Chris Kenopic’s interview with Jasmin Simpson on her upcoming court appearance on September 19
Chris Kenopic: Hello, my name is Chris Kenopic. I am the President and CEO of The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS). Today, we have the opportunity to talk to Jasmin Simpson. Jasmin was born in South Korea, and came to Canada when she was adopted. All together, she has 32 siblings. Jasmin is Deafblind. I know you have struggled with OSAP in the past. What should people with disabilities know about OSAP related to withdrawal from college and university?
Jasmin Simpson: Yes, long ago, I had a very serious illness and I tried to explain it to OSAP. OSAP did not care; they kept pointing to “policy”. I sued OSAP over their policy as it discriminated against me and I won using the Charter. People with disabled should know their rights if they withdraw due to illness or disability, OSAP should pay all outstanding commitments for students who owe colleges or universities money. OSAP’s guideline instructs in a case where a student must withdraw from a college or university due to serious medical condition, contact OSAP.
CK: Can you tell me more about the Canada Student Loan Program?
JS: The Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) is a referrence to all the laws and regulations regarding student loans from the federal and provincial governments. CSLP is a program for those students who attend to college or University. CSLP helps a student to pay tuition fees, dorm, and miscellaneous things. Six months after graduation, a student will have to start repaying CSLP. CSLP have several alternative programs such as; RAP, RAP-PD, ROT, PDBP, among others. Learn more about the programs at: www.canlearn.ca
CK: Can you tell me more about your case? And why you are fighting for this case?
JS: I am fighting this case to defend all people with disabilities, for their rights. The main issue in the case is that student debt accumulates at approximately $7000 per year of university/college attended. As the government acknowledges, students with disabilities often attend university longer than their non-disabled peers, either because of reduced course loads, accommodation accessible or withdrawals due to illness. At that time, my family and I tried to explaining to CSLP that I withdrew from Gallaudet University because I needed medical treatment in Canada. CSLP did not care about my situation. They just pointed to policy. They penalized me with increased interest. I strongly felt it was wrong of them and it was discriminatory. I am calling on the government to end this discrimination against students with disabilities. The federal government tried to settle out of court, offering me more money. I turned it down because I refuse to feel any guilt for friends also struggling with student loans. It is tempting to take the money to pay off my debt but I chose to fight with CSLP for people with disabilities because I have Court Challenges Program of Canada (CCP) funds for my case. If I decided to take the settlement, no one would take the case under CCP. Furthermore, I am more concerned about the future of young students with disabilities. This affects the statistics of disabled professionals in the future.
CK: What should people with disabilities know about CSLP regarding repayment programs?
JS: In August 2010, CSLP made some small improvments to their repayment programs policies. However, some changes were hidden, and made things worse. For example: Permanent Disability Benefit Program (PDBP) became more strict than before. There are many difficulties for students with disabilities regarding repayment of high debts when they are earning low or middle income after they graduate. They do have 2 options under the “Repayment Assistance Plan – Permanent disability” (RAP-PD): relieving interest every 6 months or paying what you can afford monthly. High income earners will not qualify for RAP-PD and there is no reduction of debts program for high income earners. CSLP only looks at gross pay, not net pay. Even worse, if they offer “Revision of Terms” (ROT): They reduce the amount of each payment, but you pay even more interest and less against your principal.
CK: Can you tell me more about discrimination based on CSLP?
JS: A disabled person graduates with 60% more student debt than a non-disabled student graduating with comparable credentials (same BA and MA degree). This is true for many students with disabilities. They are stuck with no accommodation or access in many local colleges or universities where they have not provided things like:
- blind materials
- note taking
- among other needs in education while non-disabled student do not need any accommodations.
It is known that a disabled person goes to a college or University and generally takes a longer length of time to receive the same degree as a non-disabled person. The government didn’t address the discriminatory element in the CSLP. There were changes in CSLP last year, but the policy is so complicated. It is far worse for severely disabled students - the criteria are more strict than the original PDBP. I find there are discrimination factors against many other students with disabilities and it’s overwhelmed me.
CK: Can you tell me what happened at the court on Thursday June 9th?
JS: The government lawyer was asking the Master Short to have my lawyer taken off my case entirely. The government lawyer’s presentation was off topic and it made no sense. He wasted our time for 2 hours. My lawyer presented that I wanted to keep my lawyer. The Master Short ruled against the government’s lawyer and refused to throw my lawyer off my case. Among the reasons: increased costs to the CCP funds, replacing the lawyer, starting the trial over again, the time delay, and it was a waste of my time. So I was able to keep my lawyer. That day, the courtroom was packed. That impressed the Master Short. He could see the Deaf Community coming to support and watch the case.
CK: What will you do on next court on Monday September 19th?
JS: This case will be about the government’s lawyers’ motion to stop my case. The government lawyer says I gave up my right to sue but I say that I agreed to review the changed law and decide whether it addressed my concern about discrimination. My lawyer will motion to keep the case. If my case is not being overthrown then I will have to attend court for cross-examination and further.
CK: Before we close do you have anything you want to add?
JS: Yes, an important message for everyone with a disability who uses CSLP. Please come and support my case on Monday Sept 19th at 10am. Please stay with me all day and show the judges how serious we are about my case. The location is the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, 393 University Ave in Toronto. I will be announcing which floor 2 days before the court date. Also and thank you people with disability and CHS, who supports my case that I profoundly appreciate their time and effort. Please spread and share this video with everyone.
CK: Wow, you’ve been through quite an experience! I’m sure many people are thankful you’ve taken the lead on this - you’re making a difference for all of us. I’d like to let you know CHS fully supports you in this. Thank you all for watching, and for more information, please see our website www.chs.ca. We highly encourage you to go to the hearing on September 19th and support Jasmin. Thank you again for watching and stay tuned for other information and interviews.
Constitutional challenge with Canada Student Loan Program: Chris Kenopic’s interview with Jasmin Simpson on her upcoming court appearance on September 19