Cancer student chased for loan

March 24, 2000

A Canadian student who had to delay her studies after undergoing two operations, cancer therapy and giving birth has been refused any leniency on paying back her student loans.

Six months after being forced to drop out from the Universite de Montreal and just after her child was born, the unnamed woman was told she must begin paying back her student loan of C$33,000 (Pounds 14,300).

The woman's boyfriend, Michel Theriault, brought the problem to the attention of the university, which showed little sympathy. A university spokesman told La Presse newspaper: "We provide financial aid to full-time students. We're not here to pay people to stay home."

Mr Theriault took the case to the province's ombudsman and human rights office, which is pursuing several similar cases.

Mr Theriault said it was absurd that his girlfriend should be forced to pay back a student loan six months after interrupted studies. The woman, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last spring, underwent two operations and was forced to interrupt her medical studies in May. She was then given chemotherapy. She gave birth in October and since then has been pursued for her loan.

The Canadian Federation of Students said there are thousands of cases of recent graduates who need to be given more leniency on loan repayment. With recent changes in Canadian bankruptcy law that do not allow a person to declare bankruptcy until ten years after graduation, federation spokeswoman Denise Doherty Delorme said the government is adding to the problem by not giving the same rehabilitative tool to students as to other financially strapped Canadians.

There are some provisions that allow students to defer their repayment but Ms Doherty Delorme said they are too stringently enforced.

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