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Ontario students in revolt

Students protest Ford's cuts to education
Sid Lacombe

February 28, 2019

Students all over Ontario are marching against the Ford government’s cuts. spoke with student organizer Mohammad Ali about the protests thus far and the next steps.

Why are students marching against Ford?

Students are mobilizing at the level that we are seeing because they see through Ford’s lies. These are the biggest student mobilizations in the province in at least 10 years.

Ford says he’s lowering tuition by 10 per cent but there will be no increased funding for the institutions so there will be less money in the system overall and that will attack the quality of education. The pressure will then be on faculty, institutions and student services. That will mean larger classes, fewer resources for students and will put a large burden the system

Can you let me know more about the student union defunding? What is Ford doing exactly?

He is calling for a change in the fee structure for student unions so students can cancel their fees. This is an attack on democracy on campus and communities. Ford and the conservatives know that student unions and public interest research groups (pirgs) are hubs of community and campus organizing. So he is trying to take away resources of community organizers on campus and otherwise.

Ford called the student unions marxist hotbeds on campus. There are some assumptions we can make here - conservative forces planned an agenda to attack democracy (pirgs and student unions) for a long time.

We know this because students and student newspapers started covering this 10 years ago. Conservative student clubs launched campaigns to destabilize student unions and pirgs and led de-federation drives and organized trainings for conservative students. Now that Doug Ford is in power he can use legislation to take away the resources of the student groups.

What sort of impact will this have on student clubs?

Student clubs do a number of different things and run multiple services. Ford says this won’t impact on things like campus food banks but it will mean that the staff people who may have been involved in running those will not be there. And there may be other costs associated with services for students that will be on the chopping block.

Ford called for student protesters to have their mouths washed out with soap. What do you make of that?

It’s because Ford doesn’t want to have a real discussion. He knows that the plan is to stifle democracy and directly attack students. So he just tries to smear the people mobilizing against him.

He is hoping that he can frame the argument about saving another dollar and that students will be happy when they see a fee reduced but we know this will have negative impacts on students and nobody is buying his line. That’s why he resorts to sound byte attacks and not real arguments.

What are the next steps for the movement? Are there more rallies planned?

The Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario is currently in the middle of a week of action but there will be more major events in March. There will be mobilizations before the budget and a day of action will be set soon.

• Check for more info.

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