Quebec Students’ Strike/Movement

Students were undermined when the provincial government of Québec proposed that a tuition hike should be implemented. They wanted their voice to be heard and by working together for several months their movement ended up being a success and their efforts became noteworthy. Beginning at 8 p.m. every night since late April, tens of thousands of  students would march up and down the city streets of Quebec. They would gather at Place Emilie-Gamelin and from there the crowd would march off in a direction chosen by whoever happened to be in front. The direction of the protest was always unknown but their intentions always remained the same (Patriquin 2012:16). The students were not alone in marching up and down the city streets of Québec. They were joined by workers from the various educational institutions and teachers. There were also older middle aged individuals encouraging the students’ behaviour and helping the students win this battle (Patriquin 2012:16).  These individuals were marching with them because they admired the fact that these students were standing up and challenging neo liberalism. These students were known to be setting an example for the rest of society ( Giroux 2012). This was a protest to challenge the tuition hikes but it became more than that; it became a social and political movement.

The initial cause of the protest began when the provincial government of Québec had announced that they were going to increase tuition; this announcement occurred in March 2011. “The hike would amount to a 75% increase over the course of five years ” (Giroux 2012). The government refused to negotiate with the student’s interests. Therefore, by March 2012 Québec students no longer waited to negotiate with the provincial government; rather they rebelled against them (Giroux 2012). Many of the province’s colleges and universities were shut down due to the actions that were being exhibited through these student protests (Giroux 2012). “Students had also endured heavy-handed policing, including hundreds of arrests and attacks by riot cops on campuses” (Lafrance and Sears 2012).  There are accusations that the policing behind this protest was unacceptable and too violent. It was believed that they used such drastic measures to control a group of young individuals that were only represented as troublemakers not high profile criminals.  The violence and brutality seemed to continue when the emergence of a new troubling piece of legislation was passed. This legislation was Bill 78 (or Law 12), which undermined basic rights and freedoms, including the right to free assembly (Brett and Mehreen 2012).  This bill created an uproar that would stir up more social and political issues in the streets of Québec (Brett and Mehreeen 2012). The government hoped that this bill would control civil disobedience rather it was the source for a new and much more frustrating debate.

There were many student organizations but there were three main student groups: CLASSE (Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicate étudiante), FEUQ (Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec), and CEGEP(Collège d’Enseignement Général et Professionnel) (CBC 2012).  The student organizations’  efforts have been rewarded and their victories can be celebrated because after a wave of student mobilization in Québec tuition would remain the same. On the first day of the new PQ government’s term a new agenda was to be sought; not only did they cancel the tuition hikes they also repealed an anti-protest law that restrained  basic freedoms of expression and assembly (Robert and Reynolds 2012). The students’ voices were heard but some organizations, such as CLASSE, are trying to further their victory by pushing for the right to high quality free education (Robert and Reynolds 2012). Overall, there is one thing that we can be certain of and that is that “the Québec student strike initiated one of the most powerful, collectively organized challenges to neoliberal ideology, policy and governance that has occurred globally in some time” (Boyagoda 2012).

References

Boyagoda, Randy. 2012. “ For Student Protesters in Quebec, It’s About More Than Tuition.” The   Chronicle of Higher Education, June 3.  Retrieved October 10, 2012 (http://chronicle.com/article/For-Student-Protesters-Its/132089/)

Brett, Matthew and Rushdia Mehreen. 2012. “Beyond The Quebec Strike.” Global Research, October 10. Retrieved October 20, 2012  (http://www.globalresearch.ca   /beyond-the-quebec-student-strike/5307822)

CBC News.2012. “Several Quebec Students Groups Reject Tentative Deal.” CBC News Montreal, May 7. Retrieved October 20, 2012  (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/05/07/quebec-student-protests-votes.html).

Giroux, Henry A. 2012. “Days of Rage: The Quebec Student Protest Movement and the New Social Awakening.” Truthout, August 28. Retrieved October 10, 2012 ( http://publicintellectualsproject.mcmaster.ca/feature/days-of-rage-the-quebec-student-protest-movement-and-the-new-social-awakening/)

Lafrance, Xavier and Alan Sears. 2012.” Red Square, Everywhere: With Quebec Student Strikers, Against Repression.”  New Socialist: Ideas for Radical Change, May 23. Retrieved October 20, 2012 ( http://www.newsocialist.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=610:a-victory-for-indigenous-rights&catid=53:blog&Itemid=68 )

Patriquin, Martin. 2012. “Quebec’s new ruling class: an attempt to end demonstrations against tuition    hikes has only managed to escalate into a political and social stalemate.” Maclean’s, May 30.   Retrieved October 10, 2012 (http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/05/30/quebecs-new-ruling-class/)

Robert, Camille and Jeanne Reynolds. 2012.“Quebec students hail their movement’s  victories.” Toronto Star, September 23. Retrieved October 10,   2012 (http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1260832–quebec-students-hail-their-movement-s-victories)

 

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One comment

  1. Well written, very concise synopsis of a complex topic! Although it would have been nice if you had mentioned the connection between Quebec’s student protest and the Arab Spring uprising in many Arab nations. This would provide the reader with more context as to the scope of global dissent.

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