ReconciliAction is an Indigenous-led student campaign that strives to work with university administrations to implement the 16th call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is the only one which pertains specifically to post-secondary institutions, and reads as follows:
“We call upon post-secondary institutions to create university and college degree and diploma programs in Aboriginal languages.”
Language is an intrinsic part of culture and plays a key role in allowing Indigenous communities to thrive. The preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages is essential to the processes of reconciliation and anti-colonial organizing. Reconciliation cannot exist while still enforcing colonial languages upon Indigenous populations.
LONG TERM GOALS
- Implement language degree programs in Indigenous languages
- Lobby the federal government to make investments in support of the creation and sustainability of Indigenous language education
- Increase the number of Indigenous language speakers
- Advocate for the national and provincial recognition of First Nations, Metis and Inuit languages
SHORT TERM GOALS
- Establish working groups on campuses that are focused on the development of and advocacy for Indigenous language programs
- Create a ReconciliAction toolkit that can be used to advocate for language programs and degrees at post-secondary institutions
- Advocate for the hiring of First Nations, Metis or Inuit language faculty in colleges and universities
Click here to read Our Turn: A National, Student-Led Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence – a research document produced by student associations across Canada including the Canadian Federation of Students – Manitoba.
NO MEANS NO/CONSENT IS MANDATORY
The Federation’s No Means No/Consent is Mandatory campaigns have been active on campuses and throughout our local communities since 1992. These campaigns aim to prevent sexual violence on campus by promoting a culture of consent while also ensuring that accessible and intersectional supports exist for survivors. After years of successful lobbying, CFS-MB, alongside our member locals, saw the Manitoba government pass The Sexual Violence Awareness Act. This legislation mandates every university to implement both proactive and reactive stand-alone policies and procedures regarding sexual violence on campus. While this act has seen an expansion of supports for students, Federation representatives continue to follow the implementation of this Act, which unfortunately has also seen a lack of meaningful student consultation, simultaneous cuts to core university funding, and a generally slow process.
Over the years our No Means No/Consent is Mandatory campaigns have been instrumental in raising awareness and helping to shift cultural attitudes surrounding consent, sexual assault and violence against women. However, these forms of violence continue to occur on our campuses at alarming rates. Up to 1 in 4 students have reported experiencing sexual violence while attending university; these statistics are likely much higher since we know that only 1/10 incidents end up being reported. Of these reported acts of violence 9/10 are against women, with half of all survivors being between the ages of 15-24. For indigenous women, the odds of experiencing sexual violence are three times higher. Creating safer campuses free from sexual and gender-based violence remains essential to creating barrier-free access to education for all.
- Advocate for protection and reduction of tuition fees for international, college, graduate and professional programs
- Conversion of student loans into provincial student grants
- Ensure adequate funding for post-secondary institutions to maintain quality of education.
- Work with our national student movement to advocate for the elimination of tuition fees for all students and for universal access to post-secondary education.
- Educate students on changes to course-related fees, and advocate for these fees to be refunded to students.
EDUCATION FOR ALL
Today, public funding for post-secondary education is less than half of what it was 20 years ago, resulting in steadily increasing tuition fees and public student debt reaching a record $36 billion nationally. In 2017 the Manitoba government passed Bill 31, which both deregulated course-related fees and allows for up to 5% plus inflation tuition fee increases for domestic undergraduate students every year. International student fees – as well as college, graduate and professional programs – remain completely unregulated.
More recently, the 2019 provincial budget dealt another $6 million cut to the operational funding of our universities and contributed no new funds for the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative (MSBI). While the government claims that they are concerned with improving upfront access to education, their relatively small contributions to the MSBI does not represent an effective lifting of barriers to post-secondary education for most students.
It is imperative that students continue to push for affordable, accessible, publicly funded and high-quality post-secondary education. An educated population drives the economy, spurs innovation and creates stable, dynamic and just communities. By increasing tuition fees this government is ensuring that those opportunities are unavailable for those who need it most.
The constantly increasing price of textbooks has become yet another financial barrier for students accessing post-secondary education. In 2017, Macleans magazine listed both the University of Brandon and University of Manitoba within the top ten most expensive schools in the country for textbook costs; students in Brandon actually paid the most nationally that year, with an average annual price tag of $920.64.
Even worse, new editions are frequently released to prevent the resale of used texts, forcing students to decide between having out-of-date sources or going further in debt. It’s time for students to work with our faculties and administrations to develop more Open Education Resources (OER) and create accessible digital platforms for students to utilize them free of charge, as is already happening in other parts of Canada.
- Lobby government to reverse their draconian decision to remove international students.
- Educate the government and key stakeholders regarding the importance of providing health care to all persons of Manitoba, such as international students.
