Student fees bankroll ‘crazy Marxist’ councils, says Premier Doug Ford

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The Progressive Conservatives are ending mandatory ancillary student fees to tackle the red menace.

That’s the message of the governing party’s latest fundraising email blast sent Monday titled “How broken was education?”

“Students were forced into unions and forced to pay for those unions,” Premier Doug Ford said of the fees that bankroll student government.

“I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to. So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in,” said Ford.

The move last month, which was hailed by Conservatives and panned by student groups, was in conjunction with the government’s 10 per cent post-secondary tuition cut and revamp of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

“For all of their talk, the Liberals never lowered tuition. So, we did. We cut tuition by 10 per cent across the board,” the premier said.

“What are the Liberals saying about it now? That we’re gutting the system. These guys are nuts,” he said.

“Take OSAP. A family bringing in $170,000 a year was still getting $2,000 in grants. Sorry folks, but government grants should be for people who need it most. So, we fixed that too.”

Student fees, which can add as much as $2,000 a year to post-secondary costs, fund numerous on-campus activities and clubs, including newspapers.

Only programs that support transit, health and wellness — like athletics, walk-safe programs or counselling — and career services will be mandatory.

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Fears raised over impact of tinkering with student fees

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At the York University food bank, shelves and refrigerators are stocked to try to keep up with growing demand — but this crucial service, funded by student fees, could be in jeopardy.

That’s because the food bank is operated by the students’ union and beginning in the fall all post-secondary students will be able to opt out of ancillary fees considered non-essential, such as those earmarked for student associations.

Student fees fund things like student newspapers, including Ryerson University’s Eyeopener.
Student fees fund things like student newspapers, including Ryerson University’s Eyeopener.  (Photo Supplied)

The Food Support Centre is one of many services run by the union, and is “the closest one to my heart,” explains Rawan Habib, president of the York Federation of Students, which represents about 48,000 undergraduate students.

“Every month we see more students registering,” she says. “It’s something they desperately need.”

In September, the union moved the food bank out of a room the size of a walk-in closet that serviced about 800 students a month, into a larger space that now sees 1,300 students each month. But how this food bank will look next September is unclear.

That’s because Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced changes that will impact college and university students, such as cutting tuition by 10 per cent, ending free tuition for lower-income students and getting rid of mandatory ancillary fees.

Currently, students pay ancillary fees on top of tuition to cover costs for campus-wide services, facilities and clubs, among other things. These fees differ by school, but range between several hundred dollars to $2,000. Last month, Doug Ford’s government announced the creation of a new fee structure. Starting in September, all ancillary fees will be itemized and categorized as being for essential or non-essential services. Students can opt out of the latter.

Dubbed the Student Choice Initiative, it has been lauded and lambasted. Supporters say it puts money in students’ pockets and keeps them from paying for things they don’t use or support. But critics call it an attack on student unions and campus media and say it will kill campus life.

According to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, fees considered essential are those that support student buildings, career services, financial aid offices, walksafe programs, transit passes, athletics and recreation, academic supports, health and counselling, student ID cards, transcripts and convocation. These fees remain mandatory. Students will be able to opt out of health and dental plans if they have pre-existing coverage.

Rawan Habib, president of the York Federation of Students, is shown in the food bank at York University, which is run by the student union and funded by student fees.
Rawan Habib, president of the York Federation of Students, is shown in the food bank at York University, which is run by the student union and funded by student fees.  (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star)

Non-essential services include fees for spaces, services and activities that promote campus life and community, such as media, student clubs, campus cafés and restaurants, and student unions, which support a variety of initiatives and groups. These fees will be optional.

Each school will determine what is essential and provide a detailed breakdown of fees.

Minister Merrilee Fullerton says the change brings “predictability and transparency” and makes students feel more “empowered and informed about their own finances.”

“We are giving students a choice to decide where they spend their money,” she said when announcing the change at a news conference in January.

Days later, a spending scandal at Ryerson University erupted, with the student union facing allegations of financial mismanagement after credit card statements showed questionable purchases at places such as restaurants, night clubs and the LCBO. A forensic audit will review nearly $700,000 in expenses.

The events prompted the premier to post a news story about it on Twitter and comment.

