(By: Isabelle Kirkwood)
“Education is a right, we will not give up the fight.”
Those were the words being chanted by hundreds of students and staff members from Gould Street near Ryerson University during the National Day of Action on Wednesday.
The Fight the Fees protest was an event that took place coast-to-coast, orchestrated by the Canadian Federation of Students. Protesters from Ryerson University and York University marched from Gould Street to Queen’s Park in support of the movement.
Drumbeats echoed through downtown Toronto from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The demonstrators maintained a peaceable yet passionate atmosphere as they marched and voiced their concerns.
Tuition in Canada has risen by 40 per cent for the average undergraduate student in the last decade, and Ontario is known to have the highest tuition in the country according to Universities Canada.
CESAR is a union at Ryerson University that represents and provides services to students pursuing part-time degrees or continuing education.
According to CESAR’s website, the three objectives of the Fight the Fees march on Wednesday were to reduce tuition with the aim of eliminating tuition, eliminate interest on student debt, and converting student loans into non-refundable grants in the 2017 Ontario budget.
“People are at a breaking point,” CESAR member and protest organizer Rabbia Ashraf said. “Families can’t afford to send people to college anymore because it’s getting so expensive.”
Ashraf said that students with high tuition fees are facing the largest obstacle to post-secondary education, and that Fight the Fees would be one of CESAR’s longest and most prominent campaigns.
“Universities are spaces for learning, not profit,” Ashraf said. “We’ve had pushback from the administration of Ryerson. Their concerns are usually about where the money will come from, but if we look at our institutions, we find that high-level administrators receive a large amount of the university’s revenue.”
Ashraf said cutting upper-level administration salaries would be a part of reallocating university funds to lower the cost of tuition.
With the recent surges in post-secondary expenses, many students nationwide are becoming increasingly concerned with the debt that could result.
(All photos by Steven Ellis)
“Debt cuts off so many opportunities for students once they graduate,” fourth year interior design student Katy McNabb said, who also attended the event. “So many of my friends are in debt, and I worry for them.”
Ashraf said that the protest was a place to spark conversation and to hear from people who are affected by the marginalization that comes along with high tuition.
Jane Le, a fourth year Ryerson student said she was deeply moved by the stories she heard throughout the day of the protest.
“One student talked about how her university recognized her as number instead of a human being,” Le said. “Although that’s really disappointing, it’s important that we have a platform for those people share these experiences.”
Ashraf expressed high hopes for the possibility of free tuition across Canada. She said that spreading awareness through rallies like the November 2 protest would be an effective catalyst of change.
“We are going to have free education,” Ashraf said. “It’s just a matter of when.”