- Strengthen coalitions with groups throughout the province to push back against this change.
- Link all international student groups throughout our member locals to develop concrete actions and steps to ensure the rights of international students are protected.
- In conjunction with the Education for All campaign continues to push for the long term goal of the elimination of tuition and differential fees for international students and the shorter term goal of tying international student fees to the rate of inflation.
The Fairness for International Students campaign was created to lobby and advocate against the extremely high, unregulated tuition fees that international students pay compared to their domestic colleagues. As public funding for post-secondary institutions steadily declines over the past several decades, international student tuition has become a means for cash-strapped universities to bring in desperately needed revenue. This for-profit model of education disrespects the economic, social and cultural contributions that international students bring to our communities; indebting learners from abroad for the benefit of Canadian citizens.
More recently the government removed international students and their dependents from accessing public healthcare. The change took effect in September 2018 with no consultation and was explained as a means to save $3.1 million of public money. By the same government’s estimation, international students contribute over $400 million to the Manitoba economy and occupy over 4,250 jobs – paying income and sales taxes without access to the public services they pay for.
The loss of healthcare combined with even-more drastically increasing tuition fees puts international students wellbeing at risk while also eliminating any incentive for future students to choose Manitoba as a place to study. The Canadian Federation of Students fundamentally believes both education and healthcare are a public good and a human right that should remain accessible for whoever needs them, regardless of their origin.
Through our mental health campaign the Federation advocates for:
- Accessible mental health services that are available on campus, when you need them, at no cost.
- Diverse mental health services that give you options. Not everyone needs the same type of support. You should have access to what you need, whether it is peer-to-peer support, services in you preferred language or texting a counsellor.
- Intersectional mental health services that recognize and respond to the different contexts of students’ lives. Mental health cannot be separated from the oppressions that students face in and outside of the classroom every day.
The Canadian Mental Health Association has found that 20 percent of Canadians will personally experience a mental health issue in their life, with young people aged 15 to 24 more likely to experience mental health issues than any other age group. In 2016, a survey of 43,000 university and college students found that 89.5 per cent of students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do and 73.5 per cent felt very sad. At the same time, students are having a harder time accessing the mental health services they need on campus due to chronically underfunded, understaffed and underrepresented psychiatric services on post-secondary campuses.
Medication can often be an essential part of mental health treatment. However, the absence of a national Pharmacare strategy has left one in ten Canadians unable to fill their prescriptions due to the cost. Over two million Canadians incur more than $1000 a year in prescription drug costs alone. In the absence of universal Pharmacare, the Federation has partnered with Canada’s only not-for-profit health insurance provider GreenShield to coordinate our National Student Health Network. Through this service, we are able to offset the high cost of medication for students experiencing both mental and physical illness. To learn more about what’s covered through GreenShield, click here.
United for Equity
The United for Equity campaign aims to challenge all forms of discrimination and oppression on our campuses, in our communities, and in our student organizing spaces. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of oppression can affect how certain groups of people access post-secondary education and perpetuate inequities in the society based on gender, race, socio-economic status, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and other factors.
The campaign involves several awareness building materials, including stickers, buttons, and information cards. The materials focus on educating people about and challenging six forms of oppression: homophobia, transphobia, ableism, colonialism, sexism, and racism. The fight against discrimination and oppression of all forms is integral to the creation of truly barrier-free education for all. To order United for Equity materials, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since the approval of Mifegymiso (the abortion pill) in 2015, Canadian women were finally given an alternative to surgical abortions. However, with surgical and now medical abortions only being offered only in Winnipeg and Brandon, patients have to make the expensive trek into these cities, wasting valuable work and family time and incurring expenses for travel, accommodation and child care.
Until recently Manitoba was one of only two provinces across Canada to not provide universal coverage for Mifegymiso. However, this has recently changed thanks in large part to the successful organizing of Manitoba Medical Students for Choice and their Make Mife Free in MB campaign; yet another example of how organized students can positively affect public policy.
Reproductive justice is a term used to encapsulate what it means to have true reproductive freedom. This includes the right to have or not have children, to easily access reproductive health services and to have supports for those who form families such as access to childcare. Reproductive justice can look like the ability to access contraceptives, the ability to safely terminate a pregnancy and receiving accurate, sex-positive and diverse sexual education.
It remains a struggle for students across Canada to access thorough and intersectional health services related to reproductive and sexual health. Vocal support for anti-choice organizations from some Canadian politicians and recently escalating legislative attacks on abortion access across the United States underlines the necessity of students continuing to advocate and organize for universally accessible and intersectional reproductive healthcare. On our own campuses anti-choice groups have been actively campaigning with graphic materials depicting violent and misleading imagery for the purpose of shaming and harassing those who support free access to safe abortions.