“I’ve heard from so many students who are tired of paying excessive fees, only to see them wasted and abused,” tweeted Ford. “That’s why we’re giving students the power to choose to pay for the campus services they actually use.”

But choice already exists, according to leaders of more than 75 students’ unions from colleges and universities in Canada who say they represent 1.3 million students. In a letter to Fullerton and Ford, they say student governments regularly hold referendums on ancillary fees, letting students vote on which services and programs to support.

They also note the current fee structure provides continuity and stability for budgeting purposes, whereas the opt-out will result in uncertainty because groups won’t be able to anticipate how many students will use it.

“Without stable, predictable funding, student unions will be forced to end a wide variety of programs and services — everything from mental health to sexual assault supports, and (lay off) thousands of students that work at on-campus businesses,” reads the letter. “With a 10 per cent tuition cut and no additional public funding, we know institutions themselves won’t pick up the slack.”

Jasmyn St. Hilaire, director of communications and internal at the student association of George Brown College, says the union hopes to work with administration to ensure it continues to deliver services, which include a food bank, peer support for marginalized students and income tax clinics.

“We’re really trying hard not to have to cut anything but we’ll see how that goes,” said St. Hilaire.

At the University of Toronto, Sandy Welsh, vice-provost for students, says the school values the contributions of student societies and their services.

“All student groups are concerned about how this will affect them. We will be meeting with leaders of student societies to answer questions.”

But even administrators have questions.

At the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Brad MacIsaac, the assistant vice-president of planning and analysis, says, “There’s still so much that’s unknown.”

“We’re still working with the ministry to ensure we know all of the rules and regulations — we’re hoping that within the month we’ll have the technical document.”

Having to create a new online system for students to opt in or opt out that’s up and running by the summer in time for registration, “is definitely a lot of work at a very busy time of year.”

MacIsaac doesn’t think many students in the upper years will opt out because they understand how clubs and services “enhance the student engagement.” But he’s concerned first-year students, who’ve never experienced campus life, will be more likely to opt out.

Nour Alideeb, chairperson of Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, with 350,000 members, says the Student Choice Initiative is a government ploy to “take out the student groups that hold them accountable.”

“It’s a direct attack on student organizing and groups … and campus publications,” she says.

Nour Alideeb, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, took part in a rally at Queen's Park in January to protest cuts to OSAP and campus groups that would be affected by the funding cuts.
Nour Alideeb, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, took part in a rally at Queen’s Park in January to protest cuts to OSAP and campus groups that would be affected by the funding cuts.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

Alideeb, an undergraduate student at UofT, worries advocacy and counselling groups, such as those that work with LGBTQ students, are at risk.

“These student groups save lives. It’s not just what happens in the classroom that supports students to be successful.”

Also in jeopardy, she fears, are student centres, which create a sense of community on campus, saying “This is really going to kill student life and the student experience.”

She recognizes that saving money is important, especially for those impacted by financial aid changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), and already struggling to pay for food or rent. But ultimately, some will be faced with a dilemma.

“Students will have to make the decision between short-term gain or the long-term experience of being involved with a student community and having access to those things.”

Her comments are echoed, in part, by Charles Pascal, professor at UofT’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

“When students pay fees they are paying to increase the quality of life for everybody,” says the former Ontario deputy minister of education. “The moment you allow students to opt out, many will, and it will kill those activities.

“The word choice can be a real weapon against something that’s good for everyone. So if 50 per cent of students opt out of student fees, what’s going to happen to the social fabric and supports that are provided through those fees?”

Kieran Moloney, president of Carleton’s Conservatives, welcomes the opt-out because it’s a way for students to “materially reduce” tuition and not support student groups they don’t agree with.

Students make their way out of the tent following convocation ceremony at York University in 2018. Student fees help fund cultural and special services such as convocation at York.
Students make their way out of the tent following convocation ceremony at York University in 2018. Student fees help fund cultural and special services such as convocation at York.  (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star file photo)

“In the real world, if you want to be part of something you pay for it, if not, you shouldn’t,” he says.

He suspects Ontario will end up with a patchwork, with some schools deeming certain things essential, while others consider them non-essential. And he worries certain groups will play up elements of what they do to be considered essential.

