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Student-led petition over the Canada Emergency Response Benefit gains traction
SUDBURY -- During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, millions of Canadians will be turning to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for help and post-secondary students say they should qualify.
An online petition called #Don'tForgetStudents is calling on Ottawa to amend the government financial assistance program and has already garnered more than 34,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
The idea was sparked with a student leader at the University of Toronto, Nicholas Ferreira, who felt students had to be included.
"I had honestly just handed in this massive paper that I had for school. The next day, I was sort of bumbling around trying to figure out what to do with myself and I saw on Twitter that students were not eligible to apply for the CERB and I just thought that was wrong. So, I immediately contacted some friends that I knew to see if they wanted to get something going, start a petition," said Ferreira.
And from there, the idea was born. They took the movement to Change.org and consulted with other student leaders across the country and it's been gaining traction ever since.
"It's definitely more than I would have expected to get when we first started, but I think the reason for that is it's something that resonates with people. It's affecting a lot of students," he said.
His comments come on the heels of an announcement from Ottawa in which the federal government announced an extension to the Canada Summer Jobs program. It was also going to increase the wage subsidy so employers can receive 100 per cent of the minimum hourly wage for each employee.
One of those student leaders who the campaign resonated with is Laurentian University's Katlyn Kotila, who is also a vice-president within the Students' General Association.
Kotila says the changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program don't go far enough.
"As of right now, there are about 2 million students affected by this and the Canadian Summer Jobs program really will only cover about 70,000 jobs, which is going to leave about 1,930,000 students astray," she said.
Kotila says students don't often work throughout the year and now that the academic year is coming to a close, many are leaving school to find the internship opportunities they had are gone and offers of employment drying up.
"With the uncertainty of the market, those summer jobs won't really be available for students. And so, not only do they not have any money coming in throughout the year, but they also won't have money coming in from the summer. So, they won't have very much to pay for the experiences they need to pay for," said Kotila.
Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre tells CTV News that he understands students are concerned. He's been busy answering their phone calls and wants them to know that Ottawa is working on it.
"What's important for them to know is we are having, we've been having, these discussions as to how can we ensure that they are supported. And right now, we see a bit of a short runway because of the month of April to make sure that we can include them in there somehow," said Lefebvre.
The Sudbury MP says every option is on the table right now in a bid to make sure no one gets left behind.
For now, students like Kotila say they're optimistic, but they plan to still fight until they see some action on the part of the government.
"I'm hopeful that the government's going to do the right thing and include that benefit for students. So, I'm hopeful in this, yes," she said.