Ford government’s tuition cut to cost universities $360 million and colleges $80 million


Universities and colleges will take an estimated $440 million hit under the Ontario government’s planned 10 per cent tuition decrease — and it remains unclear if the province will make up the difference.

The tuition announcement, expected Thursday from Merrilee Fullerton, minister of training, colleges and universities, will cut and then freeze tuition rates for the next two years, a $360 million loss for universities alone. For colleges, the amount is about $80 million.

Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, speaks at a news conference outlining the province’s plan for social assistance reform on Nov. 22, 2018. Fullerton is set to cut post-secondary tuition by 10 per cent.
Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, speaks at a news conference outlining the province’s plan for social assistance reform on Nov. 22, 2018. Fullerton is set to cut post-secondary tuition by 10 per cent.  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star)

The government is also expected to make changes to the OSAP student aid system, which under the previous Liberal government provided “free tuition” for 230,000 post-secondary students.

“Students will pay for this with larger classes and fewer professors,” said New Democrat MPP Chris Glover, a former Toronto public school board trustee and York University professor, calling it a “smoke and mirrors exercise.”

“Are they going to cut OSAP grants?” added the Spadina-Fort York MPP. “Any benefits students may get from this announcement — students will end up the losers on this.”

According to government documents obtained by the Star, the province will make changes to the Tuition Free Framework, slashing rates by 10 per cent — or about $340 a year for college students, and $660 for those in universities — for this fall, and keep that rate for the 2020-1 school year.

The documents from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities say the changes will “protect students and provide a financially predictable environment” and “keep more money” in students’ pockets.

Current university tuition for undergraduate students is almost $9,000 a year.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he wants to be “optimistic that lower tuition fees will support students, but the jury is still out” and is worried about it being “an excuse for cuts to student aid or college and university budgets.”

He said “until the government announces all of its changes, we won’t know if this is yet another instance of (Premier Doug Ford) offering a shiny penny to distract from deeper cuts.”

Glover said Ontario’s post-secondary system have the lowest funding levels of all provinces and wonders about the impact on low-income students.

In her report last December, Ontario’s auditor general said the cost of the free-tuition plan would soon hit $2 billion a year, or 50 per cent higher than estimated.

Bonnie Lysyk also said there was no follow-up to ensure that the program, which provides non-repayable grants to qualifying students, was actually boosting the number of low-income students in the province’s colleges and universities. She also said there was no way to ensure that mature students receiving the grants were actually needy.

Students leaders and post-secondary institutions were waiting for more details on the Ford government’s plans before commenting.

However Gyllian Phillips, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, called it “quite concerning that an announcement of this magnitude is occurring without the government consulting any stakeholders at Ontario’s universities or colleges.”

She said while “reducing tuition fees is good public policy for increasing access to post-secondary education … any reduction must be matched with an equivalent increase in public funding.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy


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Some Quebec universities, CEGEPs miss deadline for sexual violence policies – Montreal


In Quebec, several CEGEPs and two universities have failed to adopt a policy to prevent and fight sexual violence on campus by the Jan. 1 deadline set by the province.

The provincial government published a list of post-secondary institutions on Thursday that have complied with the measure, including Concordia University and John Abbott College.

Two Montreal universities and more than a dozen CEGEPs are notably absent from that list — including McGill University, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Dawson College and Marianapolis College.

READ MORE: Quebec sexual assault bill focuses on campuses

Bill 151 was passed into law by the previous Liberal government in December 2017 following several high-profile sexual misconduct allegations in Quebec.

It requires all post-secondary institutions to adopt a policy to prevent sexual violence by Jan. 1, 2019 and implement it by September 2019. It has to be separate from the school’s other policies.

Under the law, they must also have formal complaint procedures, safety measures for social activities and support services in place.

Montreal universities working to catch up

Both McGill University and UQAM said on Friday their institutions are working toward adopting a new policy.

At McGill, the current rule, which was implemented in 2016, remains in place.

