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Picketing continues across Ontario

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On day four of the Ontario college union strike, picketing is strong at campuses across the province. 

At York University, a rally was held in support of Seneca faculty on the picket line.

Students and professors alike were on the scene waving local 3903 CUPE flags, with many hoping there would be a return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.

The some 500,000 students cast out of their schools on Monday due to the Ontario Public Services Employees Union have found their voice on social media.

The last strike by OPSEU was in 2006, a time when Facebook and Twitter had just burst on to the Internet and hashtags were a foreign language. Fast-forward 11 years and even movements are sparked through a social media post.

Likely the most prominent hashtag, “#WePayToLearn”, found its fame through a Change.org petition created by two Humber students the Post reported on when the strike first started.

Launched on Oct 11, it has since gathered over 87,000 signatures in support of sides returning to the bargaining table and requesting a tuition refund for days missed.

“I think it’s had at least some impact on the conversation,” said Amir Allana, who started the digital petition with fellow Humber paramedic student Greg Kung.

“That’s been our goal all along, is to bring a student voice to the table and to really highlight what the strike means for so many students.”

UPSEU Local 110, representing 800 Fanshawe faculty members, officially endorsed the petition as it picked up speed.

If all signatories are students, nearly a fifth of all college students in the province have signed it.

However, online petitions can not be officially presented in the provincial province at Queen’s Park, where legislators have held off on forcing a conclusion to the strike.

In regards to the unique situation of Guelph-Humber, the faculty union representing university staff told a Post journalist on Tuesday that GH students would likely not receive a refund on time missed.

University professors at GH continue to be paid full salary under the U of Guelph, but do not teach classes.

The administration encourages students to continue their studies as usual, which teachers allowed to communicate with students via email, update Courselink and hold office hours.

Darryl Bedford, an OPSEU bargaining team member from Fanshawe, told IF Press that the union is no closer to the bargaining table.

Mr Bedford hopes that the student movement will translate to tangible change.


More details to follow. Files from IF Press for Darryl Bedford. Image 1 of picket line from Murray Cooke on Twitter. 

 

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Anti-abortion group loses club status at University of Ottawa

A petition had over 500 signatures.

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STORY VIA THE FULCRUM

(CUP) — An anti-abortion group on campus has lost its club status after months of heated controversy and debate, blocking them from accessing resources and funding through the University of Ottawa Students’ Union, or UOSU.

University of Ottawa Students for Life UOSFL first received preliminary club status back in October 2019 from Campus Vibez uOttawa, the body that coordinates clubs under the UOSU. The school’s former student government, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), had previously stripped UOSFL of its club status in 2017.  

Anger and backlash from students quickly followed and the status of the club was called into question a few weeks later when a petition with 500 signatures was sent to the undergraduate student union calling for its removal. 

In a series of meetings in October and November 2019, the UOSU adopted a pro-choice stance on abortion and then amended its club code to block any group that advocates against access to legal abortion from union funding. A General Assembly was held in early December where students could vote on the club status of UOSFL, but the meeting failed to reach quorum and became a town hall discussion instead. 

The decision on the club status of UOSFL was then moved to a meeting of the UOSU’s student life committee, where representatives from UOSFL and pro-choice supporters who launched the petition against the club were invited to attend and voice their arguments. The meeting was held on Dec. 20, with the committee eventually voting to remove the club status of UOSFL, which was announced earlier this month. 

UOSFL has the option of challenging the committee’s decision at the union’s upcoming board meeting this Sunday. Under the current ruling, the group can still remain active on campus but does not have access to funds, promotion, or room rentals through the UOSU.

Bridget Dueck, administrator of the Defenders of Our Campus pro-choice group, and Garfilia Milousis, co-president of UOSFL, attended the student life committee meeting. Both said they have experienced harassment and threats in the midst of the debate over UOSFL’s status. 

