CFS plans Charter challenge

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By Steven D’Souza 

The Canadian Federation of Students plans a Charter challenge after the federal government passed legislation forcing debt ridden graduated students to wait 10 years before they can file for bankruptcy. 

Before the legislation was passed, students could file for bankruptcy protection two years after they left school.  But an amendment to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act has now increased the waiting period to 10 years.

CFS believes the law is discriminatory because it targets only one group — graduating university and college students.  The lobby group has consulted their lawyers and believe they can challenge the amendment through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“We think this is discriminatory and the government is punishing the victims, “ said Joel Harden, chair of CFS-Ontario.  “For any student who files for bankruptcy, it’s a last resort — they’ve exhausted all the other means.  They’re putting on the line their credit rating and any future chance of getting a loan.”

Harden said since 1964, 88 per cent of student loans have been repaid and last year, only 8,000 students across Canada claimed bankruptcy.  The majority of those bankrupt students received total discharge of their debts.

“The perception out there is that students claiming bankruptcy are young professionals,” said Denish Doherty, a CFS member.

“From our research, we’ve found the majority have income under $14,000, been on government assistance and are still working part-time jobs despite having a university degree.”

Harden said he isn’t sure when the paper work for the Charter challenge will be filed with the court, but expects the process will take 12 to 18 months before a court decision is made.

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