75 student associations sign open letter to Premier

Open letter asking Premier Ford to not implement ‘student choice initiative’ signed by 75 student unions across Canada

75 student unions from across Canada, including the Student Association of George Brown College, have signed an open letter to Premier Doug Ford urging him to not implement the “Student Choice Initiative.”

The letter, penned Jan 29,  starts off by describing the role of student unions across the country.

“We have one job in this role, and that’s to listen to students. We talk to hundreds of students every week and we take action to try to help them.” 

The first topic the letter covers is OSAP cuts, specifically the decrease in grant-based funding in favour of loans.

“Students have seen a direct reduction in grant-based funding at every income level. Students universally feel that this decision is a firm step backwards.”

The bulk of the letter, however, is focused on the proposed Student Choice Initiative writing, “we want to express our collective opposition to a precedent your government is setting surrounding student union fees in Ontario, dubbed the Student Choice Initiative.”

This initiative means that students can opt-out of paying ancillary fees that help fund some student services, including Food Banks, student newspapers, student governments and more.

According to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, this initiative “through which every individual student in Ontario will be empowered to choose which student fees they want to pay and how that money will be allocated.”

The letter makes the point that “student governments are the democratic voice of students. Each year, hundreds of students are elected across Ontario on promises to keep our institutions accountable, to ensure the health and safety of our students, and fill crucial gaps that our institutions do not provide.”

“The student voice would be extremely diminished,” says Jasmyn St.Hilaire, director of communications and internal for the Student Association of George Brown College. “The Student Association is the voice of over 30,000 students here at George Brown College, and when you take that away you’re taking away student’s voices, and that’s very alarming.”

Andrew Pidsadny, president at Mohawk Student Association, also signed the letter.

“In certain situations where this has happened, like in Australia, it essentially removed the presence of student associations on campuses,” he said. 

Pidsadny said he hopes the letter will be heard by the government and that he thinks “the goal is to make some change and I think that we’re doing everything we can right now to influence some change.”

The letter ends by calling for the reversal of the Student Choice Initiative “until proper consultation is done”.

“What we are urging the government to do, all we’re asking is for them to actually engage us at the table, and we do believe that we are the major stakeholders in this decision,” said Jahmoyia Smith, president of the Fanshawe Student Union, “we were not a part of the initial process, or initial decision making, or anything for that matter.”

“The Student Association of George Brown College hires about 100 to 150 part-time staff, which are college students here at George Brown, every year, and so our goal is to make sure we are still being able to give that to our students as well as have all of our services,” said St.Hilaire. “We will be trying to figure out how we can do that under the new law.”

With files from Ladshia Jeyakanthan.

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75 student associations sign open letter to Premier