All Posts Tagged With: "Quebec tuition protest"
Tuition freeze likely
The Parti Quebecois government appears to be challenging the notion that the province’s universities are under-funded, a tactic that could hold significant implications it prepares to hold a highly anticipated summit on education.
The government has promised to host a symposium in February aimed at finding a long-term solution to the challenge of university funding, an event that stems from a key PQ election pledge to cancel previously planned tuition hikes.
But it is now sending signals that universities might not actually require a financial boost.
Members of the government including Premier Pauline Marois have in recent weeks been repeatedly challenging the premise that the province’s universities are under-financed. On Thursday, the government even leaked a report to the media challenging that oft-repeated notion.
Cancellation of hike isn’t enough for them
One Quebec student group says that with tuition hikes officially off the table, it will now champion the idea of free education.
The new Parti Quebecois government scrapped a controversial increase in post-secondary tuition fees this week and a hardline student group is now turning to free education as its long-term goal.
CLASSE, which speaks for 100,000 Quebec students, says free education is entirely achievable and used a march attended by several hundred people on Saturday to highlight the issue.
“Our struggle for accessibility to higher education is not yet over,” said Jeremie Bedard-Wien, a spokesman for CLASSE.
Free education is not a position that is shared by the province’s two other major student associations and with the proposed hike by the former Liberal government formally cancelled, Quebec has the lowest tuition in the country again.
Premier-designate will cancel tuition hikes by cabinet decree
Premier-designate Pauline Marois says she will do her best to push ahead the more contentious parts of her campaign platform despite her minority-government status.
Marois, whose Parti Quebecois won 54 of the province’s 125 ridings on Tuesday, conceded the difficulty of the task ahead given that the Liberals have 50 members and Francois Legault’s Coalition party has 19.
In an indication of her political limitations, Marois never once referred to an independence referendum during her post-election news conference and no reporter bothered asking about one.
She said she will try to make progress on the more divisive parts of her platform — those dealing with language, culture and federal-provincial relations — but will need to seek consensus from the other parties.
Quebec Liberal premier lost own seat in last night’s election
Jean Charest has decided to put an end to a stormy 28-year political career, including the last nine as Quebec premier.
Charest, a staunch federalist who served as federal Progressive Conservative leader before becoming Quebec Liberal leader in 1998, spent a good part of his announcement Wednesday praising Canada.
”We are all blessed to have been born in this country,” Charest told reporters at the national assembly.
But the longtime premier also hailed Quebecers, who elected him premier in 2003, 2007 and 2008.
”We are a people of dreamers but also builders,” he said.
Charest’s resignation will take effect in a few days when the Parti Quebecois officially takes power after its minority victory on Tuesday.
Disruptions at Montreal university force class cancellation
Several classes at a Montreal university are being disrupted as students disobey Quebec’s back-to-school law.
Small groups of students at Universite du Quebec a Montreal, armed with lists, are seeking out classrooms in faculties where students voted to remain on strike.
They are interrupting the classes by shouting and shutting off the lights. Some of the classes are being cancelled.
The provincial emergency law, known as Bill 78, sets stiff fines for people who block classrooms.
The vast majority of Quebec’s students have voted to end their strikes, and the student unrest has hardly been an issue in the current provincial election campaign.
Today’s events as universities reopen, however, are a flashback to events that captured international attention last spring.
—The Canadian Press
Votes piling up to end strikes
Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press
The number of students on strike in Quebec dwindled considerably Monday as people at several colleges voted to end a civil-disobedience campaign that had earned international attention and been nicknamed the Maple Spring.
Following three more votes Monday to end the strike and one vote in favour of continuing student protests, the tally now stands at six to two among junior colleges, called CEGEPs in Quebec, in favour of returning to class.
The protests are not quite over. Some university faculties will remain on strike after votes in favour of continuing demonstrations. Some CEGEPs and university students have yet to vote.
Will voters remember this at the polls?
Quebec’s university administrators have long said their schools are underfunded. They blame the province’s low tuition rates, which are capped by the government at less than half what universities in Ontario and Nova Scotia are allowed to charge.
The administrators say they need more money to hire top researchers, attract international students, reduce class sizes and improve libraries.
Their demands were more or less met when the Liberal government announced it would nearly double tuition over several years.
Student groups, on the other hand, have long argued that Quebec universities don’t have a funding problem. They say it’s a spending problem.
Battle lines are drawn
Ahead of an anticipated election call in Quebec, one of the smaller political parties has proposed a middle ground solution to the tuition crisis.
