In the 1990’s, the Quebec Liberal Government proposed a tuition hike for students which would increase it from $500 to $1600 (CBC News, 2012). This proposal led to an uproar from students who argued that it was unfair and subsequently thousands took to the street in protest. Unfortunately, their voices were not heard and eventually the proposal to increase tuition was implemented (CBC News, 2012). It is important to discuss this event because it frames the issue of the more recent proposed tuition hike, which was yet again suggested by the Quebec Liberal Government in 2011. This time the proposed hike was a 75% increase, with tuition rising from $2,168 to $3,793. The government aimed to implement a 5 year plan starting from September 2012 to raise tuition by $325 each year until 2017 (CBC News, 2012). Through both of these proposals to raise tuition, the government has cited major governmental subsidy of university tuition and the low tuition rates as the cause of an apparent government debt, resulting in a need to hike tuition costs (Boisvert, 2012).
In both of these cases students disagreed with the government’s decision and believed it was unfair. The decision to take action by Montreal students started in late August of 2011 with a formal campaign against the tuition hikes. By spring of 2012, the situation escalated since no changes were being made and 100,000 students engaged in a peaceful protest (CBC News, 2012). The protests were mainly led by two groups who were at the forefront of the movement, who took responsibility for both accepting and rejecting propositions made by the government. These groups were the Fédération Etudiante Collégiale du Québec (FECQ) and Coalition Large de l’ASSÉ (CLASSE) (CBC News, 2012). In the months following the protests, tensions rose between the protestors and the police. A majority of the province’s “post-secondary students [had] boycotted classes for three months, disrupting universities and junior colleges. Protesters [had] battled with police. The education minister has been driven to resign. Montreal’s metro has been smoke-bombed, and the city has seen hundreds of protest marches” (Toronto Star, 2012).
In response to these escalating protests the Quebec government responded with a plan to introduce Bill 78. This Bill was titled “An Act to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend”. This act prevented students from protesting on or near university grounds without previous police approval. If found doing so, they would face consequences from the institutions where they attended school (Boisvert, 2012). Accompanying this was also the P6 by-law, which prohibited protestors from wearing masks or anything that covered their faces (CTV News, 2013). Both of these laws were met with outrage from the student protestors who now not only protested against the rising of tuition fees, but also against these violations of their fundamental rights. The focus shifted from a protest of tuition to a protest of unconstitutional bills and by-laws that were being passed (Boisvert, 2012).
After continuous action from student protestors in the spring and summer months, the efforts to restrict tuition hikes from taking place ended victoriously for the student groups. After the newly elected Parti Quebecois government came into term, it cancelled the tuition hike and repealed the anti-protest bill that was in place (Robert and Reynolds, 2012). However, there are still challenges being made to by-law P6 since the law was voted to be valid by city councillors again in April 2013 (CTV News, 2013). Overall students who were part of this protest state that this protest was more than just about tuition and that it was about “questioning the dogmas of the rich and powerful, who have spent the last decades trying to lower our expectations for what is politically possible” (Robert and Reynolds, 2012).
Boisvert Yves, (2012). “Quebec student protests aren’t about tuition anymore.” Toronto Star, May 28. Retrieved October, 6, 2014 from (http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/05/28/quebec_student_protests_arent_about_tuition_anymore.html)
CBC News, (2012). “Several Quebec students groups reject tentative deal.” CBC News Montreal, May 7. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/05/07/quebec-student-protests-votes.html).
CBC News, (2012) “Timeline of events in Quebec student strike.” CBC News Montreal, May 22. Retrieved October 10, 2014 from (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/timeline-of-events-in-quebec-student-strike-1.1244671)
CTV News, (2013) “City council votes for status quo on controversial protest bylaw P6.” CTV News Montreal, April 24. Retrieved October 10, 2014 from (http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/city-council-votes-for-status-quo-on-controversial-protest-bylaw-p6-1.1251309)
Robert Camille and Reynolds Jeanne, (2012). “Quebec students hail their movement’s victories.” Toronto Star, Sep 23. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from (http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/09/23/quebec_students_hail_their_movements_victories.html)
Toronto Star, (2012). “Quebec’s student protest over university tuition increases has gone off the rails.” Toronto Star, May 15. Retrieved October 10, 2014 from (http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2012/05/15/quebecs_student_protest_over_university_tuition_increases_has_gone_off_the_rails.html).