Province won’t challenge appeal decision on Ontario’s post-secondary student fees

Click to play video: 'Ontario’s divisional court ends provincial government’s ‘Student Choice Initiative’'
Ontario’s divisional court ends provincial government’s ‘Student Choice Initiative’
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario’s divisional court ends provincial government’s ‘Student Choice Initiative’ – Nov 22, 2019

TORONTO — The Ontario government says it will not seek to take a legal fight over post-secondary student fees to Canada’s highest court.

A spokesperson for the minister of colleges and universities said the province will not file an appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada after its directive making some student fees optional was struck down.

“We remain committed to supporting a world-class postsecondary education system and continue to explore every possible avenue to further increase accountability and transparency within the sector,” Bethany Osborne said in an email.

The so-called Student Choice Initiative allowed university and college students to opt out of paying certain ancillary fees, including those for student unions.

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In August, the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the government’s challenge of a lower-court ruling that found the policy unlawful.

In its ruling, the Appeal Court found the directive conflicts with the legislation governing Ontario’s colleges and universities.

It wrote that if the province wants to impose such a policy, it first has to change the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act and the legislation that establishes each Ontario university.

The Canadian Federation of Students said the directive was never about saving students money, but rather aimed at defunding groups that hold the government accountable.

The organization welcomed the government’s decision not to further challenge the court’s ruling Tuesday, saying campus groups will now be able to count on funding and return to their previous service levels.

“Student unions and groups, we’ve had to do emergency budgeting, where we budget for the bare minimum of what we can do with what we have collected in terms of fees,” said Kayla Weiler, the national executive representative for CFS Ontario.

“So now that the government announced that they’re not going to appeal any further, we can actually budget properly knowing what we’ll have coming in, so that we can feed students on campus and provide that counselling and mental health support.”

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The opt-out provisions were enacted in 2019 and caused many on-campus organizations to receive less funding. As a result, some organizations, such as student unions, campus media outlets, food banks and LGBTQ support centres, had to lay off staff or cut back on services.

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