Protesters march to Queen’s Park calling for student grants to be restored
On Friday, over a thousand post-secondary students flooded the streets of downtown Toronto as they protested the Ontario government’s cuts to student assistance.
Participants congregated at Yonge-Dundas square with signs in hand and vocal cords on stand-by to march to Queen’s Park in order to express their opposition to Premier Doug Ford’s cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
The new OSAP rules mean that students who previously had non-repayable grants, covering the average tuition, will see the non-needs-based grants converted to loans.
A 10 per cent cut to tuition for domestic students was also introduced at the same time, but the students’ target was on OSAP.
A sign in the protest read “no one buys a 10& discount.”
Ford has made it hard for any student relying on OSAP or support services to go to University. Services for disabled people, sexual assault survivors, people with low income and SO many others will be hit first and the hardest. This is disgusting and cruel. #ONpse #ONpoli
— Mguy (@themostmguy) January 25, 2019
George Brown College (GBC) students who attended stated they are being greatly affected by the changes.
“I fought for Fight the Fees at the last protest and I thought I won,” said Carla Rudberg, business student at GBC. “Now I have a premier that’s saying I’m a big fat loser, so I’m going to keep fighting.”
Rudberg had been given a grant under the recent Liberal government’s OSAP plan for low-income families, but those grants will cut starting in September.
Students will now also have to start paying back their OSAP loans once they start making $25,000 and interest will start accumulating on their loans the day after they graduate.
Students will now have to be out of school for six years instead of four to qualify as mature students and not have their parent’s income counted against their applications.
Robyn Percy, a music student at York University, is just above the low-income grant limit.
“All the help I can get is the only thing putting me through school. If this doesn’t get resolved I won’t be able to pursue my program,” said Percy. “I won’t be able to have a future and it’s the same for thousands like me.”
lots of chants and signs calling for free education, not just reinstating OSAP funding
— tannara 🌾 (@tyelland) January 25, 2019
Nour Alideeb, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario branch (CFS-O), motivated the crowd to continue standing in solidarity of student’s rights.
“Student democracy is under attack because this government is afraid of us!” she shouted to cheers from the crowd.
As the march made its way west along Dundas more people filtered in from all directions until thousands of picketers had joined in while walking up University Avenue to Queen’s Park.
The cold did not deter people on the march. Students squeezed in tightly as close to the entrance of the legislature as possible to have their voices heard.
“Learning should not come with the stress of debt for life, said Michelle Pettis, Community Action Centre co-ordinator at GBC. “That really compromises our learning.”
Pettis is also worried that student equity centres will be impacted, saying they are an integral part of college experience which unites students.
Due to less funding to post-secondary institutions, students are saying that their learning is being brought to a halt.
“Programs that they have within universities are going to go down in quality and they are going to have to make up for the cuts that Doug Ford’s government is doing,” said Jabriel Marcelo, McMaster philosophy student.
— Erin Bergeron Savard (@coolerinbs) January 25, 2019