WATCH: Concordia and McGill react to Quebec’s new campus sexual assault bill

“Throughout the fall of 2018, it has been carefully reviewed through extensive consultation with our campus stakeholders to ensure that our revisions to the policy reflect both the requirements of Bill 151 and the needs and goals of the McGill community,” said associate provost Angela Campbell in a statement.

“These revisions to the policy will come to the senate and the Board of Governors for approval this semester. In the meantime, McGill’s current policy and the resources associated with it to prevent and fight sexual violence, remain active and in force.”

READ MORE: McGill professors back students, call for external investigation on misconduct allegations

UQAM spokesperson Jenny Desrochers said the French-language university’s new policy surrounding sexual violence will be adopted over the next few weeks.

“In the meantime, our policy against sexual harassment is still in effect,” she said.

‘Unacceptable’ says minister who put forth law

Quebec Liberal MNA and former minister for higher education Hélène David, who put forth Bill 151, expressed her disappointment about schools lagging behind the deadline.

On social media, she described the finding as “unacceptable.”

READ MORE: Quebec unanimously passes motion to prevent sexual assault against athletes

“The fight against sexual misconduct must be a priority,” she said.

David also called on Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge to intervene. She said he should put more effort into ensuring all universities and CEGEPs adopt the policy without delay.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Free speech policies now in effect at Ontario’s colleges and universities


Ontario’s post-secondary institutions have ushered in free-speech policies, meeting a provincially imposed Jan. 1 deadline to tackle an issue that has polarized students in this province and beyond.

“It strikes a balance … It will give people some guidance,” said Linda Franklin, president of Colleges Ontario, of the new standard policy adopted in mid-December by all publicly-funded colleges.

“It gives administrators the right to say ‘We have to think about safety on campus and hate speech’ ” — which remains prohibited — but also doesn’t silence those with opinions that are unpopular, she said.

Those on campus have to know there are “speakers that you may not like or who support your world view,” but open dialogue is essential, Franklin added.

“We’re committed to the open discussion of diverse ideas and respecting everyone’s rights to express their opinions.”

In Ontario, protests — and even arrests — have followed controversial speakers such as University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson and Lindsay Shepherd, a Wilfrid Laurier graduate student and teaching assistant.

Shepherd was disciplined after showing her students a video of Peterson, who has gained notoriety for his public fight against the use of gender-neutral pronouns.

Institutions will be monitored and have been told they could face funding cuts for failing to comply with principles outlined by the province.

These include ensuring that universities and colleges are “places for open discussion and free inquiry,” that they “should not attempt to shield students from ideas or opinions that (those students) disagree with or find offensive;” and that “members of the university/college … may not obstruct or interfere with the freedom of others to express their views.”

Before the holiday break, Fullerton told reporters she was pleased colleges met the deadline, and was expecting universities would as well.

“I think what (the free speech policy) will do is create some certainly around expectations, and we want to make sure that there’s an environment of respect, of open debate, respectful dialogue and that’s really the foundation,” said Fullerton.

“We don’t want to see hate speech — we will not tolerate hate speech — that is not permitted. Anything that is against the law already, there will be repercussions.”

However, Fullerton added, the government was “constantly” hearing that free speech was being stifled on Ontario campuses.

“We heard that from students, we heard that from faculty — it was a message that we heard consistently during the campaign and after. So we know (it was an issue),” she added.

The Ontario colleges’ policy — modelled on a well-regarded one developed by the University of Chicago — aims to strike a balance between promoting free speech while protecting against hate speech.

Colleges Ontario has come under fire from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which said more input was needed and claimed no faculty members were included.

“This so-called free-speech policy is anything but. In fact, a better name would be ‘gag-order policy,’” OPSEU president Warren “Smokey” Thomas said in a release.

It accuses the Ford government of “trampling the democratic rights of the people of Ontario” because the policies are more aimed at avoiding protests than protecting freedom of speech.

But Franklin said a group of college leaders, as well as a representative from the College Student Alliance and legal experts, all took part in its creation, and that it will be reviewed in a year.

She said campuses around the world have dealt with protests and disruptions over speakers who students have objected to for various reasons.

