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The CFS filed the legal challenge with the YFS in May. Photo: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik/Fulcrum

Judges rule “provincial government acted without statutory authority” when implementing controversial policy, CFS says

Ontario’s Divisional Court has unanimously sided with student groups in a legal challenge against the provincial government over the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), deeming the policy unlawful, according to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

The SCI was implemented in September by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, allowing students to opt-out of a number of previously mandatory fees they paid with tuition. Those fees included funding for student unions and many of their services, clubs, campus media, support for refugee students, and legal aid clinics.

At the U of O, about one in four students opted-out of non-essential fees in the fall semester. 

As first reported by the Varsity, the judges ruled that “the provincial government acted without statutory authority when implementing the SCI,” the CFS said in a statement

The CFS filed the legal challenge back in May, along with the York Federation of Students (YFS), arguing the province lacked the authority to implement the policy and acted with improper purpose in doing so.

The court heard the case in October, where the CFS and the YSF were represented by Goldblatt Partners LLP.

“This is a historic moment for our movement, and it shows that the students united will never be defeated!,” the CFS said in their statement

“Today the Ontario Divisional Court has confirmed what students already knew: The SCI is unlawful, and the Ford government acted beyond their authority,” Kayla Weiler, Ontario representative of the CFS, said in a media advisory. 

The Ministry of Colleges and Universities responded to the ruling in a brief statement to the Fulcrum, saying they are reviewing the decision.

“We will have more to say on this at a later date,” wrote spokesperson Ciara Byrne.

University of Ottawa Students’ Union advocacy commissioner Sam Schroeder said the decision marked “a good day for student unions” in a statement to the Fulcrum.

“We’re cautiously optimistic because the government could still appeal the decision,” said Schroeder. “And even if the court rules against them again, they could always put the SCI in legislation.”

More to come.

Editor’s Note (Nov. 22, 9:40 a.m.): Updated to include comment from UOSU advocacy commissioner Sam Schroeder.