Hania Rajack, of the Muslim Students' Association of Carleton University, speaks to the speaks at Carleton's class walk out. Photo: Jacob Hoytema.
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U of O does not take part in province-wide event

Post-secondary students across the province held a walkout today, leaving their classes and staging rallies to protest recent changes to education policy by the provincial government.

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which organized the walkout campaign across Ontario, says that it wants the provincial government to move away from its recent decisions regarding the defunding of student organizations and the reduction of student grants in favour of loans.

There were simultaneous walkouts at 17 campuses across Ontario but no such event took place at the University of Ottawa.

However, Carleton staged a walkout attended by more than a hundred students and community members. There were also journalists from several local media outlets covering the event.

The Carleton walkout took place at noon and saw over 100 students in attendance. David Oladejo, president of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) hosted the event and presented various speakers from the CFS and several Carleton student groups.

Among all the speakers was a clear message of displeasure with the provincial government’s recent decisions regarding education funding. “It is our responsibility as students to each other to stand out here and say ‘no more’ to this government,” said Maheep Sandhu of Student Energy Carleton.

Led by CFS personnel, enthusiastic chants permeated the entire event, as attendants refrained that “education is a right—we will not give up our fight,” and “the students united—will never be defeated.”

Jensen Williams, a CFS campaign organizer who spoke at Carleton’s walk out, says that her organization reached out to the Students Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) along with the other Ontarian student governments to host an event, but the SFUO said it wasn’t prepared to organize an event on such short notice.

Williams said that “we’d have liked to have” a similar event at U of O, but the SFUO made clear it didn’t have the “organizational capacity” to put something together, given the current troubles the union faces on campus.

The Fulcrum reached out to the SFUO for a response, but none was issued.

This is the second time in the last month that the U of O has missed out on CFS-organized advocacy activities, after the SFUO didn’t send any representatives to an advocacy week at Queen’s Park in early March.

The speakers at Carleton’s decried the Progressive Conservative government’s Student Choice Initiative, which could see funding removed from many student groups. The government chopped tuition rates by 10 per cent, but also significantly reduced the scope of OSAP grants.

“I just hope the mobilization can continue,” Williams said of the energy and momentum on display at Carleton.

The entire event was slated to take two hours, but wrapped up in less 40 minutes. Organizers said this was due to the cold weather and that they wanted to allow students to return to their 1 PM classes if they wished.

The event was scheduled on short notice, with plans only having been finalized between the CFS with the various student governments a few days before the walkout itself.