A group of Ontario students, including a few from McMaster, spent the day on Friday occupying the office of Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Glen Murray to protest tuition fees.
“We decided to occupy Glen Murray’s office today to bring attention to the fact this week’s budget that was passed does not address students’ concerns at all, and [Ontario politicians] are continuing to increase our fees even though we were promised a reduction in tuition fees in the election,” said Sarah Jayne King, who is chairperson of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
The occupation was also a show of solidarity with Quebec students, who have been taking to the streets in the thousands over the last number of months to oppose a proposed five-year increase to tuition caps in the province.
About 20 students had gathered inside Murray’s office and another 20 were outside, handing out information to passers-by, said King.
She explained that the students had gathered in response to a call for a June 22 “mass mobilization day” proposed by Quebec protestors.
Although Minister Murray did not appear to be present, the occupiers provided his staff with a “peace code,” which explained that they would be holding a non-violent and non-destructive occupation that would last until 5 p.m. Friday afternoon.
The McMaster Students Union is not a member of CFS, but belongs to another national lobbying group, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. There has been disagreement between McMaster student politicians on the appropriateness of the MSU participating in CFS campaigns.
Ryan Sparrow, who was one of four McMaster students at the occupation, introduced a motion, which passed, to the Student Representative Assembly last year that proposed the MSU officially “stand in solidarity” with Quebec students.
CFS has taken issue with the 30-per-cent-off Ontario tuition grant introduced by the Ontario Liberals after the last election, which CFS says was not distributed as widely as advertised. They are proposing an across-the-board, 13 per cent tuition reduction for students to replace the grant.
They presented to the Ontario government’s finance committee prior to the June 19 budget vote, offering recommendations that they said would reduce tuition by 25 per cent and not add to the provincial government’s costs.
“Student are upset. Whether or not their students union is a member of [CFS], students care about this issue,” said King.