Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s twenty-fifth and first female premier, recently visited the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) as part of a ten-day tour of Ontario universities.
Wynne launched her tour in Ottawa at La Cité Collégial, where she announced that the purpose of the tour was to discuss strategies for student success.
During her visit to UTM on January 15, Wynne was greeted by U of T president Meric Gertler, UTM principal and vice-president Deep Saini, and several Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) from the Mississauga area.
The premier mingled with students at the Northside Bistro, asking about challenges they face in their university careers. After responding to student inquiries, Wynne toured a new rehearsal space at Deerfield Hall, and concluded her visit by participating in a chemistry lab.
During the tour, Wynne stressed the importance of Ontario universities and colleges remaining accessible.
“Our colleges and universities should be places where our young people can explore their passions and engage with one another to help create new communities,” Wynne told reporters after touring La Cité Collégial.
According to Jen Carter, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), prior to the launch of the university and colleges tour, Wynne sat down with members of the OUSA to discuss concerns facing today’s post-secondary students.
Carter says that the meeting with the premier is a positive sign that the province is taking student concerns seriously.
“There are a lot of key issues to be addressed in Ontario’s post-secondary sector: financial accessibility, adequate mental health care, effective sexual violence policies, to name just a few. Seeing the Premier reach out to engage on these complex topics is encouraging and bodes well for developing future improvements,” says Carter.
Throughout the tour, students expressed concerns about sexual violence against women and the perceived lack of support for mental health issues.
Wynne announced 14 projects to improve the mental health of post-secondary students on January 16 at Sault College in Sault St. Marie. The projects, which will make up a part of the Mental Health Innovation Fund, seek to identify and treat mental health symptoms during their early stages.
The province is investing up to $6 million annually in the fund, which is part of Ontario’s Mental Health and Addiction Strategy.
The University of Toronto Scarborough, in collaboration with the Toronto District School Board and the Shoniker Clinic-Rouge Valley Health System, has been approved for developing an intervention program aimed at helping high school students with mental health challenges transition to a post-secondary lifestyle.
Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, echoed the importance of this change.
“Every college and university student in Ontario should have access to the support they need to enjoy good mental and physical health throughout their learning journey. Through the Mental Health Innovation Fund and other important initiatives, Ontario is working to ensure that every single student who needs help can turn to co-ordinated, high-quality mental health care,” Moridi said in a press release.