Record corportate profits and high student debt laods will come under fire at the upcoming Canadian Federation of Students' day of action.|
The protest in Saskatchewan will be focusing on the Royal Bank, which administers all student loans in the province. The day, slated for Jan. 28, will see students from across Canada participate in rallies, marches, workshops and other events in an effort to gain public support and to urge the federal government to develop a national strategy for dealing with student debt.
"On average, a Canadian student's debt load is $25,000, and every year tuition goes up and forces more and more people away from post-secondary education," says Shaun Brennan, chairman of the federation's Saskatchewan component, CFS-Sask.
This debt load upsets CFS board member and the U of R Students' Union Vice-president Academic, Jessica Peart, who points to the fact that the annual profits of Canada's five banks, when added to the profits of General Motors Canada, are enough to pay tuition for the entire population of Canada.
CFS-Sask plans a "tour of wealth" in the downtown area, planning to end up at the Royal Bank.
"In Saskatchewan, Royal Bank has a monopoly on student loans and they're getting rich off student debt," says Brennan.
Royal Bank representative Rob Bridge, however, does not feel that Royal's profits are too high.
"Big companies make big dollars," he says, adding that, when compared to Royal's assets, their net income of $1.679 billion is not too much. |
"When you look at the raw dollar amount, yeah (profits are high) but that's on a huge volume of dollars."
"It (Royal Bank's return) sort of pales in comparison to other (large Canadian corporations)" Bridge says.
He is also quick to point out that Royal paid its 15% share of taxes last year.
Royal Bank representative Kathy George wants students to know that, even though Canadian banks are making record profits, student poverty is not their fault.
"Those interest rates (on student loans) are set by the government. All the Royal Bank does is administer the portfolio," she says.
George and Bridge both maintain that the Royal Bank wants the best for students.
"Students are very important to us. If we hadn't done that (undertaken the administration of student loans) who would have?" George asks.
She says that Royal bank realizes student debt can be difficult to handle, but that "if they (students) keep the lines of communication open with their bank . . . we will do everything we can to help that individual."
For Brennan, however, the fact that any student will come to a protest like CFS's Day of Action is
| important because it shows that one person recognizes the problems in society.|
Bridge feels that Royal has an interest in treating students well: "Students are going to be our valued customers in the future."
Saskatchewan is only one part of the many protests that will be occuring on January 28. Almost every province will see various forms of action.
At several schools student leaders are planning to tabulate the total amount of debt shared by their entire student body and use these amounts to send a signal to governments and administrators about the "walls of debt" students will face upon graduation.
At Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, students are planning a teach-in Jan. 24 to raise awareness about globalization and the growing corporate presence in post-secondary education. Another teach-in is slated for Jan. 21 in Winnipeg.
And at Memorial University in Newfoundland, students are organizing an indoor rally-style "Cuts Carnival" featuring speakers, games, theatre and other activities centering around student debt issues.
Students in British Columbia have collected thousands of the Canada Student Loans Program's fridge magnets that tell students to "borrow wisely," and they plan to give them back to the government during a Day of Action march.
-with files from CUP