By Cole Brocksom
Ontario students gathered in the hundreds Friday to march on Queen’s Park in protest of the recently announced cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
“We had a great turnout today,” said Daniel Lis, one of the organizers of the rally and a fifth-year politics and governance student at Ryerson University.
The demonstration started at Yonge-Dundas Square, and travelled along Dundas St. and University Ave. to Queen’s Park.
The crowd spanned almost the entire length of Dundas Street between Yonge and University as they marched, chanting slogans like “ASAP OSAP,” “Bring down Doug Ford,” and “Our schools, our rules.”
Students bussed in from all across Ontario to come to this demonstration, according to Jacob Landau, one of the event organizers who spoke at the rally.
Nipissing University student Daina Barriage came from North Bay, Ont., to Toronto for the rally. She said her OSAP funding will be cut by 50 per cent in September.
“I somehow have to make that money up by September, which I don’t think is very likely, so my future is not looking very hopeful right now,” Barriage said.
“Bring down Doug Ford”
Maggie Kennedy, a third-year theatre and drama student at the University of Toronto (U of T), said that she has relied on the funding OSAP has provided to get her this far in her studies.
“We should be aiming towards more forgiveness and more grants, not more debt,” Kennedy said. “Especially taking away the six-month grace period, that’s just an unrealistic standard to hold students accountable to.”
Max Ackerman, another third-year theatre student at U of T, said “Education isn’t a right that should be reserved for just the people that can afford it [or] the people that are lucky—it should be a right for everyone.”
The rally was originally planned by a small group of students as an event on facebook, according to Lis. The two initial organizers were Crysta Montiel and Alex Shah, who spoke at the rally.
“What we are witnessing today is the rise of a new student movement across the province,” Shah said.
Montiel, who shared the podium with Shah, described the paradox where students are unable to afford their tuition fees without finding work, but are unable to find work without an education.
“The only way to break the cycle is free education for all,” she said.
Others who spoke at the rally included Liberal Member of Parliament Adam Vaughan and Ontario NDP leader and leader of the provincial opposition Andrea Horvath, both of whom were highly critical of the Ford government.
“I worked with the Fords in city council for many years. They don’t build things, they break things,” Vaughan said.
The crowd responded to the speeches with intermittent cheers and chants, at one point even chanting “Fuck Doug Ford,” despite Landau’s request to refrain from using profanity at the protest.
Horwath laughed and called the chant “very unparliamentary language.”
She added, “I understand where you’re coming from.”
“I worked with the Fords in city council for many years. They don’t build things, they break things”
Horvath said the province’s cuts to OSAP is an attack on students, a sentiment echoed by Nour Alideeb, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario
“Student democracy is under attack because this government is afraid of us.” Adileeb said.
Some of the groups who supported the protest were Leadnow.ca, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, among others.
Lis said due to the ad hoc nature of the group who organized this protest, they will not likely be planning future demonstrations, but he encouraged people to attend rallies organized by other groups.
Lis suggested students go out to a march for students rights on Feb. 2, hosted by an organization called Students for Ontario.
“That one’s going to be province wide, with different rallies going on in different cities across the province,” Lis said. “The people who organized today hope to become a part of that.”
Correction: A previous version of this post misspelled Nour Alideeb’s name. The Eye regrets this error