Student Choice Initiative’s defeat doesn’t mean the fight is over

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The Student Choice Initiative (SCI) might have been struck down in court, but for student associations, the fight is far from over.
 
Last week, when the Divisional Court of Ontario unanimously ruled in favour of repealing the Ford government-mandated initiative, student-led groups across the province considered it a massive win. 
 
The SCI enabled a decrease in funding for countless important student services, from legal aid clinics to campus food banks. Seeing it defeated in a unanimous legal decision has reassured student groups that our concerns with the initiative have been heard by those with power.
 
Despite this decision, the full impact of the SCI has yet to reveal itself. Student associations have already lost significant funding for the 2019-2020 school year. Furthermore, the initiative planted doubt in the minds of students who were once happy to pay mandatory fees for services benefitting them before the Ontario government told them they shouldn’t be.
 
Even now, these once-mandatory fees remain in a tenuous position. Though student referenda protected the fees previously, it will now fall to university bodies to make reinstating them a reality. 
 
If the court decision stands, student leaders will already be burdened with fighting to have their fees returned to mandatory status. If the Province appeals the decision, those same students will have even more concerns on their plates. 
 
Appealing the decision would be in extremely poor taste for the government to do now that the initiative has been deemed undemocratic. The provincial government has already done enough to disempower student organizations. 
 
With adequate consultation beyond partisan Conservative student groups, perhaps the Ontario government would have sufficiently understood the SCI’s detriments to the post-secondary student experience. But that consultation didn’t occur.
 
As a result, campus student groups have lost huge portions of their funding and a lot of trust with the student community. Paying damages would be an acknowledgment from the ministry that they made a mistake in the initiative and won’t be further threatening autonomous student governments in Ontario.
 
Regardless of what’s next, the SCI’s repeal means campus organizations and students alike can breathe a sigh of relief. The Divisional Court of Ontario saw their case and agreed that the initiative was unfair. That’s a promising first step.
 
But this victory is just that—one step on the path toward repairing the damage the SCI has done to funding and confidence in student initiatives.
 
 

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