Toronto – November 27, 2019 – The unanimous ruling by the Ontario Divisional Court to strike down Premier Doug Ford's so-called ‘Student Choice Initiative’ (SCI) followed a legal action by the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and the York Federation of Students which challenged the government’s calculated attack on students’ rights, union rights, academic freedom, and student services on Ontario campuses. For over a decade, UFCW Canada has campaigned as an ally with the CFS and other national and provincial students’ organizations on key issues like the elimination of tuition fees, and has provided labour rights awareness training to young workers and students across the country.
The Ontario Divisional Court quashed the SCI policy directive on November 21. While Ontarians were already struggling with the Ford government’s austerity cuts and the rollback of public services, the introduction of the SCI additionally resulted in tens of thousands of students losing access to food banks, survivor support centres, LGBTQI2S-positive spaces, and other critical resources that many students need in order to manage academic and campus life.
SCI was introduced by the Ontario Conservatives in the spring of 2019 and deemed student union services as non-essential; therefore, allowing students to opt-out of their student union fees. The Ford government framed its cynical initiative as a means to give students control over how they pay their tuition fees. However, it is clear that this so-called ‘initiative’ was an attack on student unions, campus organizing, and most importantly – an effort to silence the voices that hold the government accountable on student campuses. Under the guise of ‘choice’, the SCI promoted anti-labour sentiment and union-busting tactics. In the months following these changes, students saw that the SCI resulted in the crippling of equity-related services, such as free legal clinics, campus clubs, student unions, and food banks.
UFCW Canada applauds the victory for Ontario students and the court’s decision that the SCI was unlawful. It is important for all of us to call out the different ways in which conservative governments attack democracy on our shop floors, on our school campuses – on all levels across this country. Forty percent of UFCW Canada membership is comprised of workers under the age of 30. Student organizing and upholding student rights are necessary and vital components of our work. We stand strong with students across Canada and we will continue to support the Canadian Federation of Students and all student organizations in their work to improve post-secondary education and workers’ rights.
Paul R. Meinema,
Chair, National Council Young Workers’ Committee