OTTAWA–Students left the Fall Economic Statement distraught with no significant relief measures announced for the post-secondary education sector. Although Members of Parliament unanimously voted to extend the moratorium on federal student loan payments just last week, the government has, instead, decided to only pause interest collected on the federal portion of student loans. International students were also left out of relief plans despite vocal calls to expand financial support and permits for graduate students.
The government also announced that they will pledge nearly $1 billion to expand the Canada Summer Jobs program in 2021, an initiative that has been met with criticism for excluding international students, individuals over the age of thirty, as well as some workplaces from qualifying for the program. Although Students are encouraged to hear the government’s commitment to ensuring youth have access to the workforce, they remain concerned about program eligibility, and lack of immediate support to alleviate stressors that impact and deteriorate mental health.
“We urge the government to show compassion for students and recent graduates to avoid a mental health crisis,” said Nicole Brayannis, National Deputy Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. “Students are facing emotional hardship from social isolation, the loss of loved ones, and a serious disruption to their day-to-day lives. Worrying about affording to pay back a student loan while buying groceries or paying rent, shouldn’t be a problem, but it is.”
Based on a recent study by the Canadian Psychological Association, issues with mental health and access to services continue to be one of the largest concerns of young Canadians and students. With campuses closed, many students have been left without care and unable to access mental health services.
Now is the time for action to protect and support every person living in this county. The government needs to start working with students to determine where students require immediate support. Ongoing consultations across sectors will be critical in preventing what could be the biggest mental health crisis in this country, alongside the worst global pandemic in recent history. The Canadian Federation of Students continues to advocate for immediate student relief and a long-term strategy for the post-secondary education sector.
The Federation encourages students and community members to use the following email tool on December 2, 2020, to contact their local Member of Parliament and ask for immediate relief for students: www.cfs-fcee.ca/covid-19.