established a provisional committee to create the Union générale des étudiants du Québec (UGEQ). Calling for student strikes as part of a campaign for Québec sovereignty, this first variety of student syndicalism considered the student as a “young intellectual worker.” According to Daniel Latouche, then a prominent student activist in Québec, “there is no such thing as a student problem, there are only student aspects of socio-national problems.” The development of syndicalism in Canada outside of Québec followed a very different trajectory, however, beginning from community problems and proceeding without a clear vision of federation at the regional level.7

The shift to a syndicalist position in Canada outside of Québec was in part the product of the failure of federal lobbyists to unite student governments around a narrow program of national development. Although the implementation of a federal Canadian Student Loan Program (CSLP) in 1964 was seen as the culmination of a successful campaign for some, it served to radicalize others, galvanizing a movement not only for student bursaries but for the abolition of tuition altogether. The campaign for accessibility began to encompass a wide array of different issues, including student housing, unemployment, and medical services. The 1965 Congress of the Canadian Union of Students, held at Bishop’s University, was significant “because for the first time the Canadian Union of Students recognized that it had a wider social role to fulfil than the self-interest of the university student.”8 This agenda was driven by the newly formed Ontario Region CUS (ORCUS), which had played a central role in federal lobbying efforts and would provide the foundations for the emergence of more radical leadership on a national level. Adopting the principle of “universal accessibility” and calling for the abolition of financial, social, and psychological barriers to post-secondary education, the CUS pursued a more adversarial approach to their campaigns, calling for a National Student Day to be organized in October of 1965.

The National Student Day shifted the tactics of the student movement from national lobbying to coordinating more diffuse regional actions. The event was intended to be locally organized and include tactics such as seminars, public forums, and demonstrations. The demand to abolish tuition fees was adopted on a national level, but local initiatives remained uneven, with the impetus coming primarily from ORCUS. Many campuses were inactive. As a reporter for the Canadian University Press argued, “on campus after campus the vision of a nation-wide manifestation of student concern began to fade as council after council watered down local programmes and, in many cases, rejected the abolition of fees policy…”9 Although the CUS failed to advance a national program that could fully overcome the limits of a fractured and regionally-divided membership, this campaign nevertheless created the potential for an expanding base and deepening radicalization of student activists by provoking debates about the appropriate scale and content of student political action.

Debates revolved around the specific content of the demand for universal accessibility, the strategic and tactical orientation of National Days of Action, and the role of the national organization in providing support and direction on a local level. Yet the call for universal accessibility remained abstract, relying on the “quantitative” logic of liberal nation-building strategies. And the basis for unity was constituted through an abstract conception of the national membership rather than being advanced from the standpoint of local needs. Growing numbers of student activists began to argue that it was necessary to go beyond universal accessibility to question the broader aims of the education to which access was being demanded. This required a different scale of organizing that did not begin from the standpoint of national lobbying but instead sought to build local capacities for action.

From Bottom to Top

As the CUS adopted a more radical position, attempting to galvanize movement around a wide variety of student issues on a local level, at the same time the notion of participatory democracy was becoming problematic for many student activists. Emerging from a critique of the narrow scope and national scale of organizing pursued by the Combined Universities Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) was formed in December 1964 with a radical agenda for social transformation focused on local activism and participatory democracy.10 Adopting a framework based on regional federations, SUPA argued that strategies should be determined “as close to local conditions as possible.” Advancing a second variety of syndicalism, SUPA embarked on an ambitious campaign of community organizing, “whereby students begin to organize people with social problems into ‘people’s unions’.” Inspired by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) Economic and Research Action Project, summer initiatives organized by local affinity groups in a number of communities across Canada were launched with the aim of establishing a basis for radical organization and experience driven by a direct engagement with poor and oppressed communities.

The ultimate goal of these projects remained unclear, however, as student organizers maintained the view that they would simply take their guidance from the “innate” radicalism of the oppressed. By 1966, problems with this approach became apparent as the radicalization that student organizers had anticipated failed to materialize. Concerns that radical activists were simply engaging in the provision of social services – doing the government’s work for them – were fuelled by the federal government’s creation of the Company of Young Canadians (CYC) in 1965. From its inception, the CYC maintained close contact with SUPA, cherry-picking its leadership through lucrative staff and consultant jobs. Without a clear strategy, SUPA came apart at the seams. Problematically, many on the New Left had idealized the grassroots. Their romanticization of counter-communities and condemnation of bureaucracy, and their refusal to participate in established organizations that offered the capacity for a different scale of mobilization, ultimately proved debilitating.

