Students trade insults with Premier

Hundreds marched to Queens Park, chanting for OSAP cuts to be reversed

Updated Feb 27 with comments from GBC student activist Adrian Chao and Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merilee Fullerton 

 

Unruly student protesters welcomed Premier Doug Ford back to the Ontario Legislature on Feb 15, shouting “no cuts, no fees, tuition should be free!” 

One student shouted “you’re a f***ing cracker” from the public gallery before being removed by security. 

“Here’s an example of indoctrination, what we just saw up there,” Ford said about the protesters. “They’re going to be good socialists,” reported CBC news.  

Adrian Chao was one of the protesters ejected from the legislature and is the organizer of the Independent Student Solidarity Collective at George Brown College.  

“I don’t care. You can call me whatever you want,” he said regarding the Premier’s comments. “It scares people like him, who are used to accruing a lot of wealth, calling the big shots at his own personal business and having nobody speak up against him. That concerns him.”

Outside of the legislature, hundreds of students and faculty braved the cold to rally at Yonge and Dundas Square before marching to Queen’s Park. 

“Education is a right, we will not give up the fight!” chanted students as the march made its way to Queen’s Park and “I don’t know but I’ve been told, Doug Ford’s cuts are getting old!”

This was the fourth protest in Toronto surrounding cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants and the Student Choice Initiative. It is the first event in a “Week of Action” organized by the Canadian Federation of Students.

“I believe the cuts to education are essentially limiting what is a fundamental right for students across Ontario,” said Sebastian Leland, a political science student at York University, “the government should making strides, making education more accessible and not cutting funding for education.”

The changes to OSAP reduces grants and replaced them with loans. It also means that students will have to start paying interest on the provincial portion of student loans immediately after graduation.

Leland said that he’s going to be receiving more loans than grants now, which will make it harder to pay off his debt.

A student holds a home-made sign at the protest at Queen's Park on Feb 19. Photo: Kevin Goodger / The Dialog

A student holds a home-made sign at the protest at Queen’s Park on Feb 19. Photo: Kevin Goodger / The Dialog

The Ontario government’s decision doesn’t only affect students.

“The cuts are very concerning for me and for my colleagues, and also for my students,” said Amanda Paxton, who works as a limited-term contract English teacher at Trent University. “I have a lot of students who don’t know if they’re going to be able to continue their education because of the cuts to OSAP.”

Paxton said she hopes that the cuts are scaled back, and that OSAP funding will be fully restored.

The changes also introduced the Student Choice Initiative, which will allow students to opt-out of certain fees deemed “non-essential” such as campus media.  

“So that’s why it’s really important that we have campus radio stations, for example. They’re non-profit corporations and they are mandated to put student voices on air and also allow access for members of the community to participate in our broadcast system.” 

According to Tuinstra Harrison, student radio stations and newspapers are at risk of underfunding with the enactment of the Student Choice Initiative, as they have fixed costs ranging from transmitters to electricity and leases.

Merilee Fullerton, the minister of training, college, and universities, defended the Student Choice Initiative, stating ,“the issues around ancillary fees came from the need to make post-secondary education more affordable and to give students the freedom of choice in terms of the costs that they incur during their education.” 

When asked what she would say to student newspapers who could potentially lose funding, she said, “I have great faith in our young people. We will find ways to innovate and change and evolve as newspapers switched over to digital media.” 

A protester holds a sign depicting Doug Ford as the devil. Photo: Kevin Goodger / The Dialog

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Students trade insults with Premier