By Kaitlynn Zygmont
An activist assembly on Nov. 6 was held in order to begin a dialogue regarding the Ontario education system. Attendees discussed a variety of topics, including tuition fees and how to organize a campaign to influence positive change on your campus.
Organizer of the assembly Anna Goldfinch was elected from Carleton’s Graduate Students Association to represent 350,000 students in Ontario, including all Laurentian students.
“I helped organize this event to talk about some of the issues that are happening in postsecondary education, said Goldfinch. “I also want to help students identify some issues that might affect (students) on campus and how they can organize around them.”
The Canadian Federation of Students Ontario has been coordinating activist assemblies on campuses across provinces in an attempted outreach, as well as to raise awareness on issues including the fact that students in Ontario pay the highest tuition fees in the country.
Nora Lerreto, a Quebec writer from Ryerson University and the University of Saskatchewan also spoke at the assembly about the broader systems that are at play in how we attract each other and how we attract change.
Important issues such as lack of students with unionized jobs, our tax system, neo-liberalism, unpaid internships and high prices of childcare were all addressed. She also emphasized the fact that we should start to realize that now is the time to do something about these issues before we finish school.
“One of the realities of society today is we are forced to accept things to be normal that are not normal. That debt from tuition fees is normal, and that it’s normal to get OSAP. A lot of students don’t understand that once you get OSAP you pay around $500 every month to the government after you graduate”.
Lerreto said that students face many issues, and by far the biggest is student debt.
“Nationally Canadians owe over 19 billion dollars in student debt” said Lerreto. “We need to break through this and create a community in order to find ways to get people involved… Laurentian University is governed by a board of people who make decisions and who can be influenced to make change, all we need to do as students is take that first step.”
Laurentian student Chelsea Forbes attended the assembly to learn how to become more active in her education system. Forbes said she feels like she is going to “learn how to start becoming an activist,” and that she also wants to have hers, and other voices like hers, heard.
The assembly gave students an opportunity to learn about campaigns, how to identify promotion outreach goals, gave tips on the best form of promotion, and how to keep expectations in mind and volunteers on board. There was also a group activity which allowed students to participate in discussions about campaigns that can be made to address current issues at Laurentian such as the new cafeteria model.