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.”

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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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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.

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