A need to revisit organizing on a national scale emerged for activists who had experienced failure and co-optation in participatory democracy-based organizing. Student activists coming out of local grassroots campaigns assumed leadership positions in the CUS, bringing with them a continued commitment to community organizing. The shift to a syndicalist orientation within the CUS became apparent in the lead-up to the 30th Congress at Dalhousie University in 1966. CUS president Patrick Kenneff wrote a letter to incoming student council presidents that anticipated the terms of debate:

You may feel that students must not adopt a narrow-minded attitude, but must be prepared to adopt positions and to wage a fight on all fronts. If you support the latter view, then it is quite legitimate for CUS and your local association to undertake active programmes in such areas as the abolition of capital punishment, the Canadian Indian, the war in Viet Nam, and the abolition of birth control restrictions.11

The distinction between a narrow vision of the student whose identity is constituted within the organization and the student whose identity must necessarily challenge these confines exemplified an emerging politicization within the CUS that was carried over into a redefinition of the mundane aspects of student life and a re-examination of the role of service provision. As the political orientation of the CUS shifted, it became necessary to re-imagine the scale of the organization in order to establish the capacity to intervene around a range of different issues. The CUS developed infrastructure to engage in research across campuses and evaluate needs as the basis for mobilization and the provision of services in areas such as health, housing, and unemployment.

From 1965 to 1967, the CUS radically shifted its focus from lobbying the government for greater funding to undertaking a re-conceptualization of politics and education, problematizing the bureaucratic character of education and its separation from wider political life. The organization’s focus broadened from the narrow economic demands advanced in 1965 to a call for “academocracy.” This required challenging the alienating structure of postsecondary education as well as the bureaucratic structure of the organization itself. Application of these ideas, largely derived from SDS in the United States (with whom the CUS secretariat networked extensively), would pose problems for an organization based on mandatory institutional membership rather than voluntary association and shared political principles. At the Dalhousie Congress, the University of Victoria Alma Maters Society pointed out the irony that student leaders, once in office, “have a tendency to disregard the relative democracy of the structure over which they preside.” The attempt to extend the administrative functions of student governance through the formation of autonomous committees was a potentially progressive step forward in building the capacities of student government, but “this same affection for committees can proliferate into a bureaucratic apparatus until the creature known as ‘student government’ has become so institutionalized that the innovations of an imaginative leadership are delegated into oblivion.”12

A whole layer of student activists who had entered the organization after being exposed to the syndicalism of SUPA and an array of other New Left organizations attempted to confront the problem of internal democracy while deepening the radical orientation of the organization. CUS President Doug Ward, previously an active member of SUPA, argued that “form should follow function. CUS is beginning to learn those things at which it can function best, but our function is already being impeded by the anachronisms of our present form.”13 Admitting that the CUS was “not adequately structured today to meet the demands either of its membership or its new priorities,” Ward called for the establishment of provincial and regional unions of students, decentralizing the organization in such a way that further mobilization would not serve to be a “mere lobby” but would rather become a “catalyst to its members.”14 While this had already proven an effective strategy in some regions, such as Ontario, in other regions student governments maintained little contact with one another, remaining quite conservative and focused on local administrative issues.

Dilemmas of Scale

Between 1967 and 1969, CUS activists faced questions about how to rescale the Canadian student movement. These questions of scale arose out of the experience of failure at local levels of organizing, inspiration from other struggles such as de-colonization movements, and the continued limitations of national scale organizing, which was also connected to a desire to detach student politics from federal party politics. Shifting from one scale of organizing to another, activists were forced to rethink their strategic and tactical repertoires. Activists did not simply rely on a single rationale but rather sought to creatively cobble together different spatial imaginaries and strategies without always reflecting on their philosophical and strategic implications.15 The attempted rescaling of the CUS presented student activists with the test of providing an impetus for radical action within the context of a regionally uneven membership. Alhough CUS activists were aware of and informed by these questions concerning scale, there was also an ironic disjuncture between words and deeds within the national leadership. “Decisions are made without a consideration of campus realities,” argued one student representative at the 1967 CUS Congress, so that the “image of CUS as a separate centralized bureaucracy existing only in Ottawa… arbitrarily connected to local campuses” was an image of the CUS secretariat’s own making.16

There was a great deal of mobilization on Canadian university campuses in 1968. The formation of Students for a Democratic University (SDU) on many campuses reflected the rise of a third variety of syndicalism – one that aimed to “disrupt the university and its pretence of civility or to organize picket line militance in support of striking workers.”17 Tactics of non-violent direct action were adopted, including sit-ins and student strikes. When the University of Moncton administration announced that student fees would increase in February of 1968, the students’ council organized a boycott of classes. A mass student strike was supported by 90 percent of students who voted in a referendum. CUS endorsed these actions in a statement of solidarity. CUS field worker Don Mitchell called the strike “an historic and courageous step” that could go a long way “towards winning the war on a national scale” if solidarity followed. It is unclear to what extent CUS followed up on these statements of solidarity.

