Students propose reforms to tackle systemic barriers

Fredericton, NB – Students in New Brunswick are proposing reforms to tackle systemic barriers in the postsecondary sector in the New Brunswick Student Alliance’s latest advocacy document, “Mandating a Better New Brunswick”.

The document, released this morning, identifies pressing student issues for 2017-2018 and will inform student-led advocacy efforts this week.

Student leaders from the NBSA’s five member campuses campuses across the province will hold meetings with MLAs, university presidents, senior civil servants, and key stakeholders in Fredericton between November 6 – 10 as part of the NBSA’s fifth annual Advocacy Week.

“We are strongly encouraged by the Speech from the Throne and the government’s renewed commitment to actioning consequential change to our education system,” said Sara Camus, chair of the NBSA’s Board. “We anticipate with pleasing expectation that government will adopt our proposals.”

Chief among the NBSA’s priorities is necessary funding to improve mental health outcomes for postsecondary students.

“The government could not have been clearer in its Throne Speech that evidence-driven, technology-based intervention programs like the ones we are supporting are key to its mandate. We look forward to their support and investment in the wellbeing of New Brunswick’s postsecondary students,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director.

The document also recommends that the government make strategic investments in other elements critical to New Brunswick’s economic prosperity, such as a new Experiential Learning Fund to offer tailored work-integrated opportunities for postsecondary students, and in much-needed trauma-informed sexual violence support services on campus. The NBSA is also again urging government to take an active role in responding to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action by supporting and participating in decolonization processes.

“We understand that we are proposing a variety of student issues, some less traditionally-recognised than others,” Burroughs said.

“However, we continue to stress that education remains the smartest investment for government and that investment in the future of our human resources should be at the heart of the Gallant ministry’s commitment to making New Brunswick healthier and stronger. Students are willing and ready to play a part in our province’s transformation, but they cannot do it alone; they demand and deserve better and more action by their universities and by their government.”

A full copy of “Mandating a Better New Brunswick” is available online in English and French.

Translation by Julien Pitre
Design by Edward Wojciechowski

 

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Maritime students call for government funding on student mental health

Fredericton, NB — Student organisations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are calling on their respective governments to fund innovative mental health intervention programs to improve the mental fitness and wellbeing of postsecondary students in the Maritimes.

In August, the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) and Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) released a national joint publication on the state of student mental health along with partners in Ontario and Alberta. The report highlighted the unmet needs of postsecondary students with regard to mental health support services on campus.

“It was important for us to establish a cross-country review of the current state of mental health,” said Sara Camus, chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “Our publication noted that the status quo in New Brunswick is contributing to poor mental health outcomes in the province.”

In New Brunswick from 2012 to 2015, the number of postsecondary students requesting disability accommodation for mental health-related problems and illnesses increased threefold. By 2015, mental health was the most prevalent reason students from the NBSA’s Member Unions visited on-campus physicians. Average waitlists for mental health-related services at the province’s universities range on average from 2 to 6 weeks, and can grow up to 6 months long on some campuses during the academic year.

“Premier Gallant recently reiterated his government’s commitment to improving mental health outcomes. The investments we are proposing would significantly and quantifiably achieve these results,” said Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director.

The NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEI Student Union are seeking an combined $700,000 from their respective governments for a suite of technology-based solutions already endorsed by the 16 public universities in Atlantic Canada.

Together, the suite of programs would improve four different areas known to impact student mental health outcomes: mental health literacy, peer support, professional counselling, and service delivery using e-mental health technologies. The suite includes online peer support and professional telephone counselling, 24/7, 365 days-a-year. The utility and efficacy of these programs are evidence-based and the NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEISU expect that they will be transformative to the mental health landscape for postsecondary students. In particular, the implementation of these diverse services will tackle one of the largest issues facing postsecondary counselling centres — waitlists.

“The government could not have been clearer in its Throne Speech that programs like these are key to its mandate. We look forward to their support and investment in the wellbeing of New Brunswick’s postsecondary students,” Burroughs added.

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Student organisations release joint publication on mental health

Fredericton, NB — Student organizations across the country today released a joint publication on student mental health, titled, Shared Perspectives.

The publication includes contributions from the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS), the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA), and Students Nova Scotia (SNS), and was produced with the support of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).

“We are proud to have coordinated this project with our partners,” said NBSA Board Chair Sara Camus. “Mental health is a huge priority for us and access to relevant services on campus remains a challenge for many of our members.”

The publication sheds light on the limited successes and continued challenges facing students across the country with regard to increased access to mental health-related services on campus by featuring case studies from each of the participating provinces.

“Students cannot continue to drive the mental health conversations on campuses without the financial and institutional support by government and the postsecondary sector,” said Robert Burroughs, the NBSA’s executive director. “Failing to ensure the mental health of our youth will be devastating on New Brunswick’s economy and communities across this province and country.”

