The Canadian Federation of Students and York Federation of Students have filed a legal challenge to the Doug Ford government’s so-called “Student Choice Initiative” (SCI). The government announced the SCI earlier this year without any consultation of students’ unions. The SCI will introduce a new opt-out period for students which greatly threatens funding and long-term sustainability of our students’ unions.
Students see the SCI for what it truly is–a blatant attack on the very organizations who hold the government accountable and who continuously demand free and accessible post-secondary education.
The administrative legal challenge states that:
1. The government did not have the authority to impose this change given the relative autonomy of public universities in signing memoranda of understanding and other agreements with student associations who have conducted democratic referenda;
2. They did not have the authority to impose this change given the Ontario College of Applied Arts and Technology Act (“OCAAT Act”) that governs public colleges in Ontario which states that : “Nothing in this Act restricts a student governing body of a college elected by the students of the college from carrying on its normal activities…”; and
3. They acted with improper purpose in claiming that the aim of the policy was to increase student choice and save student money, when it in fact only targets specific, generally speech- or advocacy-associated fees (i.e. student associations, campus newspapers, campus radio, LGBTQ2S+ service centres, provincial and national advocacy associations etc.) but not fees like Athletics, Health & Wellness, Campus Card etc.
Incoming National CFS Chairperson, Sofia Descalzi, declared: “Since they were put in place democratically decades ago, students’ unions have a strong history of holding governments and administrations accountable in making our campuses accessible, affordable, and safer places to pursue higher education.
It is the students in this country who tirelessly call on governments to support our collective future through investments in post-secondary education. As the students’ voices are getting louder and louder, it is clear that this policy is an attempt from the government to silence us and take out the opposition before they privatize education. This would erode the quality and access of our post-secondary education system.
We have always supported our members’ ability to hold this government–and all governments, regardless of party–to account, and this is no different”.