Moloney isn’t opposed to student unions, saying many do good work — his group receives funding from the union — but there are questionable ones, he says, referring to the recent problems at Ryerson Students’ Union.

At Ryerson, an arts and science undergraduate student pays about $911 in ancillary fees, which is the lowest among universities, according to Common University Data Ontario. Of that amount, $130 are fees for the union, which has an operating budget of $2.7 million.

Jacob Dubé, editor-in-chief of the Ryerson student newspaper The Eyeopener, which broke the story on the spending scandal, says some students are using it as an example of why the opt-out is a good idea. But, he notes, the union also supports groups and policies that are vital for campus life.

And his own newspaper, which has doggedly investigated the union, relies on the student levy — in the 2017-2018 year, it received $430,000 in student fees, as approved by a democratic referendum.

“Without (student fees) the paper would be completely different,” says Dubé. “We would definitely not be as involved in the community as we would like.”

He says student media are the only ones keeping close watch over unions and administrations.

“If these levies were to be in jeopardy, then, basically, anyone at any university that didn’t have a paper could run rampant.”

At York University, Matt Dionne, editor-in-chief of the Excalibur student newspaper, says without the student levy “we would very likely not exist.” And that, he says, would be a blow to a campus with a population of about 60,000 students and staff.

Dionne is concerned about how the university is going to implement this policy. If media is lumped together under one student fee, that could be a problem for those who support one organization but not another. But if every single item is listed, he suspects students won’t read through them all, and may just opt out of everything.

It’s hard to predict how students will react — York lets students opt out of some ancillary fees and only a handful have done so. For example, just one person opted out of paying the $2.10 fee for the Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line.

At this point, the student union has no idea what the impact will be on its budget, so it can’t say how services, campaigns and events will be affected.

“That’s the scary part,” says Habib. “I want to commit to ensuring that (students will) still be able to access the things they need. But I can’t give them an answer as of yet because we’re in the dark.”

With files from Kristin Rushowy

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74

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Toronto parents pay the highest child care fees in the country. Elsewhere in Canada, provinces are capping the burden

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More than half of Canadian provinces are using fee caps to rein in parents’ galloping child-care costs, but Ontario isn’t one of them, according to a national survey being released Thursday.

“For the first time in five years we are seeing movement, with more provinces using public policy to make child care more affordable,” said study co-author David Macdonald of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Jessica Dumelie and her daughters, one of whom is almost 3 and the other who is 18 months. Dumelie and her husband will be paying $3,400 a month for child care when Jessica returns to work next year.
Jessica Dumelie and her daughters, one of whom is almost 3 and the other who is 18 months. Dumelie and her husband will be paying $3,400 a month for child care when Jessica returns to work next year.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

“But these bright spots are overshadowed by the fact that fees in Canada remain astronomical, outpacing inflation in most cities,” added Macdonald, senior economist for the left-leaning think tank.

Toronto parents continue to pay the highest median fees in the country, with infant care topping $1,685 a month or $20,220 a year, says the centre’s fifth annual report on child-care affordability.

Parents in Mississauga, Hamilton and Kitchener pay $1,490, while median infant fees in Vancouver are $1,400 a month, according to the study, which surveyed fees in licensed centres and homes in 28 cities across the country last summer.

Spaces for preschoolers (age 2-1/2 to 4), which make up more than half of the 717,000 licensed spots for young children in Canada, are still the most expensive in Toronto with median monthly fees of $1,150. Preschool fees in Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham, London, Kitchener and Ottawa follow close behind at $1,000 a month, the report says.

Quebec, Manitoba and PEI enjoy the most affordable child care in the country, thanks to long-standing provincial fee caps. The median monthly cost for all age groups in Quebec is less than $200, while median monthly preschool fees in Manitoba and PEI are $451 and $586 respectively, the report notes.

But the recent introduction of fee caps in Newfoundland, British Columbia and Alberta are starting to make a difference for parents in those provinces too, Macdonald said. For the first time, median fees for preschoolers in St. John’s and Edmonton went down last year, the report says.

