The AMS is currently preparing for its annual federal lobby week, where student associations from nine Canadian universities will gather to advocate for the 225,000 students they represent through the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU).
Federal lobby week is set for November 28 through December 2, according to AMS VP External and chair of UCRU Erin Co.
While specific recommendations are still being refined, Co said the four main areas of focus of this year’s advocacy will be student employment, financial aid, mental health and Indigenous education.
She also said housing, tuition increases and food security have emerged as issues of concern for students based on conversations and the AMS’s Academic Experience Survey.
“When you're doing full-time courses — or even just some courses — you shouldn't have to worry about where you're going to live or when your next meal is going to be or if you can afford to even go back to school next year,” she said.
As chair of UCRU, Co said she is working to ensure these student priorities are at the forefront of the organization’s advocacy.
Currently, Co said, UCRU is looking at the Canada Student Grant extension and sent a letter to the government when international students were struggling to get their visas on time.
She added that having the power of nine institutions working together has been helpful in getting the attention of federal ministers and MPs.
At the October 26 AMS Council meeting, Co also said her office was conducting research on MPs ahead of federal lobby week after former VP External Saad Shoaib met with an independent MP who was previously charged with sexual assault last year. Shoaib has apologized for the meeting.
Along with federal lobby week, Co said her and her team have been working on provincial advocacy, notably by attending provincial lobby week two weeks ago in Victoria. She said the AMS is also working to address labour shortages through the BC Loan Forgiveness program and securing more funding for UBC in the upcoming post-secondary funding formula review.
Co encouraged students to share their concerns and what they hope to see advocated for in the future.
“We’d love to hear directly from you — in a non-extractive way, of course — just hearing about what's important to you and what's not, and making sure that we fight for those things,” she said, adding that students who wish to share their concerns and advocacy priorities can book virtual meetings through Calendly, or drop by the AMS offices.