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The U of O rally stood in solidarity with 36 cities and 55 campuses across the country. Photos: Jaclyn McRae-Sadik.

Day of Action features speeches from CFS chairperson, Algonquin elder

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, students from the University of Ottawa took part in a nation-wide protest to call for free tuition.

The movement known as the Day of Action, organized through the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), was meant to spread awareness of the struggles students face while trying to pursue post-secondary and graduate education in Canada.

The U of O’s involvement in the Day of Action was organized by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) in collaboration with the CFS. The rally began on Tabaret lawn at 12 p.m., and quickly moved to Parliament Hill.

Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, a fourth-year international development and globalization student, was one of the organizers of the rally and spoke to the Fulcrum about how she hopes the government will respond to student voices.

“I definitely want something that is going to be less of a band-aid solution … solutions being brought up that are really addressing the issues that students face, more so than things that are meant to look good, sound good, and get more votes.”  

The rally featured a number of speakers in support of the student movement, who paid special attention to the significant challenges faced by international students and Indigenous students.

“Today on Nov. 2, students across 36 cities and 55 campuses are taking action for free education,” said Bilan Arte, the CFS national chairperson. “We are getting noticed across this country … for months we have been mobilizing in our schools, in our communities, and today we are out here on the streets, standing strong and united fighting for public education.”

Arte also talked about why keeping constant pressure on these institutions through movements like the Day of Action is so important.

“As we take to the streets, governments across the country and those who oppose our message will tell us we’re somehow lucky to be at school. That we’re lucky to be this indebted. That education, in fact, has never been more accessible and somehow student loans are normal and should be accepted and that instead of trying to change things we should keep our heads down and accept the status quo.”  

According to the CFS website, post-secondary tuition in Canada has increased by 137 per cent in the past 25 years, with the average student accumulating over $28,000 in student debt upon graduation.

The website goes on to point out that this high tuition is the result of cuts to funding for post-secondary education by the federal and provincial governments.

This high tuition also disproportionately affects Indigenous, racialized, and LGBTQ+ students, as well as students with disabilities and those from low-income and single-parent homes, as stated on the CFS website.

Annie Smith St-George, an Algonquin elder who attended the rally, expanded on this theme by talking about her ancestors who lived on the land of Parliament Hill, and the unique struggles that affect Aboriginal youth.

“The Aboriginal people inclusively on this territory have been deprived from education … our children are still at a very poor rate and not even finishing our school. There is a high rate of suicidethey are not only dropping out of school, they are dropping out of life. This has got to change with the Aboriginal people.”

According to Moumouni-Tchouassi, their aim is to continue this campaign  until the next federal election.

“When the next election comes, or when those decisions are made in 2019, when the framework is re-evaluated, we really wanted to make sure that we have done everything in our power to make sure students were heard in their needs and their struggles when it comes to accessing these institutions.”