AMS joins student unions across country to protest Ford government’s funding changes

The AMS has joined student unions across Canada to protest Ontario’s controversial changes to student organizations in the province.

As reported by The Charlatan, Carleton University’s student paper, over 70 student unions signed an open letter today that urges the Doug Ford government to reverse the Student Choice Initiative “until proper consultation is done.”

“We support the advocacy being done by Ontario student associations and hope that the Ontario government will undergo thorough consultation with the groups that would be affected by these changes,” AMS VP External Cristina Ilnitchi wrote to The Ubyssey.

Introduced earlier this month, the initiative allows students to opt-out of “non-essential” student fees. The government argues this change would add “predictability and transparency” for students.

It also made cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), which offers financial support to low-income Ontarian students across the country — including hundreds at UBC — and reduced provincial tuition by 10 per cent.

While individual institutions will have discretion to decide which fees will remain mandatory, the ministry only specified those directly tied to health, career services and select other programs as “essential.” That means student unions, diversity centre or student publications, among others, could soon lose the bulk of their funding.

“This has an immense impact on the student experience, from the health of students to the affordability and accessibility of their education,” Ilnitchi wrote.

The initiative would also effectively overturn the democratic referenda that established those fees.

“Adding an ‘opt-out’ option, then, would be the same as allowing voters to opt-out of paying their taxes to police services or libraries,” reads the letter.

The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student paper, also reported on January 17 that Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton couldn’t provide specifics when asked about who the government has consulted for its proposals.

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There is little indication that BC’s provincial government would enact such a move.

But the letter — which was also signed by other student unions in BC like the Simon Fraser Student Society and the University of Victoria Student Society — expresses concern that it could inspire similar measures in other provinces.

“It could set a national precedent that has a measurable impact on the student experience and campus culture across the country,” argues the statement.

—with files from The Varsity

This article has been updated to include The Charlatan’s reporting.