The Ontario colleges’ policy states, in part, “Freedom of expression, which means the right to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, must be protected as it is essential to discovery, critical assessment and the effective dissemination of knowledge and ideas and leads to social and economic advancement.”

Colleges, it adds, “must be places that allow for open discussion and free inquiry where diverse voices can be heard and ideas and viewpoints can be explored and discussed freely and debated openly without fear of reprisal, even if these are considered to be controversial or conflict with the views of some members of the college community … it is not the role of colleges to shield members of the college community from ideas and opinions that they may find disagreeable or offensive.”

The University of Toronto has a free-speech policy that has been in place for more than 25 years.

Among those universities approving new policies, Queen’s in Kingston did so Dec. 18, stating that the “failure to explore or confront ideas with which we disagree through disciplined and respectful dialogue, debate, and argument, does society a disservice, weakens our intellectual integrity, and threatens the very core of the university.”

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy


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Indigenous students question universities’ commitment to Indigenization


Ntawnis Piapot is one of two recipients of the 2018 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowships, established to encourage Indigenous voices and better understanding of Indigenous issues in Canada’s major media and community outlets.

Darian Lonechild, a student at the University of Saskatchewan, says she first joined the Facebook group « USask Confessions » simply for entertainment purposes.

The USask Confessions group encourages people to: « Private message us your most heartfelt, disgusting, hilarious, filthy, embarrassing confessions! It will be posted ANONYMOUSLY on this page. » 

Some posts are humorous, some profess their secret admiration for others. However, Lonechild said certain posts that take aim at Indigenous people are « appalling. »

(USask Confessions/Facebook)

« You really question if true critical thought is flourishing and is the university really doing its job, » she said.

Lonechild, a provincially elected youth representative for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations — and nationally as the female youth representative of the Assembly of First Nations — said social media posts like this shouldn’t be taken lightly.

(USask Confessions/Facebook)

« When stereotypes and racist confessions are made… It really can make a student feel unsafe in an environment where they’re supposed to learn and feel safe, » said Lonechild.

Jacqueline Ottmann, the University of Saskatchewan’s Provost of Indigenous Education, said the USask Confessions page is not connected to the university and the vice-provost of teaching and learning has been exploring what can be done to challenge the website when it comes to racist posts.

The University of Saskatchewan recently unveiled a new strategic plan that outlines its goals for the next seven years and its aim to make the university a leader in Indigenization.

Indigenization is a term universities have adopted to describe efforts to include Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing at their institutions. 

« Indigenization is not a separate commitment on its own, » said University of Saskatchewan President Peter Stoicheff.

« It runs through every commitment that we have, and that’s the university of the future. »

Tensions in the classroom

Erica Violet Lee, a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, sat on many Indigenization committees during her time at the U of S. Lee was also a teacher’s assistant for a mandatory Indigenous Studies course.

Erica Violet Lee is a recent graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. (Erica Violet Lee/Facebook )

Lee said at times non-Indigenous students would roll their eyes or not take her seriously when she would be at the front of the classroom but she said she kept her message the same for each of her students: « You need to understand colonialism to properly serve Indigenous communities. »

« I realized this classroom may be the only interaction that they may have with someone Indigenous before they go and have an impact on our community members’ lives as social workers, as teachers, as health care workers, health care providers, » she told CBC.

Students at the University of Saskatchewan say there was tension after the Gerald Stanley verdict earlier this year.

In response, Lee said they held events to help students talk about the Stanley verdict and how it affected them in order to make students feel safe. That’s something that’s key to Indigenizing the campus, said Ottmann.

« These things are happening in our province and of course we have to talk about them in class. We don’t leave genocide at the door when we walk into a classroom, » Lee said.

« So those tensions — whether they’re talked about or not — are always in [Saskatchewan] classrooms. »

Leigh Thomas at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

Leigh Thomas is a U of S student who identifies as a two-spirit, genderqueer man whose first language is Cree.

« I don’t feel safe at all in any space I occupy, » Thomas said.

