Two students, who are heading a class-action lawsuit against Ontario colleges, say they can prove that the government was aware that colleges have been charging students illegal ancillary fees. The plaintiffs have acquired a 2004 government memo to university presidents through an access to information request that warns post-secondary institutions not to charge such fees.
The $200-million lawsuit is demanding that Ontario colleges refund the last three years of extra fees, they say have been illegal since tuition was frozen in 2004. Ancillary fees include laboratory fees, library fees, and mandatory laptops fees. Provincial law requires such fees to be approved by students before implementation.
The memo shows that colleges and universities were cautioned by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities not to charge prohibited ancillary fees for “building and information technology infrastructure improvements or student support services” as recently as July 2004.
The Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, who is acting in a supportive role in the lawsuit, released what it calls further evidence of the government’s knowledge of the fees on YouTube, the popular video sharing website. In a 1993 video from the Ontario Legislature, McGuinty, who was then an opposition MPP, asks the government why it allowed universities to raise tuition fees “through the back door,” in breach of the ministry’s own regulations.
Chris Bentley, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, has not yet commented on the case since it is now heading to the courts.
“Minister Bentley keeps saying that he’ll respond to complaints about illegal fees, but we haven’t heard back,” said Dan Roffey, a representative plaintiff. “Our lawsuit is the most formal complaint possible and this government has responded with three months of silence and inaction.”