Aurora College access student Jacqueline Hunt-Cornock (right) leads the march to the legislative assembly on Thursday. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/Moose FM.)
Yellowknifers gathered outside the local Aurora College campus Thursday afternoon to protest cuts to the college’s social work and Bachelor of Education programs.
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The cuts come after the territorial government announced it would be slashing $1.9 million in funding to the college in its 2017-2018 budget.
Protesters as they march through Yellowknife.
Protesters marched from the school to the legislative assembly where they demonstrated outside before going inside to watch Tuesday’s session.
“We’re hoping that our voices are heard and they understand how this is affecting us, and we’re hoping that they change their minds,” said Jacqueline Hunt-Cornock, a representative for Aurora’s access students.
With the cuts, both the social work and Bachelor of Education programs won’t be accepting new students past this year.
This includes graduating high school students and access students like Hunt-Cornock who were preparing to enter into social work next year.
“We the access students have just spent two years of upgrading, plus a year of funding to get into this program and now we’ve just been told we’re not allowed to even start,” Hunt-Cornock said.
With her academic future uprooted, Hunt-Cornock says her only other plan is to go into the school’s personal support worker program.
“[It’s] very disappointing,” she said. “We put so much time and effort into this for them to tell us that our hopes and dreams and everything that we just worked so hard towards was pretty much for nothing.”
‘It’s letting our future down’
For first-year social work student Megan Shuparski, the cuts to her program is a huge letdown.
“The budget cut and the choice made by Aurora College is taking a step in the wrong direction for the people of the North,” Shuparski said.
“It’s letting our future down, it’s letting our people down, and it’s letting our community down.”
Shuparski joined the protest alongside her fellow students and members of the public. Students from local high schools also joined the march, all making their opposition known.
Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart was among those listening.
“You’re making a difference today, never stop,” he told protesters at an impromptu speech outside the legislature.
Testart told Moose FM that he supports the protesters’ message.
“What we need to do is ensure we have made-in-the-North education that works to support our people and students here in the North, and if the minister doesn’t think this program is working, it’s time to fix it not cut it,” Testart said.
“This just shows how important it is to the students and the people of the Northwest Territories.”