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Student organization responds to claims North Bay protests were a 'publicity stunt'

Montreal Youth Students Organization (MYSO) representative Khushpal Grewal responds to the Canadore College president’s claim that recent protests about student housing issues were a "publicity stunt."

Thursday George Burton, the college president, held a press conference insisting that an international student protest held in September was not set up by local college students – but orchestrated by an outside group.

At the start of the term, a group of homeless international students expressed concern over lack of housing options in North Bay, Ont., and soon after, MYSO representatives were also involved for what they described as "supporting homeless international students" in their fight to find affordable available housing.

"I just want to say, 'Mr. Burton wake up,' after a few weeks of protest. He couldn’t spare time to listen to student’s problems and to focus for possible solutions," said Grewal, in a message to CTV News Saturday.

"He just worried about his college reputation and which is why he wrote to people of North Bay that students did a public stunt to ruin his college image."

Burton said last week that many students involved in the protest never planned to go to school in the city and some had turned down accommodations the college had suggested.

The September protest made headlines with one student telling CTV News that she had been in the city since June but hadn’t found a place to live.

Grewal told CTV News that the college needs to understand that the students did not do a publicity stunt.

"Instead of focusing on real problems, like affordable student accommodation, full refund to students as soon as possible so they can start their education in other colleges," he said.

"Their college faculty members… promised all the students to solve their problems."

According to Canadore College, all local students who were part of the protest are currently in housing – "Canadore continues to work with all students to find appropriate accommodation."

"Canadore is taking tuition and giving students placement here at the school, but they don't have enough housing for them and I think that's wrong," said Laurie Sharpe, a residential leasing administrator with London, Ont.-based Sireg Management Inc., during the protest.

MYSO said that international students are contributing 91.2 per cent of the college’s total revenue and they should be looking out for them and not just their profits.

"This year, we encountered a number of conflicting agendas, supported by various interests, lobbying for reduced international tuition, low-cost housing, home country politics, and online study access which generated challenges for our staff and students," Burton wrote in his letter last week.

Members of MYSO confirmed they are looking to lower student housing costs.

"Being an educational institution president, he (Burton) should lower the college residence charges, which right now, they are charging approximately $650-750 monthly," said Grewal.

In the future, Canadore College staff said that international students will have to prove they have housing as part of registering for school, beginning with the winter 2024 semester.

– With files from CTV News Northern Ontario’s Darren MacDonald and Eric Taschner Top Stories

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