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

 

Press Releases

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.

Press Releases

NBSA disappointed at government election dates decision

Fredericton, NB — Postsecondary students in the province are disappointed at the New Brunswick government’s decision not to accept the Electoral Reform Commission’s recommendation to move the election dates. The Commission proposes moving the election date from the fourth Monday in September to the third Monday in October, primarily to allow more postsecondary students in New Brunswick to participate in provincial election.

“In addition to being disappointed, we are also rather perplexed,” said Travis Daley, chair of the NBSA’s board. “An October election date would have allowed student unions to build civic engagement and education into our welcome week schedules and could have allowed a more comprehensive election preparation in the public school system, certainly where there might be more first time voters.”

In its testimony to the Electoral Reform Commission in January, the New Brunswick Student Alliance stressed the importance of making New Brunswick’s electoral process more accessible for students at the secondary and postsecondary levels.

“The government has repeatedly spoken about accessibility as a key pillar of its education plans yet is choosing not to make these elections accessible to students,” said the NBSA’s executive director, Robert Burroughs. “At a time when this province is struggling to engage young people and keep them here, it beggars belief that the government would seek to disenfranchise them, despite the advice of an independent commission.”

Burroughs further rejects the notion that moving the election dates in 2018 would be ‘unfair’, stating that, “All parties would still be able to prepare on equal footing to a scheduled election. We urge the government to change its mind on this.”

Press Releases

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.

Press Releases

Legislature playing dangerous games with TAB

Fredericton, NB – New Brunswick post-secondary students are concerned at the procedural tactics being employed in the Legislature and their potentially devastating impacts on accessibility to public universities and colleges.

The implementation legislation for the Tuition Access Bursary, a government program announced in April to alleviate some of the financial burden of post-secondary education for New Brunswick’s lower-income families, is on the order paper for the current legislative sitting.

“The successful passage of this bill will pave the way for unprecedented access to our post-secondary sector by members of our community who might otherwise have not considered university or college,” said Robert Burroughs, NBSA Executive Director.

The NBSA has long advocated for the reinvestment of public funds into up-front, needs-based grants for post-secondary students. It has been working with the government to ensure that the expected expansion of the Tuition Access Bursary program addresses previously-identified problems and increases accessibility to the post-secondary sector for as many New Brunswick citizens as possible.

“However, what we are seeing in the Legislature this week is indeed troubling for students. The actions of our political leaders on all sides suggest that they are comfortable playing games with the fates of young people across this province, particularly those who would benefit most from financial support,” Burroughs lamented.

“This is part of a larger discussion that we will need to have in this province this year on the sustainability of the post-secondary sector,” said Travis Daley, NBSA Board Chair.

“That politicians of all parties are already so willing to employ these kinds of tactics on such important post-secondary legislation concerns us. We expect that they will, over the course of the coming year, have serious debates about the financial future of post-secondary education in New Brunswick. The consequences of these debates will likely be wide-reaching in their impact.”

“This is hardly acceptable behaviour from our elected officials.”

The Tuition Access Bursary is expected to take effect this September, in time for the start of the new academic year.

In The Media Press Releases