Trudeau launches volunteer grant, but students say it’s not enough

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced the launch of the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), but students say it falls short.

First announced in April, the grant will give current students a one-time payment of $1,000 to $5,000 based on the number of hours volunteered. CBC reported that $1,000 will be granted for every 100 hours volunteered, meaning that students will have to work 500 hours to attain the full amount.

“Canadian students are looking for ways to make a real difference in their communities,” said Trudeau in a release. “With these new investments, we are giving them with the support and connections they need to have a positive impact during COVID-19 and gain the skills needed for future success.”

Also launched today, the I Want to Help website provides a list of volunteer opportunities for students in different cities across Canada.

Trudeau added that Canada would create 10,000 jobs in tandem with the grant.

But the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) estimates that because the grant doesn’t cover hours already worked, students will have to work an average of 28 hours per week to receive the full $5,000.

“This is yet another example of the problems with the patchwork approach to financial aid that the federal government has taken during the pandemic,” said Nicole Brayiannis, CFS national deputy chairperson, in a release. “Since the beginning of this crisis, students and their solidarity partners have called for a universal benefit that includes international students and doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

Like the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, the CSSG excludes international students. Students above the age of 30 are also ineligible for the CSSG.

“The federal government continues to show that despite the fact that international students contribute billions of dollars to the economy each year, they are deemed not worthy of the same support as their domestic counterparts,” said Sofia Descalzi, CFS national chairperson, in the same statement.

“International students have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and are in an especially vulnerable situation. There has been a complete lack of empathy and care afforded to them throughout this crisis.”