UMSU president Jakob Sanderson and VP advocacy Sarah Bonner-Proulx met with two provincial politicians in recent weeks to advocate for several policy proposals on behalf of international students, sexual assault survivors and the UMSU membership-at-large.
Meetings were held with Progressive Conservative (PC) MLA and Minister for Economic Development and Training Ralph Eichler, and NDP MLA and official opposition critic for Economic Development and Training Jamie Moses.
Sweeping changes to the way international student healthcare is addressed is one of UMSU’s provincial advocacy bids. International student healthcare has been a hot-button issue in Manitoba in recent years, especially since the PC government axed provincial international student healthcare coverage on Sept. 1, 2018. International students now generally pay $864 per year for health insurance in Manitoba.
UMSU has proposed creating a public buy-in healthcare plan to ease the monetary burden on international students.
Improved access and increased use of open educational resources, a cornerstone of the current UMSU executive’s platform during their 2019 election campaign, is another issue on the table between UMSU and the province. UMSU is asking the province to provide more funding for open educational resources.
In an email, Bonner-Proulx said Moses and Eichler were “quite receptive” to the asks related to privacy legislation and open educational resources.
Currently, UMSU has an Accessible Education working group made up of U of M students. This collective works to “address ways to make education more affordable and accessible”, including increasing the accessibility and use of open educational resources in U of M classrooms, according to UMSU.
In August 2019, an independent sexual violence report centered around sexual harassment and violence on U of M’s campus was completed and 43 recommendations made. University administration pledged to undertake all 43 recommendations.
One of those recommendations recently came to fruition with the opening of the Sexual Violence Resource Centre. It is open to students, faculty, staff and community members and is located on the fifth floor of UMSU University Centre.
Bonner-Proulx mentioned that the changing conversation and culture around sexual violence has changed the way related policy is developed.
“There has been an [increased] focus on the importance of looking at things through a survivor-centric lens, and part of that means taking a multi-pronged approach to ensuring that the policies and processes in place are fair and equitable at all levels.”
UMSU is now, alongside Students for Consent Culture Canada, the organization who spearheaded the effort, lobbying the province to make changes to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FIPPA) to “allow for [sexual violence] survivors and prospective employers [of alleged perpetrators] to know the outcomes of sexual violence investigations as it relates to their case,” according to Bonner-Proulx’s Jan. 30 report to the UMSU board of directors.