Read More:

Child care costs just $10 a day for these B.C. families — and it’s changed their lives

Alberta expanded a $25-a-day pilot project launched in 2017 from 22 centres to 122 locations last year.

B.C.’s new fee-reduction initiative has lowered parent costs by $100 to $350 a month in participating centres. And the NDP government rolled out its promised $10-a-day program in 53 centres last fall.

As part of a 10-year plan launched in 2012, Newfoundland introduced operating grants in 2018 to centres that agreed to cap daily fees at $44 for infants, $35 for toddlers and $30 for preschoolers.

“Almost half of the spaces surveyed in St. John’s in 2018 were participating in the Operating Grant Program, which is reflected in the more than $100 drop in median monthly fees since 2017,” the report says.

In all cases, provinces used federal funding to cap or reduce fees, the report notes, adding such collaboration “can hopefully create a foundation for improving child-care affordability in the future.”

But in Ontario, where the previous Liberal government had planned to introduce free preschool starting next year, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have promised a child-care fee tax rebate instead.

Toronto parent Jessica Dumelie, 30, who is on maternity leave with her second child, is bracing for the financial fallout when she returns to her health-care job next January.

Monthly child-care costs for her daughters, who will be 18-months- and almost 4-years-old when she goes back to work, will be $1,750 and $1,650 respectively and easily eclipse her family’s mortgage payments.

Fortunately, the whopping $3,400 monthly child-care bill will drop when Dumelie’s older daughter starts kindergarten in the fall of 2020. But Dumelie and her husband, who works in finance, will still be paying more than $2,000 a month for toddler and after-school care.

“We were very excited about the possibility of free preschool for our younger one,” said Dumelie, a member of parent group Toronto East Enders for Child Care. “But now that doesn’t look like an option.”

She’s not sure how the tax rebate would work or even if her family would qualify.

In the meantime, Dumelie said her family is “making sacrifices” and putting money aside to pay for child care when she returns to work.

“Costs are wild,” she said. “We’ll just have to find some way to make it work.”

Thursday’s report also takes a closer look at child-care costs in Quebec, where about two-thirds of centres and home daycares are publicly funded with fees set at $7 a day and the rest are private businesses that charge “market” rates.

Since the mid-2000s, Quebec has offered parents who use private centres a child-care tax rebate to help cover the cost. But even with the tax rebate, parents in those centres pay fees that are between two- and three-times higher than those in publicly-funded programs with a set fee, the report notes.

At an annual cost of about $800 million a year, Quebec’s child-care tax rebate clearly isn’t as effective as set fees when it comes to parent cost, Macdonald said.

Quality in Quebec’s private centres isn’t as high as in $7-a-day programs either, added the report’s co-author Martha Friendly, citing recent research in that province.

“Since we have been doing these studies, the fees (across the country) have continued to go up, up, up,” said Friendly executive director of the Child Care Resource and Research Unit.

“What this report found is that in provinces that set fees, it has an effect in the centres covered by the policy. But it doesn’t have an effect on market-fee centres,” she said.

The experience in Quebec shows Ontario would be making a mistake if it introduces its promised child-care fee rebate, added Friendly.

“We are moving from free child care — the most affordable — to a mirage,” she said. “You don’t create accessible, affordable and quality child care by sending (parents) a cheque or giving them a tax rebate.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb

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No one likes paying student fees, but some campus clubs say axing them is a ‘direct attack’

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Student organizations say the Ontario government’s decision to allow college and university students to opt out of the fees that fund campus groups, student newspapers and clubs will make the province’s post-secondary institutions less transparent.

The change to fee payments was announced Thursday alongside other reforms to higher education that included scrapping free tuition for low-income students and imposing an across-the-board tuition fee cut.

Merrilee Fullerton, the minister of training, colleges and universities, said some fees — including walksafe programs, health and counselling, athletics and recreation and academic support — will remain mandatory.

She said each institution will be tasked with deciding which of these additional fees are deemed essential and which students can choose to bypass.

Fees often went to services students didn’t use: minister

« These fees often get allocated to services students do not use or to support organizations they do not support, » she said. « In most cases, students do not have a clear understanding of what these fees are paying for or any choice about paying them. This must change. »

Fullerton said she believes there are many programs that haven’t been deemed essential that students will consider important and support.

