Striking members of Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 110 picket outside of Fanshawe College’s Centre for Digital and Performing Arts in London, October 24, 2017. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

UPDATE: Class Action Suit Launched On Behalf Of College Students

A class action suit filed on behalf of college students against all of Ontario’s 24 colleges was initiated, in part, by a Fanshawe College student from Wheatley.

Catelyn Foulon, who is a first-year special events planning student at Fanshawe, says she is part of a small group of students who approached the Toronto-based law firm Charney Lawyers PC.

“We have this first-year Fanshawe group on Facebook, and there was a lot of talk going on about the strike and what we, as students, could do about it legally,” Foulon says. “About five of us started contacting lawyers.”

The suit alleges the colleges have breached their contract with students and the Ontario Consumer Protection Act by failing to provide quality training to qualify students for a job in their chosen vocation, and a full term of regularly occurring classes. It seeks a tuition refund for students, along with reimbursement for meal plans and other living expenses incurred during the strike.

“I own a photography business. I book my schedule completely around school,” Foulon says. “I’m paying rent. I’m paying for my gas. I paid for a parking pass, about $400, that I haven’t gotten to use for the past month. I’ve paid for textbooks that are sitting on my desk collecting dust currently. And textbooks are crazy expensive.”

Half a million Ontario college students have been out of class since October 16 when faculty went on strike. Now into its fifth week, colleges have responded to the walkout by adjusting their semesters and cutting the holiday break, but Foulon says even with those adjustments, students are not going to get the quality of education promised.

“Them trying to extend our semester by two weeks, cramming six-plus weeks into it, that’s still not receiving our full education. It’s still a watered-down, condensed version,” says Foulon.

A vote on the College Employer’s Council’s last offer continues Wednesday and Thursday. The Ontario Labour Relations Board imposed the vote after the council, and the union that represents faculty, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, failed to reach an agreement last week. OPSEU says the offer includes deep concessions and is not recommending ratification.

The results of the vote are expected once the vote ends at 10am Thursday.

– With files from Mindy Williamson.

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