The NBSA has called on the New Brunswick government to increase spending in mental health by 1 percent per year over the next 5 years to meet the Canadian Mental Health Association’s recommended national level of spending at 9 percent.

Shared Perspectives is the first time that all five organizations have formally collaborated, representing almost 300,000 postsecondary student voices through this publication.

Design by Edward Wojciechowski
Translation by Julien Pitre

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NBSA releases report on State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick

Fredericton, NBThe New Brunswick Student Alliance today released The State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick. The report, an analysis of the province’s  public postsecondary sector, takes the form of a public letter to the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, the Honourable Jocelyn Roy Vienneau.

“Her Honour was generous in granting our Alliance an audience last November during our annual Advocacy Week. During that time, we promise an update of our progress and accepted some challenges from her,” said Sara Camus, the NBSA’s Board Chair. “This is our response.”

The report also serves as the first edition of a yearly publication from the Alliance in response to government actions, such as funding allocation through the Budget and Main Estimates processes, and the general wellbeing of the postsecondary sector.

“We have an obligation to our members to provide them with a voice to the public, independent of their institutions and the government. The State of Student Affairs in New Brunswick does that,” added NBSA executive director Robert Burroughs. “We are taking the narrative back into our own hands and telling our own story.”

University presidents have been invited to respond to the report.

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NBSA welcomes adoption of Bill C-16

Fredericton, NB — Postsecondary students in the province are welcoming the successful passage of Bill C-16 through the Senate of Canada.

Similar to changes made to the New Brunswick Human Rights Act, the bill will amend both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act to include protections against discrimination and hate crimes on the basis of gender and gender discrimination.

The New Brunswick Student Alliance had written public letters to the province’s senators in Ottawa, urging them to support Bill C-16. The bill now awaits Royal Assent to become law later this month.

“The adoption of Bill C-16 sends a powerful message to the youth of New Brunswick and, indeed, across the country,” said Sara Camus, Chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “It also says to our members that even in the face of all the hate in this world, they are loved and valued and their dignity is inviolable and will be enshrined in law.”

Since last fall, the Alliance has also been talking to university administrations, along with the Human Rights Commission and the Government of New Brunswick on the need for more protections for students on the basis of gender. In its annual advocacy document, released in November 2016, the Alliance urged the Government to eliminate barriers for gender neutral bathrooms at postsecondary institutions.

Robert Burroughs, the Alliance’s executive director, added that, “Like other similar discussions in other jurisdictions, this is a fundamental access issue. Our institutions are public spaces and we expect that our members will have access to them and in a way that best serves their individual needs.”

The NBSA continues to seek the elimination of barriers to gender neutral bathrooms on campuses.

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NBSA supports changes to Human Rights Act

Fredericton, NB — Postsecondary students in the province are welcoming changes to the New Brunswick Human Rights Act to prohibit grounds of discrimination and exceptions on the basis of gender identity and expression.

Since last fall, the New Brunswick Student Alliance has talking to university administrations, along with the Human Rights Commissions, and several government departments on the need for more protections for students on the basis of gender. In its annual advocacy document, released in November 2016, the Alliance urged the government to eliminate barriers for gender neutral bathrooms at postsecondary institutions.

“Our membership has challenged the Board to continually assess how we interpret accessibility to postsecondary education.” said Ryan LeBreton, vice-chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “We made it clear to Minister Arseneault and his team that these types of protections and provisions are important to our students and we support this change.”

Robert Burroughs, the Alliance’s executive director, added that, “Like other similar discussions in other jurisdictions, this is not so much a bathroom issue as it is a access issue. Our institutions are public spaces and we expect that our members will have access to them and in a way that best serves their individual needs.”

The NBSA has also written public letters to New Brunswick’s senators in Ottawa, urging them to support Bill C-16, a comparable bill seeking to introduce similar protections to both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The NBSA continues to seek the elimination of barriers to gender neutral bathrooms on campuses.

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Support for Universities Canada in opposition to US executive order

Today, on behalf of the over 12,000 postsecondary students that we represent at Mount Allison Students’ Union, St. Thomas University Students’ Union, UNB Student Union, and UNB-SRC, the NBSA wrote to New Brunswick’s Members of Parliament, expressing our support for Universities Canada and the Canadian postsecondary sector in opposition to the US executive order.

You may read that letter, addressed to Karen Ludwig, MP and copied to all New Brunswick’s Members of Parliament, here.

This ban runs counter to our central mission of accessibility to postsecondary education in New Brunswick and limits the freedom of mobility of our members. We support calls for the ban to “end as quickly as possible”.

We encourage all of our members to write to New Brunswick’s MPs.

Mail may be sent postage free to this address:

[Name of MP]
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1A 0A4

Contact information by email and phone for New Brunswick’s MPs and their Hill & constituency offices can be found on the Parliament of Canada’s website.

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