Student representatives from across the country are coming together in Ottawa, Ontario this week to develop campaigns and service plans for the coming year, as well as discuss and debate issues and policy motions that have been developed by member local students’ unions. The meeting started with a Grand Entry by the Circle of First Nations, Métis and Inuit Students. Elder Annie St. Georges welcomed delegates to unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin territory, gave blessings for reflective and enjoyable hard work in our time together over the meeting and reminded delegates that as many Canadians celebrate 150 years of Confederation, for Indigenous people Canada 150 represents the loss of land, language and culture.
There was cause for celebration on opening day, following a year filled with victories for the student movement. The National Executive presented their report and updated delegates with the work that was done in the last year. Through student organizing, strong coalition building and dedication from students across the country, we mobilized for a cross-country national day of action for the first time in nearly five years. On November 2, thousands of students fighting for free education in Canada took action on 58 campuses in 36 cities across every province in the Federation’s National Day of Action to call for universal access to post-secondary education, with the support of more than 90 labour unions, civil society organizations and community groups. Our student movement also worked tirelessly to hold the Liberal government accountable to the promises made to students during the last federal election. New investments in the Post-Secondary Student Support Program announced in Budget 2017 to support Indigenous learners show that we have the power to influence decisions made by politicians and be agents for social change.
Delegates were honoured to have Breana Ross, President of the United States Student Association as the Keynote Speaker. Ross spoke about organizing to win and the challenges faced by students in both the United States and Canada. She highlighted that students need to be aware of their own power to have a chance to win. It is not enough to convince those in power that change is necessary, students need to change the face of power itself. Ross’ speech was a great teaser on what delegates can look forward to in her workshop on grassroots organizing.
The first workshop of the meeting focused on current issues in the post-secondary education sector in Canada. More specifically, the workshop gave an overview of the history of higher education in Canada, and gave delegates a refresher on the state of post-secondary education in each Canadian province. This workshop highlighted that Canada is a country with ten very different systems of post-secondary education. Students in this country need national standards that enshrine quality, universal access and public administration from coast to coast.