The Liberal government’s plan to raise tuition by $1,778 over the next seven years led to a student uprising so strong it prompted an emergency law.
François Legault, leader of the centre-right Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), proposed a tuition increase of $200 annually over five years. The CAQ’s increase would be $1,000 total. Legault also said new funding would be conditional on universities better managing their funds.
Election speculation continues
With provincial elections looming, students in Quebec are back on the streets and making their voices heard. For the first time in weeks, thousands marched through downtown Montreal on Sunday to protest the provincial government’s proposed tuition hikes, the Gazette reports. Students have been protesting publicly for over five months, but the numbers had dwindled while students went home for the summer break.
While tuition hikes are the primary cause of the protests, students are also concerned about the government’s stance on environmental and economic policies, according to the CBC. In light of widespread speculation Quebec premier Jean Charest may call an election on August 1 for a vote in early September, student groups are trying to mobilize their followers to oust the Liberal Party.
“Our role will be to get out the vote. We think that if a larger number of young people go to the polls, we’ll have a government that’s more representative of Quebec society,” FECQ leader Éliane Laberge told the CBC.
Watchdog says it’s immoral to mention Canada
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights included criticism for Quebec’s Bill 78 in the annual report she gave to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.
Navi Pillay expressed “disappointment” in Quebec’s emergency law while outlining similar “concern” about restrictions in Russia and Eritrea.
Bill 78, the emergency law passed by Quebec’s government on May 18, was meant to quell months of student protests that prevented many students from attending classes and led to vandalism of businesses in Montreal.
Villeneuve tells students to go back to school
It’s Grand Prix weekend in Montreal, Quebec’s biggest annual event when 300,000 mostly wealthy people arrive and spend money.
As tourists arrived on Thursday, police “kettled” student demonstrators and arrested 20 people.
At a “naked protest” in the afternoon, they shouted “Formula One! Polluter! Sexist! Thief!,” reports National Post. Some marched in their underwear, some were topless and many covered their faces with veils or sunglasses. Rather than being scared away, tourists snapped photos.
Photos: about 200 march in solidarity with Quebec students
At least 1,000 (some say 2,000) turned out to bang pots and pans in solidarity with Quebec’s anti-tuition demonstrators one week ago in Toronto. At the time, we were told to expect much bigger crowds on June 5. It didn’t happen. When the march finally left George Brown College at the corner of King St. and George St. on Tuesday around 8:30 p.m., only about 200 people had joined it.
It was mainly the usual suspects: executives of local student unions, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the socialists. It’s hard to explain the low turnout, but one thing is clear: they can’t blame the weather. The skies were sunny. In fact, 5,000 people were at the University of Toronto two hours earlier to watch Venus cross the Sun’s path.
Much of Canada remains unmoved by Quebec
Quebeckers of all kinds have marched in the streets over the past week beating on casseroles. Some are making noise over the emergency Law, #78, which they say unduly restricts rights. Others are showing their anger over a planned tuition hike of $254 per year—the very thing that prompted paralyzing nightly protests in Montreal and Premier Jean Charest’s desperate response.
Just as Quebec student leaders and government negotiators sat down on Wednesday in Quebec City to continue talks to end the student “strike,” the rest of Canada was asked to show support for the pot-bangers by drumming on their own cookware at Casseroles Night in Canada events.
But turnout was modest, suggesting that (so far) the Rest of Canada is staying out of the fight.
Forget tuition. It’s all about Law 78 now.
For the past five days, it has begun each night at around eight p.m. Thousands of people across the City of Montreal step out of their homes, into the street, and start banging on pots and pans.
On Friday night in Saint-Henri, southwest of downtown, I watched a small crowd gather at the local metro station. The protest seemed to have no organizers—most had just followed the sound.
It was the same story on Sunday in the Plateau. People on balconies and staircases banged on pots and pans. At one intersection, a couple families marched around in a little circle.
College leader willing to discuss amount of hike
Leaders of at least two of the three large student groups who organized Quebec’s student “strike” movement suggest that a compromise could soon end the 106-day conflict.
Martine Desjardins, leader of university group FEUC, told CBC News on Sunday that negotiations with the provincial government will resume this afternoon.
Leo Bureau-Blouin, president of college student group FECQ, told The House on Saturday that if Premier Jean Charest lessened the planned tuition increase—most recently proposed at $1,778 over seven years—then students may end their protests. He did not suggest a specific amount.
The portrait painted by the polls
Republished from Inkless Wells on Macleans.ca.
