Organizers say protests are getting results and they will continue to fight
Students For Ontario refuse to abandon their fight to reverse the provincial government’s recent changes to OSAP.
Students across Ontario took to the streets on Monday against the Ontario government’s cuts to student assistance in a “Province wide-march for student rights.”
Protests took place in Toronto, as well as Barrie, Kingston, London, Waterloo, Guelph and Windsor.
“We’re out here protesting today because we’re very upset about what the government of Ontario has done in terms of OSAP, in terms of cutting grants, forcing the poorest of us on to higher levels of loans, (and) getting rid of the grace period,” said Jake Landau, Director of Operations at March for Our Education.
Protesters brought hand-made signs to protest the changes, and many used memes to express their discontent with humour.
One sign written on on a cardboard box read “this box would be my home if it weren’t for OSAP.”
“These actions actually do make a change,” said Nour Alideeb, the chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students—Ontario.
“I think whether it’s direct action, whether its writing letters, whether its mobilizing in communities across the province, we’re really going to be able to push the government back on these changes,” she said.
This was in reference to a recent announcement by Merrilee Fullerton, minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, to make transit passes a mandatory fee at post-secondary institutions.
“If you want to continue to be the government for the people, you need to take direction from us,” said Alideeb.
Alideeb pointed out that removing the interest-free grace period after graduation will make it harder for students to pay off their OSAP loans, potentially putting them in a vicious cycle.
Students who have previously received their entire tuition fees covered by OSAP may also find that they have to “pay the entirety of their tuition by themselves,” said Landau, regarding the government’s decision to replace grants with repayable loans.
Another issue raised was the decision made by the government to implement the “Student Choice Initiative,” which allows students to opt-out of certain ancillary fees.
These fees go towards funding student services such as student newspapers, LGBTQ2 spaces, and other initiatives.
“In terms of cuts to campus press, student unions, clubs, what it means is that it’s taking away the spaces and communities for students that enhance their student experience.” said Alideeb.
Although the turnout at Queen’s Park was lower than it was at the past protests, Landau made it clear that they are not giving up.
“When we keep up the pressure and we keep coming out on these protests, and these marches and these demonstrations, the government of Ontario will listen and they will fold. So we’re not going to stop,” he said.
“I think that they picked a fight with the wrong people,” Alideeb added.
Students For Ontario has called another march against the cuts to OSAP, slated for Tuesday, Feb. 19, when MPPs return from their winter break.