The CUS played a role in supporting several other mobilizations in 1968 and effectively communicated news of these events to students elsewhere. However, the CUS failed to establish the basis for linking local radical struggles. One report stated that “the radical secretariat of the CUS was driven to schizophrenia by the very nature of their real situation. They were socialists, but if they took socialist stands then the membership would move to pull out.”18 This statement, however, continues to rely on an abstract conception of membership and fails to recognize the uneven development of struggles on the local level. In addition to the content of the politics advanced by the CUS leadership, we argue that the scale upon which these politics could be advanced also posed a central dilemma. The CUS leadership continued to work on the basis of the general membership and were consequently unable to leverage their position through the consolidation of issue-oriented networks within the organization that could cut across the divide between the national leadership and uneven local conditions.

Indeed, a focus on content, or programmatic politics itself, is not the only or even primary matter of strategic concern; solidarity can be built regionally around a range of issues between coalitions that have divergent ideologies but share a similar sense of scale as a way of framing and organizing, especially in the face of reactionary or conservative counter-movements. Some CUS radicals attempted to build solidarity between local organizers on different campuses across the country – between scales – with some small successes. During Ward’s time in the CUS, there were attempts to create and adapt organizational scales through the creation and support of research projects on a wide array of issues, the consolidation of local networks for mutual aid, and the building of ties with community organizations. However, as we discuss below, with new leadership there came to be an increasing gap between words and deeds, reflecting a dogmatic application of the New Left model.

The student movement was highly factionalized, even before 1968. For instance, on October 19, 1967, the CUS met with the student council at University of Calgary. CUS staffers tried to persuade the Calgary students that CUS is “not a national secretariat in Ottawa, not a union of students. Instead, CUS is you! The purpose of CUS is not now, nor was it ever, nor will it ever be, to provide services.” Yet the Calgary Students’ Council moved to dissolve the CUS committee anyway.19 This event signalled a backlash on more conservative campuses as well as a disconnect between the CUS secretariat and its local membership.

In 1968, at Simon Fraser University, student and faculty radicals fought for the resignation of the administration and against an elitist university protocol concerning curricula.20 Don Mitchell reported that SFU activists were “hammering out the hardline, but [were] too internally involved and committed to be interested in working with someone from CUS.” In March 1968, the SFU student council was impeached at a general student meeting for sanctioning a sit-in at a Board of Governors meeting. Student radical Martin Loney won in the ensuing elections. After three months as council president on a “Student Power” ticket, he was elected CUS president, a fateful moment.

Loney was strongly influenced by SDU organizing and by anti-imperialist struggles. He pursued a platform to this effect within the CUS, despite divisions within the membership. However, the new radical leadership continued to apply SDU politics (a New Left model based on voluntary membership and shared political convictions) on a national level without constituting the organizational scales that could overcome the reified poles of the national and the grassroots in order to sustain radical action. The lack of CUS capacity for radical campaigns was revealed in the declarations of the national secretariat, which called for the victory of the National Liberation Front in Vietnam and the abolition of capitalism, but were devoid of practical application.21 The CUS drifted towards national level organizing that tried to extend an anti-imperialist posture to local unions, but failed to problematize how solidarity between local unions and the larger federation could be concretely built. This from-a-distance radicalism was criticized as insensitive to local issues in most regions.

In the eight months following the Guelph Congress in 1969, the CUS fought 30 membership withdrawal referenda and lost 18. Bishop’s, St. Vincent and St. Dunstan’s universities all left the CUS because it was “too political.” When students at the University of Toronto voted to leave the CUS, the organization fell into financial trouble and had to fold. Owram argues that the CUS became a victim of New Left factionalism, but this is only partly true.22 The ideological dissension that caused local unions to pull out of the CUS was part of a broader question about the effective scaling of the movement. The CUS leadership became inattentive to the relationship between scale and the form of the organization itself, and under Loney it sought to stand in as a surrogate for local struggles through the force of its declarations. Earlier CUS activists, such as Ward, pointed to the need for organizing across scales while addressing issues of hierarchy within the organization itself. These difficulties reflected the particular dilemmas of trying to reorient an organization initially based on service provision towards the mobilization of members as participants in a radical social movement.