To read today’s CROP—La Presse poll on the tuition protests in Quebec (main story here; detailed tables in a .pdf here, all in French) is to see evidence of a population applying consistent values in a difficult situation. It’s not at all surprising, but after hotheads have spent months trying to conscript the population to one faction or another in the dispute, it’s heartening.
(UPDATE: Some readers have noted that CROP used an online poll. There’s a good discussion of the methodology in the La Presse story, and some more general discussion here. I’ve seen no evidence that online polls, which are increasingly common, produce wildly different results from telephone polls, which have their own growing problems. I know of no new telephone poll that asked this many questions on the tuition dispute. I’ll let you know if one comes along.)
First big question: Do you support the government position (increasing tuition fees over seven years) or the students’ (a tuition freeze)? On the central policy question of the dispute, the government wins nearly two to one, with 64% supporting the government to 36% who support the students. This is true even in Montreal, where support for students is highest (60/40 in government’s favour); even among young adults (56/44 in the 18-34 age bracket); even among female respondents (63/37) and francophones (62/38).
But what about Law 78, the government’s latest enforcement tool? “Generally, do you favour or oppose this special law?” Here it’s much closer, 51% in favour and 49% opposed. There’s no gender gap, but 18-to-34-year-olds oppose the law 56/44; francophones oppose it 53/47.
Then an apparent paradox. Continue reading Meet the average Quebecer
Emmett Macfarlane on the sorry state of policy debate
Reasoned debate is off the table. The student protesters and the Charest government are sharply at odds – in fact, they despise each other – but they’ve collaborated in one respect: each side has acted to ensure that rather than a robust public discussion about how to fund the province’s universities we get an ugly, protracted battle about the right to protest.
Why has the situation deteriorated so miserably? There is no shortage of finger-pointing on either side.
From the government’s perspective, too many protesters engaged in unacceptable tactics, including blocking non-protesting students from attending classes, vandalism, intimidation and violence. Some critics assert that the peaceful majority failed to condemn, in strong enough words, the hooliganism of those in their midst. Then, last week, classes on one campus were literally invaded, in defiance of court injunctions.
Montreal Police employ “kettling”
“Kettling” is a concept more familiar to Torontonians, many of whom were the target of it during the infamous 2010 G20 summit in the city. But last night protesters in Montreal got acquainted with the practice.
The Globe explains:
Kettling is a police tactic widely used in Europe where riot cops surround demonstrators and limit or cut off their exits. It has been widely criticized because it often results in the scooping up of innocent bystanders as well as rowdies.
Last night, following hours of peaceful demonstrations, police officers being “pelted with projectiles” resorted to cornering protesters and arrested as many as 518 of them, according to the Montreal Gazette:
… in a heartbeat, Wednesday night’s big march turned ugly.
Just before midnight police surrounded a large group of protesters at Sherbrooke and St. Denis Sts. to make a mass arrest, Montreal police Constable Daniel Fortier said. Police said on Thursday morning the arrests totaled 518, making it the largest number of people arrested in a single night so far in the weeks-long student protest.
Over 100 people were also arrested in Quebec City for contravening a new controversial provincial law that is the focus of this past week’s increasingly crowded protests.
Still from the Gazette:
In Quebec City, 170 people were arrested during a march that was declared illegal before it even began. The protesters did not give police an itinerary of the march eight hours in advance, as stipulated by law 78.
Law 78 not used
A demonstration in Montreal on Tuesday to mark 100 days of class boycotts over tuition was calmer than expected. Though some estimate crowds in the hundreds of thousands, Montreal Police arrested just over 100 people.
They did not—as was widely reported this morning—use a new law, 78, that makes demonstrations of more than 50 people illegal if organizers haven’t submitted an itinerary at least eight hours in advance to police.*
CLASSE, the most vocal student group behind the protests, also known as the “student strike,” refused to tell police of its plans.
Intense debate in Quebec’s National Assembly
Sweeping legislation to get students back to classes while restoring order to Montreal is being debated again today in the Quebec’s National Assembly after a marathon session last night.
If Bill 78 is made law, police could fine student groups, labour union officials, and individuals who prevent an enrolled student from attending classes at a university or CEGEP. Despite court injunctions, protesters have frequently blocked students from legally attending classes this year. On Wednesday, protesters stormed into UQAM where some stood on desks shouting “scabs.”
Demonstrations within 50 metres of a higher education institution would fall under the act.
The law would also require people organizing a demonstration of 50 or more to inform police eight hours in advance. They would also need to provide certain details of their plans.
Individuals who violate the law would be fined $1,000 to $5,000 per day. Student leaders would face fines of up to $35,000. Student and labour union employees could be charged up to $125,000.