Several student groups expressed concerns that colleges and universities would be determining the fate of organizations meant to hold school administrators and the provincial government to account. 

Nour Alideeb, chairperson of Canadian Federations of Students Ontario, said the move seems targeted toward certain campus organizations.

« What’s really scary is that I feel like this is a direct attack on the groups that actually try to hold the government accountable when it comes to student issues, » she said.

‘They may well have to shut down’

Canadian University Press, a national co-operative owned and operated by student newspapers across the country, said campus newspapers rely heavily on student levees and may not be able to function if students opt out en masse.

« Without that source of revenue, they may well have to shut down, » said Emma McPhee, CUP’s vice-president.

Aside from job losses, there would also be a huge hit to transparency at the post-secondary level, she said.

« Without student associations, there is no one to hold institutions accountable for decisions surrounding fee increases, programming, or strategic plans, » said the group’s president Brittany Greig.

It would be a shame if some campuses were to suddenly lose … the campus paper or radio station.– Emmett Macfarlane, University of Waterloo

Students could also lose access to transparent academic appeals, services such as on-campus food banks and breakfast programs, and scholarships as well as student employment opportunities, she said.

Former premier and current Liberal legislator Kathleen Wynne said the fee changes would weaken student governance and student voices. « It looks like there’s an attempt to make sure that there is no student activism on campus, » she said.

Emmett Macfarlane, an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, said the changes to student fees are likely to appeal to the Tory government’s base.

« The policy idea is very attractive to conservatives because the ancillary fees are an additional, compulsory tax on attending university, » he said. « If you are a student who doesn’t like the politics of the Canadian Federation of Students and you see that some of your fees are going to the body, now you’ll not be required to pay that. »

Macfarlane said the fee opt-out could have « unintended consequences » depending on how universities are required to implement the policy.    

« What happens to the vibrancy of student life on campus without some of the institutions and institutional supports that they have? » he said. « It would be a shame if some campuses were to suddenly lose … the campus paper or radio station. »

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Sask. in 2019: Tax hikes, fees & new regulations

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Saskatchewan residents are ringing in the New Year but with it comes some fee changes and new regulations to be aware of throughout the province.

Regina tax & utility hikes

Regina residents can expect to pay more taxes as of January 1st.

City council voted to raise the mill rate to 4.33 per cent at its budget meeting in December, meaning the average homeowner with a house valued at $350, 000 will pay around $86 more in property tax.

Residents will also see a slight increase on their utility bill due to a three per cent water rate increase, every year for the next three years.

The increase will translate to roughly an extra four dollars on your monthly bill.

Saskatoon civic rates & fees

The Bridge City will see a property tax increase at 4.4 per cent effective Jan.1.

Water and wastewater rates will also go up overall by 9.25 per cent.

Residents will also have to pay more for other services including licensing their pets or playing a round of golf at a public course.

Potential provincial carbon tax implications

The federally imposed carbon tax’s fuel levy is expected to come into effect April 1st.

According to gasbuddy.com this could impact gas prices in the province and right across the country.

Senior petroleum analyst Dan McTeague warns a five per cent per liter carbon tax could result in a jump at the pumps.

This prediction comes as gas prices hit a two year low in the province.

Meantime, the natural gas break that took effect in November for homeowners and businesses in Saskatchewan could be short lived due the carbon tax.

SaskEnergy dropped its commodity rate to the lowest offered since 1999 and could see another drop by April 1st, however the crown corporation warns the tax could have implications for residents.

Officials say the average residential natural gas bill could increase 12 per cent which translates to $100-$120 more per year.

Saskatchewan will fight the carbon tax in court in February.

Provincial park passes

There is some welcome news for outdoor enthusiasts when it comes to booking sites at provincial parks.

Starting in April residents can reserve campsites with an upgraded online reservations system and this year seasonal campsites will be moved to the online reservation system.

Due to high demand, there will continue to be a queuing system for book reservations in Saskatchewan.

There will also be some increases to passes including the annual park entry permits which will increase $10 to $75.

Weekly permits will go up to $40 and three-day entry permits are no longer available in the 2019 season.

Seasonal electrical sites are up $500 to $2,600.

