Digital Advocacy Month Across Canada

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of all Canadians, and the impact on the lives of post-secondary students has been monumental.

To continue to keep post-secondary issues top of mind, the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations (CASA) and the Quebec Student Union (QSU) have organized a month of digital advocacy, representing 365 000 students – one of the largest advocacy efforts hosted by students. Student leaders from across Canada will meet digitally with Member of Parliament to bring forward advocacy priorities for Canadian post-secondary students.

AUSU has been a proud member of the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations for over 5 years. Our team will be bringing the voices of Athabasca University students to the digital table to ensure that online, distance education students are well represented.

This year, the Advocacy Month will be focusing on five major topics that have been identified as priorities for students across Canada: 

  • improving access to affordable childcare
  • expanding access to trade re-skilling
  • reducing mental health barriers for Indigenous post-secondary students
  • streamlining the ability for international students to work in Canada
  • increasing the Canadian Research Granting Agencies student scholarship funding.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the unique challenge of pursuing post-secondary studies while caring for dependent children. Canada. Fortunately, the Government of Canada recognized the unique challenges and needs of students with dependent children through the Canada Emergency Student Benefit enhancement for students with disabilities or dependents, however, the lack of affordable and adaptable childcare in Canada is a long-lasting story. Therefore, we are also calling on Employment and Social Development Canada and Statistics Canada to jointly investigate the needs for child care amongst students with dependent children through the biennial Longitudinal and International Study of Adults (LISA), and provide costed recommendations to improve access and the availability of affordable childcare.

With over 700,000 jobs lost between March and September 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has also taken a serious and lasting toll on the Canadian economy. In a survey commissioned by CASA, 82% of students reported they are worried about their futures and career prospects beyond the pandemic. The concern about job security is one shared among many Canadians, which is why one of CASA’s solutions is to reduce financial barriers to apprenticeships by expanding the Canadian Apprenticeship Incentive Grant. Further, post-secondary-based research is an important component to developing a strong knowledge economy. We are calling on the Government of Canada to increase funding to the Canadian Research Granting Agencies so that the scholarships return to the proportion they represented in 2011. 

Additionally, the well-being of Indigenous peoples in Canada relies critically on their level of access to education, in particular post-secondary. And yet, Indigenous peoples remain underrepresented in Canadian post-secondary education and face multiple financial, cultural, social, geographical, and historical barriers to access. Consequently, we are calling on the federal government to permanently maintain the pandemic funding for mental health and wellness support for Indigenous communities in an effort to support healing intergenerational trauma and increase access for all indigenous people who wish to pursue post-secondary education.

There are many different aspects of students lives that have been impacted by COVID-19, and there is a long road to recovery. Throughout the digital advocacy month, AUSU will be partnering with student leaders from coast-to-coast in alliance with CASA and QSU to make direct asks to the federal government for ways to support students through Canada’s economic recovery and beyond. AUSU will ensure that the voices of Athabasca University students are heard, and the unique perspective of distance education students is considered in decisions made about supports being put in place for students at the federal level.

For more information on the ways post-secondary students can support a resilient Canadian recovery, read CASA and the QSU’s advocacy document: Building Resilience: Supporting Students for Canada’s Economic Recovery. 

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