The Ontario division of the Canadian Federation of Students, together with York University’s student union, announced on Tuesday a legal challenge to fight the provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative, citing a lack of legal authority and bad faith.
The SCI, which was introduced by the Progressive Conservatives as part of sweeping changes to student financial life across the province, requires universities and colleges to have have an opt-out option for non-academic ancillary fees in place for the fall semester.
The legislation has triggered a backlash from student unions, campus publications and other post-secondary student groups since it was announced on Jan. 17 earlier this year. Along with it came a 10 per cent cut to tuition for domestic students.
“This policy is a direct attack on students’ ability to organize and provide essential services on campus,” incoming chairperson of the CFS, Sofia Descalzi, said in a press release from the national organization.
“It is a clear attempt to silence students’ unions and student organizations who have a long history of holding administrations and governments accountable when it comes to creating accessible, affordable and safer campuses.”
“We are filing this legal challenge on behalf of all students, students’ unions and student organizations, including campus media and student clubs, the province,” said Guelph graduate Kayla Weiler, the CFS Ontario representative and a former Central Student Association vice president.
“Despite its claim, the Ford government is not for the people and it is certainly not for the students. Students’ unions have been democratically voted in place by students and should remain free of government interference.”
The Canadian Federation of Students represents over 350,000 students in Ontario, including members of the York Federation of Students, one of the largest students’ union in the province.
“Students’ unions provide essential services on campus like food banks, LGBTQ centres and sexual assault crisis support,” said Fatima Babiker, York Federation of Students president.
“By deeming these fees non-essential, the Ford government is effectively saying that students and their wellbeing don’t matter.”
The organization revealed that the challenge was filed last Thursday and the Canadian Federation is hopeful this matter will be considered in time to prevent the full implementation of the policy before the fall semester begins.