Dueck said a delayed decision from the UOSU has caused her unneeded stress and anxiety. She said she expects there will be an appeal by the UOSFL and encouraged students to attend the appeal meeting to voice their concerns. 

“I’ve played a more active role and spoke out more, but it’s really a group,” said Dueck. “This whole movement is kind of an organism of its own. It’s not just one person that’s spearheading the movement anymore. It’s more of a group of students that are all working together.”

Dueck said that along with the resources official UOSU clubs receive, it’s also about the title that comes with it. 

“It is a monumental privilege that not every group is going to be eligible for,” said Dueck. ”That title carries a lot of weight to the students and, to me, because they are recognized, they carry around the community, they represent the community.” 

Milousis said the UOSU’s process has been much more transparent than the previous decision from the school’s former undergraduate student union, the SFUO, but said that flaws still exist in the new system. 

Both Milousis and Dueck agreed that the final meeting held on Dec. 20 and the General Assembly on Dec. 7 were unfair to students who were studying for finals and headed home for the holidays. Milousis called it a learning experience for the UOSU, and the union says it will no longer allow meetings to happen in the middle of exam season. 

Other student unions across the country have also taken pro-choice stances and blocked anti-abortion clubs from their funding or resources, but Milousis argued that while principals and examples of other cases may be referred to, they should not be used to influence a decision as the circumstances and details may vary. 

“What I would say is different from those cases and the situation at the U of O is recently the Ontario government has put forward a free speech policy that’s supposed to regulate universities and require them to uphold free speech on campus,” said Milousis. 

While Milousis commends the student union for listening to both sides of the arguments, she said she believes there was bias in the decision from the start, since the UOSU took a pro-choice stance on abortion at an October 2019 board meeting. 

Milousis said she thinks the decision on her club’s status was made even before the General Assembly in December took place. 

“By nature of the UOSU taking the pro-choice stance, they’ve already positioned themselves as closer to (the pro-choice) side,” she said. “So not only do I have to address the concerns, but I somehow have to win them over.” 

Milousis and Dueck said members of their groups have not engaged in harassment online, but both reported received threats from anonymous and third-party sources. 

“I’ve had a number of death threats,” said Milousis.

“I have experienced harassment from fake profiles online,” said Dueck, “I had a message from a profile that felt very threatening, saying that I was going to burn in hell. I don’t want that on campus.” 

The UOSU’s next board meeting is scheduled for Sunday at 12 p.m. in the Tabaret Hall Senate Chamber, where UOSFL has the option of appealing the student life committee’s decision. ■

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Families impacted by Flight PS752 to receive $25K

The prime minister made the announcement on Friday morning.

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Victims of the plane crash pictured at a Humber College vigil on Jan. 16, 2020.

Canadian families of those that died on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 earlier this month will receive $25,000 in financial compensation from the federal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

Ottawa will supply the funds for the loved ones 57 Canadians left behind when the Boeing passenger jet crashed outside Tehran on Jan. 8 “to assist with their immediate needs, such as funeral arrangements and travel.”

Ahead of the announcement, Trudeau had met with the country’s Incident Response Group over how to respond to the crash and regarding an ongoing international investigation into the incident, caused by an Iran-launched surface-to-air missile.

Humber College held two community gatherings on Thursday over the victims. Many of those killed among the 167 were involved in Canadian academia, including several post-secondary students from Ontario. No Humber students or faculty were onboard, according to the college. ■

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Sussex royals to split time between UK, Canada

Prince Harry and Meghan were in crisis talks with the Queen.

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File photo from SussexRoyal.com

Following crisis talks in Sandringham on Monday, Queen Elizabeth said she gave her blessing for Prince Harry and his wife Meghan to embark on a more independent future, announcing that the Sussex royals will split their time between Canada and the United Kingdom.

“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family,” the queen said.

The Sussex couple made a shock announcement last Wednesday that they would be stepping back from royal duties and spend more time in North America. Harry and Meghan spent six weeks in Vancouver at the end of 2019. ■

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