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Ontario students walk-out against Ford's cuts

Student walk out at Ryerson University
Pam Johnson

March 22, 2019

Thousands of students at 17 Ontario universities and colleges walked out of class on March 20 to protest Ford’s cut to OSAP funding and the removal of mandatory student fees that is a direct attack on student unions and other student services.

Students first hit the streets in anger twenty-four hours after Ford’s announcement in January. A demonstration of thousands happened a week later at Queen’s park. The March 20  walk-out was organized by the Canadian Federation of Students. It is the first coordinated action across multiple campuses.

Impact of Ford’s cuts

The impact of the cuts is immediate for students who deferred loan payments. They will have to start paying back loans on April 1. Some students will not be able to return to school next fall because the change from grants to loans will be too much of a debt burden.

Leitzl Vance, president of the Ryerson part time student union said, ‘I am talking to people who are wondering if they can go back to school next year. I am talking to people who are wondering if, in their family, they will have choose which siblings will be able to go to school’

One parent said, ‘These cuts are terrifying. I have no idea how my kids will complete post secondary, how my youngest and his friends will survive and successfully complete high school and it looks like I will need to put my Masters on hold.’

A striking U of T student said, 'I believe that Ford's government is not for the people. He is not for the people whatsoever. He's for the rich people.

Vance called the cutting of mandatory fees ‘a political move against student unions and our voices. Student unions are places for students to find their voice in the school and in the government. Ford is scared of students being organized’.

Students rising  

Ryerson had one of the largest turn-outs for the walk-out with 600 students participating. Hundreds were out on other campuses in Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Peterborough, Windsor, Guelph and other cities.

The Ontario walk-out happened days after a global student climate strike, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s weekly strike action in Sweden.  150,000 students in Quebec joined mass protests around the globe against climate change as part of a global day in which tens of thousands of students walked out on Friday March 15

In Quebec 20,000 students voted at campus assemblies for an unlimited general strike against unpaid internships which began on March 18. Also on March 18, dozens of students sat it at the U of T President’s office on March 18, twenty-four hours after a student committed suicide, the third on campus this year. They demanded more mental health services. Students at Simon Fraser University crashed a Board of Governors meeting on March 21, demanding a tuition freeze.

The past week of multiple events by students across Canada and Quebec shows the escalating anger and frustration for a whole generation facing austerity and climate devastation. In the words of Greta Thunberg, ‘We have to understand the emergency of the situation. Our leadership has failed us. Young people must hold older generations accountable for the mess they have created. We need to get angry, and transform that anger into action.’



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