The Concordia Students’ Union (CSU) is criticizing the federal government for withholding the Québec portion of the Canada Student Grants Program (CSGP).
The union is accusing Ottawa of “mismanagement” on the grounds that not a single student in Québec has received financial assistance from the $350 million that replaced the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, officially dissolved last week, in the 2008 budget. CSGP’s budget will grow to $430 million by 2012-2013.
The non-repayable grants distributed through the CSGP are applied for automatically when a student applies for a national student loan. Out of the $350 million, students in Québec have not received any of the funding that would have been used to assist students with disabilities, dependents or students from low-income families. Grant money began flowing in the rest of the country last fall.
According to CSU president, Amine Dabchy, the money is currently caught up in negotiations between the federal and provincial governments, leaving students in Québec out of potential grants. “Because there has been no agreement reached between the two parties, the victims are us, the students of Québec,” he said.
The CSU says Québec is entitled to more than $100 million. According to Dabchy, the provincial government is not confirming that they will give the entire amount to students, while he accuses the federal government of attempting to reach an agreement on terms that wouldn’t include the full amount.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), the government department responsible for CSGP, says one of the main reasons students in Québec have not received funding from the new CSGP is because the province has been opting out of the Canada Students Loan Program (CSLP) since 1964.
HRSDC said in an email that as an alternative to the CSLP, “the federal government makes a payment to the government of Québec for student financial assistance. Québec then uses this funding to support student financial assistance programs across the province.”
HRSDC explained that traditionally these alternative payments occur six months after the end of the loan year, so payments to Québec students for the 2009-2010 loan year would usually be made in January 2011.
When asked about the accusations made by the CSU about mismanagement of the CSGP, the HRSDC explained, “It’s not true, the Government of Canada will be making a payment to the Government of Québec to compensate for actual costs incurred in the preceding loan year (August to July).”
Despite the fact that students in Québec are upset with the current situation, the HRSDC said, “The Government of Canada has been working with the Government of Québec and we expect a positive outcome.”
HRSDC estimates that 245,000 students will be eligible for Canada Student Grants.