Central Committee CPC, October 15-16, 2016
This November 2nd, students across Canada are taking part in a Day of Action demanding free, accessible, public post secondary education from coast-to-coast. The Communist Party of Canada stands in full solidarity in this important student struggle.
Since 1990, the average undergraduate tuition fees across Canada have quadrupled. Governments across the country, led by Conservatives, Liberals, the NDP and the Parti Quebecois have all had a hand in implementing big business’ plan for university and college education: privatization through the expansion of user fees and corporate control over research and curriculum. Public funding accounts for less than 49 percent of university and college operating budgets, compared to 77 percent just 20 years ago.
For students the attack on post-secondary education has resulted in astronomical student debt levels and it has contributed greatly to the increase in poverty and precariousness of young people. An education system which relies on debt means that working class students, who are disproportionately racialized have to pay more for their education in the long-term because of larger debts and interest payments. The same is true for women students who face a steep gendered pay gap upon graduation.
The Federal government continues to deny Indigenous peoples their treaty rights to free post-secondary education because of a funding cap that was in place for 20 years. In 2016 there were 10,000 Indigenous students on the waiting list to access The Postsecondary Student Support Program which was created to help Indigenous Nations fund students’ education. International students are often paying triple the fees for the same education and are being used as cash cows to fund post-secondary institutions.
After almost three decades of skyrocketing tuition fees, raising the demand of free education has never been so important. Education without user-fees is a necessary precondition for an accessible system where the right to education can be realized. The student movement’s demand for free education should not be confused with the “free tuition” grants announced this year by the governments of New Brunswick and Ontario. These are merely restructured grants that have been promised to low-income students. It is unclear who will receive them and most importantly they can act as a smoke screen to increase tuition fees and student debt across the board.
The Communist Party of Canada fights for truly free education with no tuition fees for domestic and international students along with living stipends to cover the costs of living expenses. The CPC demands student debt amnesty and a full rollback of the corporatization of our post-secondary institutions. Canada needs a Post-Secondary Education Act, similar to the Canada Health Act, and a large increase in federal transfer payments for post-secondary education in order to ensure accessible, quality and democratic education from coast-to-coast.
The Day of Action, initiated by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), is the first cross-Canada action called in the last 4 years. It is an important step towards re-mobilizing the student movement across the country. The CFS, English-speaking Canada’s only independent student federation, had adopted a defensive position after many attacks from right-wing students backed by the Liberal and Conservative parties and university administrations across the country designed to divide and weaken the student movement.
In Quebec, where students stopped a drastic hike in tuition fees through the longest student strike in its history in 2012, students are finding their footing against the Quebec Liberal austerity government. Action demanding free education across the country needs to take on a truly Pan-Canadian character with united militant mass action in both English-speaking Canada and Quebec.
Only a mass struggle against the corporate attack on post-secondary can build unity and put the student movement in a position to win the goal of free and accessible post-secondary education. The Communist Party of Canada will be on the streets with students and their allies in labour fighting for the right to education. All out November 2nd!