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Graduate students rally for increased funding from Canada

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Graduate students across Canada, including here on Vancouver Island, are calling out the federal government.

They say they're not getting paid nearly enough for their hard work and research, adding it’s been this way for decades.

"What do we want? A living wage. When do we want it? Now." That classic chant could be heard outside the University of Victoria Monday, expressing that need for more pay.

"As graduate students, we’re really trainees, and you can think of us as apprentices because we’re doing the work of our trade," said Emma Atkinson, a biology PhD student.

Meanwhile, mathematics postdoctoral researcher Micah Brush says this protest is a long time coming.

"There was a huge push to get this included in budget 2023 – to increase federal science funding – and it didn’t happen," he said. "And so this walkout is a direct response to it not being included in the budget this year."

Brush says students at dozens of Canadian universities participated in the walkout Monday, demanding the federal government boost the size and number of annual scholarships and fellowships.

"The federal funding for masters students is at $17,000, and the federal funding for PhD students is at $21,000, and that’s before their tuition," he said.

University of Victoria president Kevin Hall is backing the call to Ottawa, saying the value hasn’t changed in 20 years, with no inflationary index.

He adds that when he was a student in the 1980s, he was in Ottawa lobbying for the same thing.

CTV News reached out to the federal government for comment. In a statement, it said it recognizes students face financial pressures and is calling on the research community to increase the number and value of scholarships and fellowships.

It adds, in 2019, the federal government gave $114 million over five years to graduate students.

The government also proposed $813.6 million in the 2023-24 budget to increase Canada Student Grants by 40 per cent. This would mean up to $4,200 for full-time students.

Rallying students say they'll continue to live in the red while they wait to see if their message was received. 

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