Yesterday, students watched the Speech from the Throne hoping that they wouldn’t be left behind. In the evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doubled down on his government’s response to the pandemic, and twice in one day, students were left out of any meaningful plan to restart the economy. Though the government announced a scaling up of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, the word student was not mentioned once in the Throne Speech, nor in the Prime Minister’s address to the nation.
As students watched yesterday, they wondered what direction the government would take.
Students are ready for a change and we know that it’s not possible to go back to business-as-usual. Students know they are more than just bodies in the classroom. They are also parents, workers, and have multiple complex identities that also require support. Black, Indigenous, and students of colour face a myriad of challenges outside the walls of the classroom that also require support.
The government made bold promises to move forward on important social programs like childcare and national pharmacare. In addition to announcing support for Black entrepreneurs, the government committed to introducing legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of 2020. Students around the country have been fighting for these changes, whether by mobilizing, signing petitions, sharing personal testimonies, and using social media. The government’s four-pronged approach includes building back better. In order to build back better, the government must not forget about post-secondary students.
The Throne Speech included a plan to create over one million jobs and offer immediate training to quickly skill up workers. This requires serious investments in post-secondary education to ensure that every worker that wants to gain more skills can pursue an education without incurring student debt or paying high tuition fees. Students have said time and time again that fully publicly funded post-secondary education will pave the way to recovery from the current crisis and it’s time for the federal government to put money where their mouth is and put people over profits. Students will continue to demand the concrete changes needed to ensure that a just recovery includes education for all, action on systemic racism, and accounts for the looming challenges of the climate crisis.
The Federation remains committed to pushing the government to implement long-term investment in post-secondary education in a way that is equitable, accountable, and accessible to all.