« There’s homophobia, there’s racism and then there’s also just straight up bigotry within classrooms and it’s because there is a lack of education and communication. »

New mural 

Indigenous artists Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch painted a mural at the University of Saskatchewan this week depicting water protectors.

« I think art helps to open people’s minds and create thought and that’s really important, especially in a place like university, » said Belcourt.

Christi Belcourt and Isaac Murdoch in front of their mural at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

But she acknowledged the limitations.  

« I think it’s generally a huge, uphill battle to try and Indigenize spaces that are typically not Indigenous spaces. »

Lonechild said that to Indigenize the universities, there needs to be human-to-human contact between students of all nationalities.

« The divide is real that the non-Indigenous students are sitting far away or completely separate from other students, » said Lonechild.

Universities ‘complicit’ with colonization, says UWinnipeg official

Kevin Lamoureux, the associate vice-president of Indigenous Affairs at the University of Winnipeg, said they are doing their best to fulfil the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

They intend to help Indigenize the campus by ensuring every student at the university takes a mandatory Indigenous Studies course. They said they still have a long way to go.

« Universities across Canada are absolutely complicit with the exercise of colonization, » said Lamoureux.

« Many of the pseudo-justifications of colonial practices were born out of universities. Much of the hurts and harms that have been caused come from universities. »

Lynn Lavallée, the University of Manitoba’s vice-provost of Indigenous Education, said she measures the success of her Indigenization program by the success and the safety of Indigenous students that attend U of M.

« When a student — a male Indigenous warrior, very apparently Indigenous — can walk into the academy and not have security called on him, then I’ll talk about Indigenizing the academy, » Lavallée said.

Lavallée said U of M has implemented Indigenous content into its nursing and law programs. But she said what works in the arts department might not work in say, the engineering program, so they have to look for solutions.

One would be to incorporate an « infusion » of Indigenous knowledge throughout a four-year degree program. The other would be to offer a full one-semester course. She prefers the latter.

« I’m not a fan of the infusion model for a variety of reasons, and that is because we are asking people without the expertise on a topic to teach about a topic, » she said.

« What we see happening is Indigenizing the academy, even including Indigenizing spaces, falls on the shoulders of Indigenous people already at the institution. »

Students as teachers

Most of the Indigenous students CBC spoke to talked about the « free labour » they provide, often bearing the brunt of the process of Indigenizing academia.

« Native students aren’t just allowed to focus on their own work and on their own success because often we’re too busy working on making classrooms bearable for ourselves and other students to come to, or we’re talking to professors or administrators [about] things that they should know already living in Saskatchewan, » said Lee.

Chance Paupanekis outside Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

University of Manitoba student and former Indigenous Student Association President Chance Paupanekis has been involved with numerous provincial and national initiatives to help Indigenize education. He helped start the « reconciliACTION » campaign for students to hold academic administration to account when it comes to fulfilling their promises to Indigenize, reconcile relationships with Indigenous people and, most of all, educate.

« We are here to get our degrees firstly, » he said.

« I’ve been in student leadership for four years now and I just received a position that pays me a small honorarium. I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I have the passion and I see the need for these things for our kids and our children’s children. »

Hire elders

Rollin Baldhead, a student in the Indigenous Teacher Education Program at the University of Saskatchewan, said he envisions changes — like paying elders higher wages for their teaching for a start — when it comes to Indigenizing.

Rollin Baldhead in front of the Gordon Oakes Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ntawnis Piapot/CBC)

« If we are able to pay four or 10 elders from all areas of Saskatchewan and have them here for maybe about two years and try not to burn them out… paying them on a PhD level pay grade, then these teachers, these elders could then begin passing on their oral tradition, passing on their stories. »

Lamoureux said it is up to the Indigenous community to tell academic administration when they’ve been successful in Indigenizing campuses. But his personal goal is simple.

« When an Indigenous person can come to the University of Winnipeg and say that ‘I feel like my experience here is meaningful and my identity was honoured — as any other student’s identity should be — and I feel like I am graduating with a degree that in no way comes at the expense of my cultural identity, or my family, or my own sense of responsibility to history,’ that would be success. »


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