On Effectively Scaling Struggle

The National Union of Students was established out of the ashes of the CUS in 1972 and became the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) in 1981. The CFS has come to set the agenda for national student government in English speaking Canada. While the organization’s cohesion has been largely maintained through centralized administrative structures and a commitment to moderate social democratic tactics of political lobbying and symbolic protest, the organization continues to face many of the same dilemmas as activists did in the 1960s, as the recent push for defederation on several campuses and the debate between Frampton and Newstadt in Upping The Anti demonstrate.

We argue that syndicalist strategies should be taken seriously and that they remain relevant today. Contrary to popular belief, syndicalist strategy is not so much based on building “grassroots” organizations or “pure” political positions, but on the production of participatory democratic organizations through the integration of different organizational scales to address regionally specific problems. The coherence of the concepts of nation, community, and campus as the sites and organizational scales of 1960s struggle actually came to be challenged through the development of concrete practices. For instance, although national organization initially began with abstract demands for accessibility in the early 1960s, research networks were quickly established on many campuses. Ties were established with community groups, faculty members, and students. The advancement of a program inquiring into accessibility was initiated, beginning with the everyday problems of funding, housing, health, and marginalization. What began as a very abstract concept was broken down into numerous trajectories for pragmatic organizing.

Likewise, the Student Union for Peace Action (SUPA) emerged out of a campaign for nuclear disarmament. Initially, nuclear disarmament appeared as an abstract problem to be challenged by federal lobbying. In the course of researching nuclear disarmament, networks were established across campuses and communities. SUPA shifted away from simple lobbying tactics as organizers came to recognize that the Military Industrial Complex was tied up in a wide array of different relationships across several scales, from the social inequalities that fuelled the military’s recruitment drives to the environmental problems created through weapons manufacturing and the military research undertaken at universities. While many organizers began with romanticized assumptions that marginalized communities would instinctively develop radical alternatives, through the process of organizing around specific problems the abstract notion of community came into question. They came to realize that “the community” does not pre-exist as a coherent political structure from which strategy and tactics can be extracted.

By the late 1960s, militant countercultures emerged on many campuses across Canada. The university came to be understood as plagued by a problem of access, a diagnosis elaborated through the lengthy campaigns for tuition abolition, as well as through the campaign for nuclear disarmament, which firmly connected the university to the Military Industrial Complex. Moreover, university administrators were frequently guilty of denying students access to the university as a political space. The time appeared ripe for a campaign to democratize the university and establish spaces controlled by students themselves. These campaigns were successful in many ways (think of student union buildings, student representation on Boards of Governors, and tolerance of student protests). But there emerged a tendency within the CUS leadership to conflate militant counterculture with mass organization. Organization ceased to be a pragmatic problem and fell back on the external motor of anti-imperialism and class struggles. The militant leadership of the CUS fractured and they no longer looked to the membership as the source of mobilization and inquiry.

Rather than beginning from the privileged location of the grassroots or the bureaucracy, we argue that organization should follow inquiry. This is the strength that the pragmatic scaling of syndicalism offers. Through pragmatic scaling, abstract problems are concretized, serving as an engine for the ongoing development and critical re-evaluation of organizations. For a short time, the CUS viewed education as an organizational question that required ongoing reinvention through the accumulation and evaluation of experience. This stands in notable contrast to the institutional amnesia of the CFS, which has largely failed to establish a sense of continuity through the accumulated experience of struggle. This leads Newstadt to decry the lack of organizational knowledge, putting the onus on the membership to “educate themselves” without recognizing how the lack of education is symptomatic of larger organizational problems.

This is the conjuncture we find ourselves in today: a stalemate between grassroots student activists reluctant to scale up and CFS bureaucrats who refuse to learn from experience or from other struggles. The distinction between bureaucracy and the grassroots is reflective of an ongoing separation of words and deeds and a failure to consider pragmatic scaling as a key question of mobilization. Remembering the Canadian Union of Students and the experiences of student syndicalism in Canada points to the significance of taking education as the starting point for organization, rather than the other way around.

