Canadian Federation of Students rallies for ‘free education for all’

Nov 10, 2023 | Canadian News, Headlines, News

Jeferson Quiros-VargasMikulas Horvath & Liam Neilson

Amidst rain and hail, the Canadian Student Federation (CFS) marched on Wednesday to demand free education for all to counter the rising cost of living.

Students rallied at Grange Park and walked to Queen’s Park demanding “grants not loans” and “free education for all.”

Ontario has the dubious record of providing the least amount of funding per post-secondary student in university than any other province or territory. At the college level, the province puts in less funding than do international students from India.

Leandra Gamboa, a Humber employee who supports the protest as they are also part of a union composed of many students, cited a “ridiculous” rent market alongside increasing tuition and inflation rates.

“It’s just a big storm of everything getting more expensive,” Gamboa said.

Close up of one of the main banner holders mid way through a chant.

Protesters at the Canadian Federation of Students march on Nov. 8. Post-secondary students are calling for better education funding. Photo credit: Mikulas Horvath

They also said stagnant wages added more difficulty on top of the already demanding economy.

Late last month, the Bank of Canada released a report stating the key interest rate would be maintained at five per cent while budget cuts to education continue.

At the beginning of last October, the provincial government raised the minimum wage to $16.55, yet reports show that the increase is not sufficient.

The Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN) released a report on Nov. 6 calculating what a livable wage should look like.

The findings said that adults living in the Greater Toronto Area would need to earn $25.05 an hour to have a standard quality of life while maintaining all current prices for groceries, housing and all other expenses.

Protesters walking towards Queen's Park building while holding signs.

Protesters walking towards Queen’s Park building while holding signs. Photo credit: Liam Neilson

Sarom Rho, an organizer with the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), an organization that fights for fairness for immigrant workers, said everybody in the country, the moment they land, should have the same rights and protections as everybody else.

Harshill Dhingra, a student who is a part of MWAC, spoke of the necessity for the rally.

“It’s a protest to bring students together to make students feel they are not alone they’re part of a community, “ Dhingra said.

For Dhingra, a way to supplement the costs of universities without increasing the tax burden on most citizens is to raise taxes for higher-income individuals.

Left to right: Harshill Dhingra and Sarom Rho, both organizers for Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC).

Left to right: Harshill Dhingra and Sarom Rho, both organizers for Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC). Photo credit: Liam Neilson

Adaeze Embalaja, a national representative for the Ontario section of the CFS, said she believes the government had “boldly” ignored student needs.

She said “direct action is critical” while simultaneously lobbying on all levels of government for a 25 per cent reduction of tuition each year.

‘We know things don’t happen overnight but at the end of the day we are calling on the government to start making those changes now,” she said.

A report by Higher Education Strategy Associates analyzing how post-secondary institutions are funded showed Ontario is the province which provided the least amount of public funding.

The report said Ontario “has been dead last in institutional funding for higher education” for the majority of the past 40 years.

It suggests that due to budget cuts “something like 76 per cent of all tuition fees in the sector comes from international students.”

During COVID-19, the federal budget for Canada Student Grants was a maximum of $6,000 per individual yet on Aug. 1 the limit dropped to $4,200 per student.