You can see a full breakdown of prices and learn more on booking reservations here.

 Mandatory truck-driver training

New mandatory semi-driver training following the Humboldt Broncos Bus crash will also come into effect in January.

As of March 15 the rules will apply to drivers seeking a class 1 commercial license in the province, meaning potential semi-truck drivers will require a minimum of 121.5 hours of instruction.

The new training will focus on professional driving habits, vehicle inspections and air-brakes.

Officials have said changes were the in the works since 2017 but the April 6th tragedy that claimed 16 lives expedited the process.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Fredericton service fees for fire inspections, parking to increase Jan. 1 – New Brunswick

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Fredericton officials are reminding the public that select city fees will increase on Jan. 1, 2019.

As detailed in the 2019 municipal budget, all inspection fees for the Fredericton Fire Department will see a jump in cost.

David McKinley, assistant deputy chief of the Fredericton Fire Department, says this is just a matter of inflation and it’s about time the changes happened.

“It more accurately reflects the cost of doing business,” he said.

READ MORE: Fredericton Food Bank creates plant-based Christmas hampers

McKinley says the increases to the fee structure at the fire department are aimed at modernizing prices, since they have not changed since 2004.

The largest fee hike for professional inspections performed by the fire department is the Fire Full Incident Report — used in court proceedings and for insurance claims.

The cost of the report will increase from $25 to $250.

These fee spikes also reflect the amount of work that goes into completing the reports by city and fire staff.

McKinley says a lot of time and detail goes into creating the paperwork, which is why the cost is going up.

“There are several people that are involved in doing that report — our clerk inside, the actual fire investigator that works for the fire prevention division as well — so there’s quite a bit to it, and $25 just was not representative of the cost of preparing that report.”

WATCH: No plans for Fredericton to provide curbside recycling to apartment buildings






A longtime Fredericton resident thinks the increase is drastic but reasonable.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to have any issues with the rate increases, however I do think some people might want a justification for some of the steep increases that we are seeing at one time. Maybe some people would like to see a more gradual increase as opposed to the sudden rate hike,” said Jeremy Goddard.

These fee increases have been in the works by the fire department for a long time. Because fire department officials were unable to submit the necessary paperwork on time in previous years, the prices went unchanged.

McKinley says that this year the fire department made an extra effort to ensure the price jump made it into Fredericton’s 2019 city budget.

“We’ve actually been working on it for quite a few years and we’ve known that the rates were low and too low for many years,” he said.

“Often times, we’ve started working on it and next thing you know the budget is on top of us and we don’t get it submitted in time. This year, we got it done in time.”

READ MORE: Fredericton’s Out of the Cold shelter to remain open until spring 2019

Fire services aren’t the only city fees that will surge on Jan. 1.

The new budget increases parking fines for the first time in eight years, going from $15 to $25.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Court action launched against Sixties Scoop settlement agreement lawyer fees

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A dozen Sixties Scoop survivors filed court action this month aimed at challenging the $37.5 million in fees awarded to three law firms involved in the Sixties Scoop settlement agreement.

The group has applied to the Federal Court of Appeal in Vancouver seeking to challenge a Federal Court order that approved lawyers’ fees of $37.5 million to be split between Koskie Minsky, Merchant Law Group and Klein Lawyers.

They’re arguing the change effectively amended the $875 million settlement agreement, something that should have triggered a notice to class members along with a new hearing and round of submissions.

« The amendment still has to be approved by the class; that is called due process, » said Jai Singh Sheikhupura of the Vancouver law firm Watson Goepel, who is representing the survivors.

Jai Singh Sheikhupura, of the Vancouver law firm Watson Goepel, who filed the leave to appeal. (Watson Goepel)

Twelve Sixties Scoop survivors are named as plaintiffs in the court action, but one has since dropped out.

« It is important to stand up against this settlement because it’s our time to say we are not going to be treated like this, » said Joan Frame, a Sixties Scoop survivor from Hamilton who was adopted from Samson Cree Nation, Alta., and is one of the plaintiffs.

