A group of student representatives went to Victoria to lobby and learn
Nirosh Saravanan, Contributor
Photo Courtesy of Noah Berson.
Representatives from Capilano University gathered in Victoria for this year’s Lobby Days from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31. They were present to discuss issues important to post-secondary students, acting on behalf of the Alliance Of BC Students (ABCS). Among them were the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU)’s Sunshine Coast Representative Matt McLean, Accessibility Justice Coordinator Andrew Dillman, Board of Directors Representative Emily Gaudette, Vice President External Noah Berson and President and Vice President Anna Rempel. The ABCS represents students from CapU, along with students from The University of British Columbia, Kwantlen Polytechnic and Langara College.
Berson, who also serves as Chair of the ABCS, attended the week-long event. “The area of focus of this years Lobby Days was the same as it has been in the past, really making sure that we reduce the barriers to education that students in BC face…” he said.
The representatives had less specific asks this year than last year’s lobby for on-campus housing. This year, they asked for more data on sexualized violence and misconduct, $18 million annually of dedicated funded for mental health initiatives, for the province to match federal needs-based grants and a government audit of the experiences of students with disabilities.
Over the course of the weekend, students received training on how to lobby, which was applied in Victoria, and which they brought back to their campuses to apply to their own student politics. “We were educating student leaders on how to advocate for themselves, [and] giving them real world situations to advocate in,” said Berson.
For the first three days, the representatives lobbied on behalf of students. They met with over 30 MLA’s from both government and the opposition, including the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Melanie Mark, and the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Claire Trevena.
“Everyone was very keen to sit down at the table and listen to us, we didn’t feel disrespected. We found that we were genuinely respected, and that really showed last year with the new NDP government,” Berson commented. “We asked them to provide funding for student housing on campus, and in the budget two months later they provided $450 million [towards student housing].”
Berson noted the importance of events such as this for the positive way they allow students involved to understand that individuals in government positions are human too, and that they have relatable issues that they deal with such as student debt. “The highlight for me, of the week, was seeing folks being able to actually create positive change for the students of BC with the skills that they learned. So, just getting to meet [and] sit down with the folks who really are committed to making BC a better place for post-secondary education,” said Berson.