For Immediate Release: September 10, 2009

Toronto – In a significant victory for University of Toronto students, all criminal charges have been stayed against campus advocates Chris Ramsaroop and Oriel Varga in relation to a peaceful sit-in on March 2008. Thursday’s decision, by Ontario Court of Justice Judge Paul Reinhardt, is the outcome of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge based on the right to be tried within a reasonable time (section 11 b).

Varga and Ramsaroop, known as the Fight Fees 2 were the remaining of the 14 students and their allies criminally charged after a peaceful sit-in against fee increases on March 20, 2008. Broad based community support by unions,students and over a hundred professors had decried the U of T’s blatant attempt to criminalize dissent on campus.

Joeita Gupta, U of T Governor and VP External of the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, observes,

“This is a precedent-setting decision. It affirms our Charter Rights, making it clear that trumped-up charges can’t be handed out to student leaders as a strategy to silence dissenting opinions and tie-up our advocates in lengthy and expensive legal battles. I hope this will be a strong statement to the University that such violations of academic freedom and our Charter Rights will not be tolerated on campus.”

Twelve of the original “Fight Fees 14” have also had their charges withdrawn or stayed, or have signed peace bonds limiting their right to protest on campus. But the two remaining accused, both of whom are community advocates at U of T and former University governors, refused to sign away their Charter Rights to make the charges and Code of Student Conduct investigation go away.

Justice Paul Reinhardt’s decision states,

“The total delay in this case from the date of arrest 25 April 2008, until the proposed trial date of 28 September 2009, is over seventeen months, well beyond the constitutionally permitted standard for a case of this kind and with these facts.” (Pg 8, Section [47])

The charges were laid after the University of Toronto threatened the students with Code of Student Conduct investigations. From today’s success, the Fight Fees Coalition is looking forward to continuing the fight against the Code of Student Conduct proceedings. The Code is largely viewed as a means of criminalizing outspoken students. The Coalition will also continue its work towards the elimination of tuition fees. With the overwhelming support received, the University has only emboldened the movement against
their unilateral tuition and ancillary fee increases. Today’s victory proves that not only will trumped-up charges not stop student resistance, but make student resistance stronger..

More information at FightFeesCoalition.blogspot.com
Contact: Joeita Gupta 416*918*1935

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Background:

Oriel Varga, is currently Executive Director of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) and was a U of T Governor (2003-04). She has advocated for student rights at U of T for a decade, taking part in the Justice for Dr. Chun campaign and organizing the Free University of Toronto.

Chris Ramsaroop is Outreach Organizer at APUS and volunteers for Justice for Migrant Workers (J4MW) where he advocates on behalf of migrant and undocumented workers. He is past President of numerous student unions at U of T (APUS, SAC, and Board member of ASSU), and served on the University Governing Council (2002-2004).


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