« Canada wants to steamroll over us into taking a settlement that they know absolves them of paying out tons of money. »

Filing alleges legal gambit used to preserve fees

The court action centres on the chain of events following a June 20 ruling by Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba who found the lawyer fees in the settlement to be « excessive. » 

The $875 million settlement agreement set aside $750 million for all status First Nations and Inuit children placed into foster care or adopted by a non-Indigenous parent between 1951 and 1991.

The agreement puts $50 million toward a Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation and the remaining $75 million was earmarked for lawyers’ fees. Because the settlement stemmed from an Ontario class action lawsuit, lawyers who acted in Federal Court would collect half the fee total — $37.5 million — while the other half would go to the lawyers who had acted in Ontario Superior Court.

Belobaba, who wanted the fees reduced by half overall and the federal class lawyers’ portion substantially reduced, said the fee issue should be separated from the rest of the Sixties Scoop deal to avoid jeopardizing the whole agreement.

In July, the three firms involved in the federal part of the settlement agreement — ​Koskie Minsky, Merchant Law Group and Klein Lawyers — agreed to amend the settlement agreement to « de-link » the fee approval process from the rest of the deal.

Sixties Scoop survivor Joan Frame is one of several plaintiffs involved in court action against Sixties Scoop settlement agreement. (Joan Frame)

On Aug. 2, Federal Court Justice Michael Phelan issued an order approving $35.7 million in fees to be split between the three law firms involved in the federal part of the case.

On Sept. 10, Phelan then ruled he had had no jurisdiction to decide on the fees which were previously approved by Federal Court Justice Michel Shore on May 11. The $37.5 million in fees remained unchanged.

Sheikhupura argues class action rules were broken during this process and that the legal manoeuvring was aimed at neutralizing Belobaba’s concerns by taking the federal portion of the fees out of his jurisdiction.

« Essentially, what has been de-linked is the jurisdiction of the courts with respect to the fee approval and not the fees from the settlement, » said the filing.

« The federal representative counsel… have demonstrated that their interest in obtaining the maximum amount in legal fees was most important…over and above the interests of the class. »

Sixties Scoop settlement ‘widely supported’

Justice Canada said it took no position on the case, according to a letter filed with the Federal Court Tuesday.

The letter, written by Justice Canada lawyer Catharine Moore, warned an appeal process would delay the implementation of the settlement agreement which includes eventual payouts to survivors — which could range from $22,000 to $50,000.

Moore wrote that only two Sixties Scoop survivors had withdrawn from the settlement agreement. The opt-out deadline expired Wednesday.

« There is no doubt the settlement is widely supported, » wrote Moore.

« The only opposition comes from this application brought by a handful of individuals who have provided no evidence that they are even class members. »

Moore wrote that if the court was inclined to refuse the motion, it should take the « extraordinary step » of suspending the decision and allow a « notice of abandonment » that would prevent a further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Koskie Minsky said in its own filing that the leave to appeal was based on « specious grounds » and that « further proceedings would constitute a gross waste of more judicial resources. »

The firm said de-linking the fees was an « administrative amendment » to the settlement agreement that did not make any substantive changes to the deal.

The firm requested the court dismiss the application and apply costs against Sheikhupura for « levying serious and false allegations » and « continuing unmeritorious collateral attacks against decisions of the Federal Court. »

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Le cri des fées | Le Devoir

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Son titre seul, Les fées ont soif, dégage une poésie magique qui chevauche les époques et les mythologies, sur fond de dames éthérées en révolte au bord d’un puits.

Je viens d’acheter le texte de Denise Boucher aux éditions Typo, pour le consulter avant de voir enfin la pièce ce jeudi au Rideau Vert. Quarante ans après sa venue au monde au TNM sous haut scandale, il était temps.

Depuis, tout a changé et rien du tout. Les femmes ont conquis des bastions à la maison et au travail, mais les mentalités font tant de sur-place…

Tant mieux si Sophie Clément signe la mise en scène des Fées ont soif, spectacle qui brassa la cage du féminisme québécois et du catholicisme en propulsant ses muses au coeur d’un intense débat de société.

