OTTAWA, ON – Students from across Canada hand-delivered a giant report card with a failing grade to Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrillee Fullerton’s constituency office in Ottawa today.
About a dozen students stormed Fullerton’s office with posters that said “Grants Not Loans” and “Protect Students’ Independent Voices”. The government announced on January 17 that it would cut tuition fees in Ontario by 10%, but provide no new funding for the post-secondary education sector, and that it would make several cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program as well as make student ancillary fees optional as part of its “Student Choice Initiative”.
“This is nothing more than a red herring”, said Sofia Descalzi, national chairperson-elect of the Canadian Federation of Students and current chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador organization. “Premier Ford and Minister Fullerton are determined to mislead the hard-working people of Ontario, wipe out students’ groups and charge students more for their education.”
According to Descalzi, the Ford government is targeting students’ organizations who have been critical of its post-secondary education agenda by introducing opt-out student ancillary fees starting in the fall of 2019.
“Students’ unions provide essential services on campus such as health and dental plans, sexual assault support centres, food banks and support services for LGBTQ students, Indigenous students and students with disabilities”, she said. “By allowing students to opt-out of student fees that have been democratically decided upon by the students themselves, Ford is trying to destroy student organizations that bring students together to hold his government accountable.”
Kayla Weiler, vice-president external of the University of Guelph’s Central Student Association, who also attended the protest, said the Ontario government has failed to consult students and she wants the government to reverse the Student Choice Initiative and its changes to OSAP.
“The January 17 announcement spelled out nothing but bad news for students, their families, colleges and universities in Ontario. Fullerton has failed. The Ford government is failing. We the students will not stand for this attack on students and our right to organize,” said Weiler.
The Canadian Federation of Students is the oldest and largest student organization in Canada, representing more than 500,000 college and university students across the country.