2018 Advocacy Week

CASA Advocacy Week November 25 – December 01, 2018

Our AUSU executive team had a great opportunity to travel to Ottawa, Ontario at the end of November 2018 with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA)  to advocate on behalf of post-secondary education in Canada for our annual national Advocacy Week. This proved to be a valuable experience for all of us, and an important advocacy effort for students.

CASA has a long history of federal advocacy and has seen some big accomplishments for post-secondary students in Canada.

Currently CASA consists of 23 student associations across Canada, representing over 270,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate level. This year, in partnership with l’Union étudiante du Quebec, we represented over 350,000 students. This gave us a powerful voice, and the attention we received from the government was reflected. Paired with CASA’s strong research and concrete evidence, we were able to communicate the needs of students with this support behind us during Advocacy Week 2018. #studentstakethehill

AUSU Execs Brandon Simmons, Natasha Donahue, & Melinda Goertz in Ottawa for Advocacy Week 2018, ready to ‘take the hill’ with CASA.

Sunday – After a full morning of travel, we arrived at our hotel and conference location around 2:30 pm EST.  We immediately began training on all the background information about the advocacy topics we would be bringing to the table. In total, we were planning for 160 meetings with Members of Parliament (MPs), Senators, and other stakeholders to discuss the needs of post-secondary students across Canada! Our six advocacy priorities included: 100% work integrated learning, grants for grad students, putting research funding back into the hands of students, preventing sexual violence on campus, amalgamating the work/study permit, and co-ops and internships for international students.

Monday – This day was full of practice for our upcoming meetings with MPs. We formed into groups and had mock meetings to prepare for many different possible responses and scenarios. The experience these meetings provided were invaluable.  We wanted to ensure that we were well prepared to maximize our efficacy in these meetings. When you only have 30 minutes to convey your position and proposed solution, preparation is key. Our AUSU membership would have been proud to see that when the day was done and the bulk of the group had dissipated, your entire executive team stayed late to pack in as much practice as they possibly could.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – The middle of the week was three intense days of back-to-back lobby meetings. We met with MPs and Senators from across Canada, political staffers, as well as federal stakeholder groups, including Economic and Social Development Canada. During the meetings we had the opportunity to discuss our advocacy priorities and answer any questions, as well as provide an opportunity for follow-up information. Most meetings were concluded with an agreement to discuss certain topics with caucus, or even to write a letter to the appropriate minister.

Sapna Rahajan, Director of Mental Health Commission of Canada, with our AUSU VPEX Melinda Goertz and VPFA Natasha Donahue.

Tuesday evening – After the excitement of our first day it was nice to attend an evening reception in the center block building. Former CASA delegates, MPs, and various stakeholders attended. We enjoyed an evening of presentations and had the opportunity to have discussions with some fascinating individuals. In particular, we were able to share ideas with the Director with the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Friday – We spent Friday taking in presentations from CASA board members, and finished off with the final plenary meeting.  Once our CASA duties were over, it was off to the last event of the week; an AUSU Meet and Greet! A huge thank you to our members that took time out of their busy schedules to meet with us and share their experiences.  Our exec team garnered some invaluable insight from your stories and will take this information back to council for consideration. We value these meetings and your stories immensely as we are not the student voice but merely a microphone for all of your voices.

Advocacy week is over, but the time we all had together, the meetings in beautiful Parliament buildings, and being immersed in the energy of Canada’s capital city will stay with us indefinitely.

Warmest Wishes!

Melinda Goertz
VP External and Student Affairs
and Natasha Donahue
VP Finance & Administration

VPEX Natasha Donahue (far right) gives the camera shade during Advocacy Week training.

VPFA Melinda Goertz (left) working in a group during #2018AdvoWeek training.

More 2018 Advoacy Week training with the CASA Board of Directors chair to make sure everyone is prepared for meeting with the MP’s and Senators on Parliament Hill.

CASA brought along some informative data about the importance of the student vote to aid in their advocacy efforts.

Our AUSU executives prepared to #takethehill with CASA delegates, representing over 350,000 Canadian post-secondary students.

CASA had a great opportunity to meet with the Native Women’s Association of Canada while in Ottawa.

AUSU President Brandon Simmons (second from right) meeting with MP Gordie Hogg (centre) along with CASA delegates.

AUSU VPEX Melinda Goertz (second from left) and CASA delegates meet with MP Yasmin Ratansi.

AUSU VPFA Natasha Donahue (second from right) and CASA delegates meet with MP Jim Eglisnki.

AUSU VPFA Natasha Donahue (second from left) and CASA delegates meet with senator David Wells.

AUSU VPEX Melinda Goertz (far left) and CASA delegates meet with MP Robert Falcon Ouelette. 

AUSU President Brandon Simmons (second from left) and CASA delegates meet with MP Shaun Chen.

AUSU VPEX Melinda Goertz, VPFA Natasha Donahue, and CASA delegate meet with MP Robert Kitchen.

AUSU VPEX Melinda Goertz (left) and CASA delegates Lauren Clegers and George Philp.

AUSU President Brandon SImmons (second from left), VPFA Natasha Goertz (centre), and CASA delegates meet with MP Omar Alghabra.

AUSU VPFA Natasha Donahue (second from left) and CASA delegates meet with MP Pat Kelly.

AUSU President Brandon Simmons (second from right) and CASA delegates meet with MP Mark Strahl.

Great opportunity for CASA to have a ‘fireside chat’ with Senators on Parliament Hill to dicsuss post-secndary education in Canada!

Our VPFA Natasha Donahue (left) and CASA delegates meet with MP Colin Fraser.

Consultation and brainstorming session with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. 

AUSU President Brandon Simmons, VPFA Natasha Donahue, and VPEX Melinda Goertz.

Our executive team getting festive as the 2018 Advocacy Week nears a close!

Another great Advocacy Week on Parliament Hill concluded as the student voice of students in Canada is brought to the national government with the aim of improving access to quality post-secondary education in Canada!

For even more info and to hear directly from the executive team, check out the Facbook Live video they filmed during Advocacy Week 2018!