L’implication de la comédienne dans les deux créations à tant d’années d’intervalle paraît de bon augure pour la résonance magnétique. Avec sa consoeur Michèle Magny — toutes deux de la première distribution, aux côtés de Louisette Dussault —, Sophie Clément avait convaincu Denise Boucher d’adapter un texte poétique au théâtre sous direction de Jean-Luc Bastien. Ainsi se forment les séismes. De quoi rappeler celui de l’été dernier autour des pièces SLAV et Kanata. Autre contexte, mais le théâtre, même ébranlé, n’est jamais si vivant qu’en ouvrant au choc des idées.

En quatre décennies, les scandales changent de teintes. Le côté blasphématoire des Fées ont soif fera moins hurler qu’hier. Quant au reste…

La pièce se colle au mouvement #MoiAussi, âgé d’un an à peine, fragile, parfois confus, debout pour exiger l’égalité et le respect en dérobade. L’ancien dieu Bill Cosby, qui droguait des femmes pour les violer, vient de tomber de son Olympe, mais tant de fées ont toujours soif au bord du puits.

Un oiseau comme mari

Retour en 1978 quand le Conseil des arts de la région métropolitaine refusait de subventionner le brûlot féministe de Denise Boucher, jugeant son langage « impropre, vulgaire, obscène, ordurier, sacrilège et blasphématoire », à l’heure où la religion pesait encore lourd sur le sort des oeuvres.

Il faut dire que dans cette pièce, la statue de la Vierge Marie, reine des muettes, tentait de conjurer sa destinée. La maman et la putain, autres archétypes féminins — sources d’inspiration, aussi, du cinéaste français Jean Eustache —, juraient en bon québécois contre les cases étroites où la société machiste les confinait pour mieux les contrôler. Marie, la mère, prenait ses pilules. Madeleine, la prostituée, buvait.

« On m’a donné un oiseau comme mari. On m’a taillée dans le marbre et fait peser de tout mon poids sur le serpent. Personne ne brise mon image. […] N’ai-je point quelque part une fille qui me délivrera ? Qui me déviergera ? », implorait la statue de son côté.

Sacrilège ou pas, la pièce suivit sa route, Jean-Louis Roux à la tête du TNM et l’équipe créatrice refusant de s’écraser. La petite histoire garde en mémoire la houle : « Tout le printemps et tout l’été, le sujet de la pièce qui n’avait pas encore été produite suscitait des débats dans les pages des journaux et sur les ondes », écrit Denise Boucher en commentant l’accouchement aux forceps des Fées ont soif à la fin du livre. Menaces de mort, tapes dans le dos, manifestations, réception critique triomphale, demande d’injonction d’associations catholiques, intervention réussie de la dramaturge auprès de l’archevêque de Montréal pour leur bloquer la voie. Ouf !

« Je ne veux plus de ce sarcophage. Je ne veux plus que l’on me salue dans une statue pendant que l’on me dénigre, que l’on me méprise dans chaque femme », criera de nouveau la vierge de marbre sur scène en 2018.

Rien n’est acquis

Tout est lié. Lundi, j’ai vu Quand les pouvoirs s’emmêlent, documentaire de la Québécoise Yvonne Defour (en salle la semaine prochaine) montrant à quel point les forces politiques et religieuses de tous poils s’accordent pour ébranler les droits des femmes. Le comédien Vincent Graton interviewe messieurs et mesdames, athées ou croyants, en Tunisie, en France, aux États-Unis et au Québec. Circule ce fil ténu du « rien n’est acquis ».

« La règle religieuse ne fait pas partie de notre droit. Elle fait partie de notre identité », précise une voix féminine d’ailleurs. Elle aurait aussi bien pu être québécoise. Ici, tant d’incroyants demeurent imbibés, par legs générationnels, des vieux préjugés misogynes à tiroirs, maman, vierge ou putain, issus des pères de l’Église, sans identifier leurs sources. On entend même des jeunes pousser à l’aveugle la roue des poussiéreuses orthodoxies. L’héritage catholique vit dans l’inconscient collectif.

De quoi écouter le chant des fées avec autant d’attention qu’à leur création : « La vérité est en exil/La beauté loin en péril/L’amour est très malade/Nous sommes à la recherche/De nos corps. De nos coeurs, de nos têtes », lanceront-elles en cherchant enfin écho sur les murailles du jour.

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