Students walk out against OSAP cuts

Students from across Ontario walk out to protest cuts to OSAP and the Student Choice Initiative

“It’s crazy and absolutely unfair.”

That’s why Jennifer Douglas, an interpreting student, said she was one of dozens of students who walked out of class today at at George Brown College (GBC).

Organized by the Student Association of George Brown College (SA) the protest denounced the provincial government’s plan to cut over $600 million in Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) funding and defund student unions through the Student Choice Initiative.

Douglas said everyone she knows in her program was outraged with the cuts to OSAP because she and many of her classmates rely on OSAP to go to school.

The walk out was a province-wide protest organized by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) that demanded more grants rather than loans, elimination of tuition fees for all students and increased public funding for public education, according to a CFS statement.

Walk outs were organized by students at 17 Ontario colleges and universities including, Seneca, Fanshawe, York, Ryerson, University of Toronto, Western and the University of Windsor where students briefly blocked the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge to the United States.

“I would hope that (the Ontario government) would see that we’re not okay with it,” said Arnel Fleurant, director of education for the SA. “It was a bad move on their end, and they should reconsider these changes,” he added.

Jennifer Douglas, an interpreting student, walked out of class in protest on Wednesday calling cuts to OSAP "absolutely unfair." Photo: Luiz Felipe Lamussi / The Dialog.

Jennifer Douglas, an interpreting student, walked out of class in protest on Wednesday calling cuts to OSAP “absolutely unfair.” Photo: Luiz Felipe Lamussi / The Dialog.

Fleurant said that ancillary fees cover student services on campus such as better access to WiFi, the library, and tutoring. Ancillary fees also fund the SA and The Dialog.

High-school students at Jacob Hespeler in Cambridge and Jean Vanier in Toronto also walked out.

Nathan Lapp, a Sheridan software development student doing a co-op at GBC pointed out that it isn’t just OSAP that is affected.

“Teachers are going to lose their jobs, it’s not just about OSAP, it’s about high school and public school (too), it’s affected a lot of people,” he said.

Students at GBC started the walk out in the Kings Lounge, holding up signs demanding “grants over loans” and “free education now.” They used tambourines and noise-makers to create a disruption while marching through the college before ending outside.

“What’s happening now here is similar to what’s happening back home in Brazil,” said Joao Pedro Pacheco, an international student from Brazil. “People are losing their rights slowly. It always starts and the small things end up being huge things.”

The march ended with a free breakfast and education session in the King’s Lounge. Fleurant said there were upwards of 60 students who participated in the walkout at GBC.

“I think the goal was accomplished, and now we’re just looking towards the future.” said Fleurant. “There are definitely going to be more demonstrations and more events to be planned on these issues, until the Ford government rectifies the problem.”

 

With files from Luiz Felipe Lamussi

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Students walk out against OSAP cuts