IGNITE’s North VP expresses awareness for OSAP-affected students at Feb. 4 rally in front of Queen’s Park.
Humber’s student government, IGNITE, took part in a provincial-wide rally in Toronto on Feb. 4.
Along with other unions from UofT, Ryerson and Loyalist College, IGNITE’s board members held their signs in front of Queen’s Park. Their presence goes back to Humber’s own financial situation surrounding its students.
They reacted to speakers, agreeing on how severe the Ford government’s OSAP revisions were on Humber’s low-income students.
“What drew IGNITE into the rally is what drew every other student union to the rally” said Jeremy Largo-Afonso, the Vice President of IGNITE at North Campus.
“The effect that the new Ford administration is having on auxiliary fees, OSAP and also how it’s affecting mental health for students all over – in terms of the implications that it’s going to have to financial relief” he said.
Following a 20 minute march along Toronto’s University Avenue, Afonso stood with fellow board members in front of Queen’s Park.
Dozens of police officers stood at the Ontario Legislative Building, lined with metal barriers. They watched over a large crowd of students, all focused on a small podium.
Much to the surprise of students, critics of Ford such as NDP Davenport MP Marit Stiles encouraged groups such as IGNITE to keep pushing.
“Together, we’re going to stand up against these attempts to divide our province. We can fight back against Ford’s cuts to colleges and universities and student services” said Stiles, announcing students have support from the NDP.
“I’m going to encourage you to keep this going. Call your government MPPs. Write them. Keep mobilizing” she shouted.
IGNITE is also responsible for a portion of the college’s bursaries. Some of their support includes dental care and grants – many of which could help with students losing free tuition.
Despite IGNITE’s efforts to meet financial demands, Afonso also says there is a limit to their services across the year.
“Our bursaries tend to run out from September to early winter” said Afonso.
“Our bursaries do run out because although we have a large pool of funds, we do need to give that out rather quickly because students have a lot more issues from the September to December timeline” he said.
According to IGNITE’s Operating Budget Infographic, the 2018-2019 projection sees approximately $6.7 million funded in services (the largest expense under six other categories).
Over $412,600 are put in bursaries, while $6 million are reserved for health and dental.
Reflecting on the habits of Ryerson’s Student Union, Afonso says IGNITE has its own board of directors to monitor and approve of the budget and its spending.
“Personally I think that it was very unfortunate that something like that happened, and obviously that’s an extremely worst-case scenario as to how any student union should be allowing its student executives to run about and spend money like that.” said Afonso, about an uncovering of the RSU’s $250,000 credit card expense.
Ahead of the rally, IGNITE invited Humber students to join them in advocating their own choices.
In a statement posted Jan. 30, the union announced they were fighting against the OSAP changes and “student fees that are putting your life as a student at risk”.
Students for Ontario, organizers of the march, gave IGNITE an opportunity to hear the concerns of other unions facing their own financial obstacles.
“We are angry. We are struggling. We are concerned. We are sick. But, we are stronger now than ever before because we are working together” said Nour Alideeb, Chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students in Ontario.
“Now, that tuition fee cut is actually an acknowledgement from this government that tuition fees are too high and inaccessible. Now, a tuition cut is a big victory” she said, to more than a few hundred rally members.
“But I’m not just here for a slice of cake – I want the whole damn thing”
(Part 2 of 2, in a story looking at IGNITE’s actions on financial aid for Humber Students)
Correction (Feb. 4, 11:00pm est: To avoid a miscontrusion of the term “watchdogs”, we changed to specify IGNITE has a board of directors who assess the spending of its budget)