February 18, 2019

Ontario Students March for Free Education and Against the ‘Student Choice Initiative’

By Ivan Byard - organiser of the Toronto YCL-LJC

While students are getting ready for an Ontario-wide rally against OSAP cuts on February 19th, here is a report on the last student demonstration that took place on January 25th in Toronto.

On January 25th thousands of students, faculty, organized labour members, and their community allies gathered in Toronto to demonstrate their outrage against the provincial tory attack on public education. The march was a spontaneous response to the January 17th announcement from the Doug Ford government that a 10% reduction in tuition fees was a ‘bait-and-switch’ swindle that would be paid for with devastating cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) and universities and colleges institutional funding.
The announcement from the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities included the dangerous and anti-democratic ‘Student Choice Initiative’. The ‘Student Choice Initiative’ would allow students to opt out of their union and student organization dues. This means that campus clubs and organizations that benefit from funding decided on through student democracy – such as on-campus newspapers, pride, women’s groups, cultural associations and anti-racist groups – will not be able to play their role in making our campuses safe and productive places for students to independently develop their political and social life.

The mood in the air at the march was militant as students and their allies braved the cold weather. There were placards, banners, and chants calling for free education and against all barriers to accessible emancipatory education. Many in the crowd came wearing a red square, a symbol of the 2012 Quebec Student Strikes and a call to turn spontaneous outrage into sustained organized mobilizations.

This march was preceded by a week of smaller but encouraging actions across the province, which included demonstrations on campuses, at an MPP’s office and at queens park. Students and working class people across the province are infuriated by the tories cuts to public colleges and universities. This serious attack on students ability to access post-secondary education and their charter right to association is part of the conservative governments corporate class mandate. In December we saw the Tories plan to cancel a planned Francophone University met with strong resistance from the Franco-Ontarian community, students, and their allies. The march on January 25th despite the strong showing was not the largest student mobilization against the Ford regime, that title belongs to the high school students of Ontario who organized a massive walk off in September against the reactionary Sex Education curriculum reversal. There is a growing need for a mass movement against the conservatives government "for the (rich) people".

Students are ready to fight! Now is the time to build and unite the organized struggle for free, democratic, public and emancipatory education!

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