Students take concerns to government doorstep
Hundreds of students travelled to Edmonton to protest countless broken funding promises
Students in Alberta are taking a stand; they are tired of broken promises made by the Tory Government and they’re demanding answers and changes.
Students from across Alberta gathered in a never-before-done combined protest to make their voices heard at the Legislature Office in Edmonton on Nov. 17, the date that the market modifiers were supposedly being discussed.
Of the 300 students there was representation from: University of Calgary, University of Alberta, University of Lethbridge, Grant MacEwan University, Bow Valley College and Mount Royal University.
From MRU, a total of 27 students got on a bus provided by the Students’ Association, and travelled to Edmonton.
Congregating at the U of A, students were escorted by SafeWalk personnel from the university walking downtown and over the High Level bridge to get to the Legislature office, chanting along the way.
Heads turned and cars honked along with the voices of students screaming, “People want to know, who we are, we are the students, the mighty, mighty students!” Spirits were high and the line of students spanned almost a kilometre long.
The proposed market modifiers were being discussed in office and students attended, chanting outside with countless signs “I had a dream of an education”, “I want to learn without thinking about my next meal” and “No more broken promises.” At mid-point of the protest, students sang “Oh Canada” in unison at the doorstep of the Legislature Office.
A few faces peaked out of the curtains in the warm Legislature Office as students rallied with their VPs chanting “no ifs, no buts, no education cuts!” and, “keep the cap!”
Don Scott, the Minister of Advanced Education for Alberta, briefly came down but did not address the mob of students. He chatted with some reporters briefly saying that he would continue to be a champion for post-secondary education in Alberta.
“Our system is one where in Alberta we invest more per student than any other province in Canada. It’s approximately $51,000 per student basis and that is $20,000 more than any other province,” said Scott. “We do an excellent job in post secondary education.”
10 institutions in Alberta have made a total of 26 applications for the market modifiers. Scott said that the discussion is still underway for the market modifiers.
“I don’t have a fixed date of when we will have a decision made, we are going to be taking a look at it, but at this point we will be reviewing them. I have still been going around the province talking to student leadership,” said Scott.
“I want to make sure that I have all of the best information to make a decision.”
However, students weren’t the only ones present at the protest. Some of the notable opposition MLAs and party leaders that stood with students out in the cold and talked to them were David Swan and Raj Sherman of the Alberta Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party’s Brian Mason.
Student Executive Leaders at the different campuses were the driving factor behind these protests and campaign. Navneet Khinda, VP External for U of A, said that the most frustrating thing is no doubt the broken promises.
“Repeatedly, promises have been broken. We faced budget cuts a few years ago and a year ago and now they want to introduce tuition hikes and it is unacceptable,” said Khinda to the crowd. “Today we are hear to say, Mr. Prentice, keep your promises.”
“I am proud to live in a province that values education but I think that we need more. We need to keep government accountable.”
The protest lasted around two hours and then it was time for students to start their journey home.
The ongoing battle is still not over. It started back in mid-October with the consultation that sparked student action. A local protest took place at MRU a week later, urging President David Docherty to not go through with the market modifier application which would be increases to Business, $150 per course, Nursing, $100 per course and Science, $50 per course.
The application did still go through. Students’ Council at MRU started a letter writing campaign, addressing letters to Don Scott and premier Jim Prentice.
Almost 2,000 letters were submitted by students when the original goal for SAMRU Executives was 500. It was another testament showing that students are taking a stand.
To date, they have not received a reply to those letters.
At the protest, VP Student Life for MRU, Zoe Slusar, had some remaining letters addressed to Prentice. However, when she went, along with a handful of MRU protesters, to the public entrance she was denied. The guard took the letters from her and promptly let in other citizens behind her.
Without a doubt the MRU students felt proud being a part of the protest as they loudly partied on the bus ride home.
Slusar said she was overwhelmed by excitement and pride.
“It is really exhilarating and empowering to be part of a movement that has been really quiet for a long time and the fact that there were students from all across the province gathering for a united cause that it really valuable for not only us but also future students, is a really amazing thing,” said Slusar.
“To be a part of that and have our little MRU community within that wider community of students from the province is special and I am so thankful to everyone who turned out.”