5-week Ontario college strike comes to an end

Students and faculty from Ontario's 24 community colleges will start heading back to the classroom on Tuesday

College students will start returning to class on Tuesday thanks to back-to-work legislation - passed by Queen's Park at a weekend sitting - that ended the longest strike by college faculty in Ontario's history.

The labour dispute has shuttered Ontario's 24 colleges - including Brockville's St. Lawrence College campus - since October 15 and has kept 900 local students out of class.

Who exactly did the college strike benefit?

Flay, 20, is part of a student collective from 24 Ontario colleges that launched the suit last week, seeking compensation for lost class time and a full refund for students forced to drop out.

The province has noted that strike-related support will not count against a student's OSAP assessment.

"You don't know what to study, and a lot of students feel this way", she said last week.

The government says students will also be eligible to receive up to $500 for unexpected costs they incurred because of the labour dispute, such as childcare fees, rebooked train or bus tickets, or rent. "Half of Ontario's college students are parents, they are mature students".

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"I don't think any amount of money will be able to pay for the amount of anxiety that students have suffered through this whole process", she said.

That's understandable politics, but it has real-world effects: if colleges had known on Thursday that the NDP was going to allow the bill to pass on Sunday night, they might have been able to get students back on Monday.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had met both the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), which represents the teachers, and the regulating body College Employer Council (CEC) on Thursday after union members overwhelmingly voted against contract offers.

In the collaborative nursing program at Ryerson, students spend their first two years of the degree at either George Brown College, Centennial College or Ryerson University.

Flay said extending the semester with a shortened Christmas break will be problematic for students who aren't local.

"There was worry that (the student's) year was compromised, relationships with faculty would be compromised", he said.

Cambridge and North Dumfries MPP Kathryn McGarry said government action was necessary to end the lengthy college labour dispute. "It's time to put this ugly chapter behind us, and to get focused on ensuring college students get back in the classroom as soon as possible".

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