November 26, 2009
The UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS), represented by Pivot Legal LLP, has filed a complaint to the United Nations regarding the federal and provincial government’s failure to meet their international obligations to provide accessible post-secondary education.
By failing to adequately control tuition fees and not providing sufficient financial support to students, the complaint states that the government is violating its commitment under Article 13 ( c ) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights which states “Higher education shall be made accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”
“Since the tuition fee freeze was lifted in 2002, student fees in British Columbia have more than doubled,” says AMS President Blake Frederick. “The high cost of tuition means that many capable students, particularly those from lower-income families, are unable to get a university education.”
Lack of financial resources has been cited as the leading reason why BC students are unable to pursue post-secondary education. In 1996, the provincial government enacted legislation that froze tuition rates throughout the province. This was an important step towards reducing financial barriers to post-secondary education. The provincial government ended the tuition fee freeze in 2002, and since that time, the AMS has actively lobbied the provincial and federal government to regulate tuition fees in the province.
“When Canada signed on to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, they made a commitment to work towards free post-secondary education,” says Katrina Pacey, counsel for theAMS. “Instead, the government has increased tuition rates on an annual basis. We are asking the UN to hold the government accountable for their complete failure to live up to their commitment to accessible higher education.”
The AMS, which represents 45,000 students at UBC’s Vancouver Campus, is named as a complainant alongside UBC graduate Tristan Markle. The complainants have asked that the UN appoint an independent expert of Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation.