In a unanimous decision from the Divisional Court, a branch of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, the Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative was struck down as beyond their legislative authority.
The initiative, introduced last December, required universities and colleges across the province to allow students the ability to opt out of fees deemed “non-essential” by the government.
Initially this sparked concern from the Student Union’s as the term “non-essential” was defined broadly to include things like funding for public transit lines, day care facilities for full time students and sexual violence support services.
In the case of Brock University, one of the biggest single fees that was made optional was student advocacy by the Brock University Student’s Union (BUSU) to provincial and federal governments, a move seen as an attempt by the government to silence Student’s Unions voices going forward.
“Students were forced into unions and forced to pay for those unions,” Ford said in a fundraising email sent by the Progressive Conservatives earlier this year. “I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to.”
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the York Federation of Students (YFS) jointly filed the lawsuit in May 2019 based on their belief that the government lacked the authority to implement the initiative.
The court sided with the CFS and the YFS, as they determined that the government had no authority to interfere in the affairs of university and college students’ unions, as they do not receive any of the public funding provided by the province to the colleges and universities proper.
While the Ford government may still appeal this decision to a higher court, at the moment this means that student organizations on campuses across Ontario are no longer facing the threat of losing large percentages of their yearly funding going forward.
The Brock Press will continue to follow this story and provide updates on the situation as they become known.