Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fields questions from students at Fanshawe town hall

Justin Trudeau speaking in front of a Fanshawe sign. CREDIT: BRANDON GRUBB
Justin Trudeau made a surprise appearance at Fanshawe College on April 21, speaking candidly with staff and students.

On April 21, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held an unexpected town hall at Fanshawe College, where staff and students were encouraged to engage in an open dialogue on issues most important to them.

Trudeau spent the morning in St. Thomas with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, to announce a $13.2 billion investment by Volkswagen to establish its first overseas electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant there.

Initially pegged as a town hall with London MPs Peter Fragiskatos and Arielle Kayabaga, Trudeau surprised the crowd of approximately 300 Fanshawe community members, turning up to raucous applause and a standing ovation. Also in attendance were FSU president Ismail Aravai, FSU president-elect Stephin Sathya, London Mayor Josh Morgan, and Fanshawe president Peter Devlin.

Navigator. Londons student lifestyles magazine.

Trudeau began the town hall with opening remarks, addressing topics related to climate change, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the economy and inclusivity.

The energy in room T1028 was buzzing as Trudeau then took questions from the crowd for 90 minutes.

The questions mainly dealt with issues facing international students, from high tuition fees, to difficulties finding work, the high cost of living, and access to permanent residence.

On the topic of high tuition for international students, Trudeau stressed that his government prioritizes domestic students when it comes to subsidies for paying for post-secondary.

“We’re happy to have international students because many international students come and they stay and they contribute to Canada for the rest of their lives,” Trudeau said. “But there are millions upon millions more international students out there than we can ever accept in Canada. And therefore we make choices…and one of the ways, unfortunately, we make that choice is by saying, OK, because we’re going to invest in supporting Canadian students first and foremost, the fees for international students are going to be higher.”

At Fanshawe, the cost of tuition for domestic students ranges from approximately $1,000 - $5,000/term depending on the program, while tuition for international students can range anywhere from $7,000 - $11,000/term.

“So it’s about choices. It's not always fun or fair for international students,” he said. “But this is a case where Canadians expect us to make sure that they can afford education as best we can, regardless of their socioeconomic background.”

Issues of healthcare were also raised, relating to long wait times, jobs for allied healthcare professionals and training for family doctors.

While Trudeau stressed that his government is not responsible for the delivery of healthcare in Ontario, he acknowledged the ways in which data could potentially create solutions at the provincial level.

“People respond to facts, to numbers, to measuring improved outcomes. That’s why in our healthcare negotiations with the provinces, we’ve been focussed on getting the data.”

Specifically, Trudeau referenced efforts to compare data related to wait times among the provinces.

A group of protesters with a sign that says Stop the Shot.A small group of anti-Trudeau protestors gathered at Fanshawe’s Oxford St. gates while the PM held a town hall inside the college. CREDIT: BRANDON GRUBB

The town hall remained mostly undisruptive, although a small group of protestors assembled at Fanshawe’s Oxford St. entrance, waving anti-Trudeau flags and repeatedly calling him a “murderer.” Several passing cars honked their support of the protestors, and a small convoy of protestors also followed the prime minister out of the college heading east on Oxford St.

A full steam of the town hall can be viewed here