6 April 2020
Dear Prime Minster Trudeau:
We are writing to express our appreciation for your announcement that support for post-secondary students is forthcoming. Our union local—Public Service Alliance of Canada Local 40004—represents graduate students who work at the University of Saskatchewan as teaching assistants, research assistants, and student assistants. Our members have experienced considerable problems due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Graduate students cannot access offices, labs, archives, and field work necessary to complete their research. These problems are universal and affect graduate students in every department and university across Canada.
Graduate students are the future of Canada’s scholarly excellence in all fields of endeavour and will support the continuation of Canada as a research-based economy and society. To that end, we want to highlight to you the supports that our members need and that we hope your government will include in its support for post-secondary students.
Canadian universities have faced financial constraints for many years, so the federal government should provide funding that universities can give directly to their students.
Federal funding should require that universities:
1. Grant all graduate students, regardless of what year they are in of their program of study, an automatic one (1) year extension.
2. Provide all graduate students one (1) year of guaranteed funding
3. Waive tuition and fee payments until students can fully access all university facilities including offices, labs, research materials, libraries, and other campus services
An automatic program extension will give graduate students the time they need to complete their thesis and dissertations. It will make up for time they have lost due to the necessary public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. A full additional year of guaranteed funding is necessary to provide the financial ability for students to focus on their academic work. As not all students are eligible or able to take on the debt of more student loans, guaranteed funding is the best solution.
COVID-19 is a universal crisis that creates universal problems for graduate students, therefore, a universal response is required. Your government can lead the way by ensuring support for graduate students that will allow them to complete their programs and begin contributing to Canada’s knowledge economy.
PSAC Local 40004