Featured image taken by The Muse’s photographer Komran Mackey.
This past Saturday, people joined the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) at the Colonial Building by Bannerman Park for a rally against austerity.
The recently published Greene Report attempts to solve the budget crisis currently facing Newfoundland Labrador. The report, which has been referred to as the ‘Big Reset,’ calls for slashes to post-secondary education. Moya Greene, appointed by the provincial Liberal government, has recommended that “operating grants for Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic be slashed by 30 per cent, at a rate of five per cent annually.” It has been proposed and confirmed that this budget cut will lead to a dramatic increase in tuition: According to CFS NL, a 30% cut to MUN’s funding by 2026. will lead to a doubling of tuition costs.
MUN students have been fighting against this drastic cut to education. As Newfoundland Labrador is a dramatically ageing population (meaning there are more older people than younger people), the province is facing a demographic crisis as well as a fiscal one. Many students argue that by cutting the funding to Memorial, the province’s only university, the province only pushes would-be young people (AKA tax payers and the work force) to other provinces on the mainland. This issue speaks to local students who would not have chosen to stay home to go to MUN if the school’s tuition cost the same as other universities in the Maritimes or across the country.
Furthermore, international students already pay over four times as much as local students, and over three times more than Canadian students not originating from Newfoundland Labrador. However, many international students one speaks to regarding MUN will tell you: they, like local students, come for the cheap tuition. It will deter international students from attending our university if the (already unfair) fees hike any higher.
The Protest Logistics
The protest saw a turnout of roughly 200 people. As we from The Muse entered, our contact tracing information was taken and we were given hand sanitizer as well as CFS-branded tote bags which included whistles and information pamphlets. CFS had volunteers providing ASL translation and hearing assistance devices, first aid (provided by Avalon First Aid), as well as some volunteers amongst the crowd to hand out water bottles and other informational pamphlets.
Organizations that had some sort of signage present included CFS, MUNSU, the Communist Party of Newfoundland Labrador and NAPE (Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees).
The speakers were extremely powerful and passionate. A list of speakers present include:
- Kat McLaughlin, the Newfoundland Labrador Representative for CFS, who offered a Land Acknowledgement and Introductions;
- Robert Leamon of the Indigenous Activist Collective;
- Jessica McCormick of the People’s Recovery Report;
- Raven Khadeja and Precious Familusi of Black Lives Matter NL;
- Gemma Etchegary of Fridays for Future NL;
- Apoorv Singh of ARCNL (Anti-Racism Coalition of NL) and offering the International Student Perspective;
- Mackenzie Nolan offering the rural student perspective;
- MP Jack Harris, New Democratic Party MP elected to St. John’s East;
- Mary Shortall from the NL Federation of Labourl
- Isabel Ojeda, who read and proposed that students send an email to their local representatives (from the email campaign found here);
- and finally McLaughlin again to offer closing remarks.
The Muse was able to grab a comment from Kat McLaughlin, the Newfoundland Labrador Representative for CFS as pictured above. Here is what she had to say:
“Today students and community members are coming together to rally against the cuts to funding at Memorial University, to rally against the austerity, and the cuts to education by the Liberal government. We are bringing together the voices of students from across our community. We have international students, rural students, high school students, alumni – we have community members and community organizations, activist organizations, all coming together to share their perspectives on why education is a must and why accessible education is a must.
Today we hope to bring these voices together to show that accessible education is vital and necessary to this province. To show that community members across the province, country, and world need accessible education. To show that marginalized folks are going to be the most impacted by these cuts.”
Many of the speakers touched on the rights and issues related to education of Black, Indigenous, and other people groups of colour, decolonization and criticized capitalism. Speaker Robert Leamon of the Indigenous Activist Collective stated:
“[Education] should be freely shared for the benefit of all. Instead, we see capitalist, colonial governments, like the Furey government, defunding education, seeking to turn knowledge into a commodity that can be bought and sold.”
If you were unable to make it on Saturday but wish to learn more about CFS NL, find their Linktree here.