Notes

1 We thank Jamie Brownlee and Jeff Monaghan for their comments on this paper. Our research would not have been possible without the support of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at Carleton University.

2 Caelie Frampton, “Strength in Numbers,” Upping the Anti 5 (2007).

3 Eric Newstadt, “Accounting for the Student Movement,” Upping the Anti  6 (2007): 97.

4 Sallie A Marston, “The Social Construction of Scale,” Progress in Human Geography 24 (2000): 219.

5 Terry Wotherspoon, The Sociology of Education in Canada: Critical Perspectives (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998).

6 In the struggle for jurisdiction, liberal nationalists assumed a position of dominance on many university campuses through the youth wing of the Liberal Party, advancing a basis for leadership through aligning the organization’s strategies with federal policy and lobbying for greater funding through scholarships and bursaries.

7 Based on this syndicalist tendency prevalent in Québec, the first province-wide ‘student strike’ was organized in 1958. Inspired by the syndicalist principles of the French student movement, the Charte de l’étudiant universitaire was adopted by the Association Générale Étudiante de l’Université de Montréal (AGEUM) in September 1961. Like labour unions, student unions would be organized militantly and adopt an adversarial position against management. See Daniel Latouche, “Student Syndicalism,” Ubyssey (October 1967): 20.

8 Canadian Union of Students, Universal Accessibility (1966).

9 Kenneth Drushka, “Real Questions not Raised in Education Debate,” Canadian University Press (November 18 1965).

10 In 1966, prominent SUPA leader James Harding characterized SUPA’s approach according to the following principles: the need to challenge the nation-state system; nonalignment; student syndicalism (“whereby students begin to organize people with social problems into “people’s unions”); viewing war and peace as a product of broader systemic inequalities; and seeking a correspondence between ends and means through nonviolent direct action. James Harding,  “SUPA: an ethical movement in search of an analysis,” in Our Generation Against Nuclear War, ed. Dimitrios Roussopoulos (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1983)

11 Patrick Kenniff, “Comment on Duff-Berdahl Report,” (paper presented at 30th Congress of CUS, Dalhousie University 1966.)

12 University of Victoria Students’ Society, “The Structure of University Student Government – ‘Democracy or Bureaucracy?” (paper presented at the 30th Congress of the Canadian Union of Students, 1966), 2.

13 DougWard, “Proposal to Study the Structure and Membership of CUS,” (paper presented at the 30th Congress of the Canadian Union of Students, 1966), 3.

14 Though the formation of a mass organization based on voluntary membership and unity in political purpose was recognized as a possible step for the organization, it was not widely accepted. Ward recognized that it is “easy to ‘absolutize’ the need for openness in theory,” but achieving this in practice would be daunting.

15 See H. Leitner, E. Sheppard and K. Sziarto, “The Spatialities of Contentious Politics,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 33: 157-172 (2008).

16 Official support emerged at the Congresses from University of Toronto and Simon Fraser University, but the CUS bureaucracy was challenged for its separation from the grassroots, both from the left and the right. Lib Spry, who worked for CUS briefly, argued “there has been tendency in the national office and amongst individual student councils to forget that it is the students for whom we are working…”

17 Bryan Palmer, Canada’s 1960s: The Ironies of Identity in a Rebellious Era (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 282.

18 Unknown Author, “The Rise and Fall of a Student Empire” (1970). Hugh Armstrong, who was CUS President in 1968, traveled around from campus to campus to “stress issues, not the organization…it is their union.” Armstrong went to Windsor because the University of Windsor was planning to leave the CUS: “we did not want a move by Windsor to spark a nation-wide trend, or indeed an avalanche.”

19 The CUS was also disliked greatly by university administrations. By 1968, university administrations were actively targeting student radicals who were no longer simply advancing ‘free speech’ rights in the post-secondary system, but rather threatening the whole system. When University of Western Ontario president Williams addressed the AUCC in November 1968, he described student movement participants as “enemies of the University” and “student extremists whose diagnosis of its ills is dire and whose prescription is fatal.” The president problematized “student activists who would preserve [university] structure but thoroughly revamp and reassign the power to govern it.” Williams lamented that the president was no longer thought of as “the captain of the ship” at universities.

20 Hugh Johnston, Radical Campus: Making Simon Fraser University (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2005).

21 M. Kostash, Long Way From Home: the Story of the Sixties generation in Canada. (Toronto: James Lorimer, 1980).

22 D. Owram, Born at the Right Time: a History of the Baby-Boom Generation (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1996).