Students Step Up the Fight Against Anti-Social Measures and Launch "We the Students" Campaign

The First Session of the 42nd Parliament of Ontario convened on February 19 following the winter break that began December 6, 2018. The new session was met with a militant student action at Queen's Park, confirming that the people of Ontario will continue to organize and resist the anti-social attacks the Ford government is carrying out in the name of "the people."

Students from as far as Kingston came to join the action to protest the Ford government's cuts to education funding of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), attacks on their associations and clubs in the name of giving students the "choice" of "opting out" from paying ancillary fees, and to call for increased funding for public education, among other demands.

The action was organized by the Ontario Student Action Network with the support of the Canadian Federation of Students, the Ontario Federation of Labour, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and others.

The action was characterized by the determination of the students to fight for their rights to education and a society where everyone can live with dignity and security. Various speakers pointed out that the students from colleges and universities that are affected by the changes to OSAP are not taken in by the Ford government's bogus claims that its 10 per cent cut to the tuition fees will make post-secondary education more affordable. They pointed out among other things that the small cut to tuition fees does not affect the poorest students who are saddled with tuition fees which have increased three times on average from two decades ago. They also noted that foreign students still have to pay three to four times the high fees imposed on Canadian students, and will not be eligible for the 10 per cent cut. Speakers also noted that the cuts to tuition, even though limited, would mean shortfalls in university and college operating budgets to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, which will then force these institutions to cut back on staff and teaching personnel, further damaging the working and learning conditions on campuses.

Speakers also denounced the Ford government's move to impose "opt-out" choices for the funding of student unions and clubs, and emphasized that this was a politically motivated attack to silence students' right to dissent and political organizing. It is an attack on democracy and freedom of speech aimed at splitting and dividing the students to atomize their resistance. They pointed out that student unions and clubs play an important role in enabling students to organize in defence of their independent political voice and organizing, as well as providing important campus services such as supports to Indigenous students, national minority students, LGBTQ students and students with specific needs.

A group of students from the Hamilton Students Mobilization opposed the increased police presence on their campuses and stated that this was being done to intimidate students and criminalize their assemblies. They denounced the police presence at the rally at Queen's Park and stated that they will not be criminalized for taking their political stands against the anti-student, anti-worker, anti-Indigenous Ford Conservatives.

Various union representatives also spoke at the rally in support of the students organizing against the Ford government. In particular Harvey Bischof, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, told the students that they can count on the support of teachers and workers in their fight. He said that "we have a government that knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing" and affirmed that increased investments in education are needed in Ontario to preserve and expand the quality of education for all students.

The action also officially launched the "We the Students" Campaign. The campaign has five demands:

1. Grants, not Loans
2. Eliminate Tuition Fees for All Students
3. Increase Public Funding for Public Education
4. Protect Students' Independent Voices
5. Defend the Right to Organize

The organizers of the action called on everyone to join with them and support their campaign and demands. They ended their action by affirming that they will not be silenced and expressed their determination to defeat the Ford government and its anti-social policies.

(With files from Ontario Student Action Network.)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 9 - March 16, 2019

Article Link:
Students Step Up the Fight Against Anti-Social Measures and Launch "We the Students" Campaign


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