Advocacy In Lockdown

A huge part of what AUSU does for our members is advocacy. In a normal year, we would be knocking on MLA and MP’s doors, handing them our one-pager, and asking them to stand with us on issues we feel are important for students. But this is not a normal year. COVID-19 has changed how we do advocacy at AUSU. 

AUSU belongs to several advocacy coalitions to represent the needs of our students. Federally, we belong to the Canadian Alliance of Student Association (CASA), and this year they are holding an Advocacy month in November. I have been able to join other student leaders from across Canada to meet online all month with Members of Parliament to represent post-secondary students and our unique needs. Some of our asks include:

  • Reducing barriers to post-secondary education for indigenous peoples through continued mental health supports.  
  • Calling on the government to do a study to see the barriers students with dependents face when it comes to childcare.
  • Removing barriers for international students to participate in co-op and internship opportunities.
  • And finally, seeing an equitable return to funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to match what it was back in 2011.

Everyone I have met with so far has been warm and welcoming to these asks and understands how important post-secondary education is to the economic future of the country.

Find out more about our asks during Advocacy Month online here.

We also have some more exciting news at AUSU! Council has recently decided to join the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), who now represent around 160,000 post-secondary students in the province of Alberta. Although AU is almost a national university as it operates across provincial borders, the university funding and decisions on post-secondary education still very much sit with the provincial government. Therefore, through our relationship with CAUS, we hope to build a stronger voice with the Alberta Government to help represent the needs of AU students.

I have not had the ability to travel and meet in person when it comes to advocacy due to pandemic restrictions, but I have still found a way to make it work. I’ve also been able to continue to build on our relationships provincially and federally to allow for alliances and connections, and to work towards our common goals to help serve AU students as they work hard to achieve their own personal goals. 

Having an affordable, accessible, and quality post-secondary education system is vital to our future, and advocacy is critical to ensuring that this is a priority for all governments. It is an investment in the future of Canada, something that is needed now more than ever. Thankfully, these pandemic lockdowns have happened in an era where a connection can still happen, even if you cannot leave your house. And while maybe it is not as glamorous as walking into Parliament Hill in Ottawa, or the Alberta Legislature, it is still fundamentally getting the job done – students’ voices are being heard by decision-makers, and that is the ultimate goal of our advocacy.

Stacey Hutchings
AUSU President
(formerly VP External and Student Affairs)