GSA, CFS team up to host Activist Assembly

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) hosted an assembly at the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) office on Feb. 2.

The event was organized to advocate outreach and activism in the lead up to the 2018 Ontario provincial elections. It highlighted major student issues, such as tuition fees, health care, quality education and the importance of student voting.

Nour Alideeb, the chairperson for CFS-Ontario, is responsible for more than 350,000 students who are members in the CFS-Ontario. She presented the federation’s new campaign, “Fairness for Students,” which focuses on initiatives such as lowering tuition fees and adding funding for French-language universities.

Alideeb said she focused primarily on free post-secondary education when organizing activities for the event.

“It isn’t just us who are affected by raging tuition fees,” she said. “It’s also our parents, our community members, our siblings and countless others.”

She also showcased videos from the free education riots that  occurred at the University of Toronto (U of T) on Nov. 2, 2016. The protests were largely responsible for the implementation of the Ontario Student Grant in the 2017 provincial budget. However, Alideeb said she believes there is more to be done.

“While there were several key changes to [the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)] applications and accessibility for students, the marketing strategy for calling it ‘free tuition’ was not entirely correct,” she said. “[OSAP] still remains a combination of loans and grants.”

The assembly also saw several activities to engage participants in learning how to spread the CFS’ and GSA’s message about questioning the status quo, such as tabling exercises and myth-busting quips.

Helyeh Doutaghi, the outreach co-ordinator for the GSA, said she believes there is never enough activism. In an interview with the Charlatan after the event, she stressed the importance of the CFS in affecting graduate students’ experiences.

“Attending events like these is important [for students] to learn about [the] CFS and their work,” Doutaghi said. “We need to answer the tough questions about their importance for Carleton.”

But she said she remains cautious of the opposing views held by the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), who have recently been calling for defederation from the CFS.

“We share the CFS’ campaign mottos,” Doutaghi  said. “But unlike [the CFS]’s broader campaign strategies, we have to narrow them for our local university syndicate.”

While the event was aimed at graduate students, several undergraduate students were also in attendance. Jason Laguerre, a first-year global and international studies undergraduate student, said he was excited to attend the event, but remains concerned with the types of activism at Carleton.

“There is a lot of activism at Carleton, but I don’t think it is being directed properly,” he said. “Students don’t always have to be out on the streets to affect change, and events like these are important to promote that.”

The next CFS assembly is scheduled for March—before the provincial elections on June 7— to discuss why elections matter for students.