All Posts Tagged With: "Student Protests"
More Quebec protests, oil debate & democracy at U of T
1. It’s that time of the month again. Several thousand students marched in Montreal Thursday to demand free tuition, despite already winning frozen tuition from the Parti Quebecois government. The demonstration was supported by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, whose now-disbanded CLASSE wing was considered the most radical student group during the protests that shut down campuses earlier this year. Speaking of shutting down campuses, some students blocked certain entrances to the Université du Québec à Montréal on Thursday, reports the Montreal Gazette.
2. The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s annual general meeting drew a lot of angry voters who refused to approve the agenda at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting. While most AGMs are poorly attended, students waited in line for hours to get in to this one. Sam Greene, who heads of Trinity College, urged members to not approve the agenda unless the UTSU considers electoral reforms. Corey Scott, vice-president internal for UTSU, told The Varsity that the way students vote showed their “privilege.”
3. There is support among some of Canada’s premiers to ship Alberta oil to Eastern Canada. Two men whose provinces don’t have much oil themselves, Manitoba’s Greg Selinger and Nova Scotia’s Darrell Dexter, say they are interested, and Alberta’s Alison Redford and Quebec’s Pauline Marois agreed Thursday to examine the benefits and environmental effects of such a project.
Aim to denounce provincial budget and show support for Quebec protesters
A group of university students have occupied the office of Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to denounce the recent provincial budget and show their solidarity with anti-tuition hike protesters demonstrating in Quebec City and Montreal.
“We decided to occupy Glen Murray’s office today to bring attention to the fact this week’s budget that was passed does not address students’ concerns at all, and [Ontario politicians] are continuing to increase our fees even though we were promised a reduction in tuition fees in the election,” Sarah Jayne, chairperson of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), told The Silhouette. The students plan to remain at Murray’s office until about 5 p.m.
Protesters storm Quebec Finance Minister’s office, clash with security and police
One student was injured on Thursday, when several dozen protesters stormed the Montreal offices of Quebec’s Finance Minister.
According to organizers, the protester was injured when a security guard pushed him through a glass door. Police are investigating. Rue Frontenac also reported that a ministry staffer threatened to attack one of their photographers if photos were not deleted, when the photographer refused, the staff member grabbed his cell phone. It was later returned.
Apparently fearing for their safety, the protesters soon left the office. Several protesters were pepper sprayed by police but no arrests were reported.
The protest was organized by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, one of Quebec’s largest student lobby groups. They’re upset with the tuition increases included in last week’s provincial budget, which they described as a “declaration of war against students.”
Another protest is planed for next Thursday.
As is often the case with posts like this, the majority of the links above are to French-language sources.
Why Quebec’s low tuition hasn’t led to high university enrolment
By 2012 between 6,000 and 13,000 Quebecers will have been prevented from going to university by a $500 increase in tuition, according to one of the province’s largest student lobby groups (their numbers come from a survey commissioned by the Quebec government). But a closer look at university participation rates and tuition fees across the country shows that the relationship between the cost of a university education and the percentage of people who attend isn’t quite so cut and dry.
Last Thursday, over 300 students, mostly from the Université du Québec à Montréal, protested a series of consultations which are set to take place between the provincial government and “education partners,” including students. The protest was organized by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale, which represents over 40,000 students across the province.
These students are opposed to the consultation process because the government has already announced their intention to raise tuition in 2012. Tuition rates in the province have been increasing by $50 per semester for Quebec residents, and $100 per semester for out of province students, since 2007 when the Charest government partially thawed the province’s tuition freeze, in place since 1994. In total tuition has risen $500 over five years for Quebec residents and $1,000 for out-of-province students. While this protest was relatively small compared to the protests in 2007, it’s pretty safe to say that these protests will grow as the 2012 increase approaches.
Here in Quebec, which has Canada’s lowest tuition rates (at least for Quebec residents) the participation rate is also one of the lowest in the country. According to 2005 numbers from Statistics Canada, the most recent complete numbers available, among people aged 24-26, 38 per cent have attended university.
Newfoundland has slightly higher tuition than Quebec but that province’s participation rate — the highest in the country — is 10 per cent higher than Quebec’s.
Nova Scotia, where university enrolment increased by over three per cent this fall (according to the Association of Atlantic Universities), has the second highest participation rate in the country despite their tuition being the second highest. Ontario, which has the highest tuition fees among the provinces, has a higher participation rate than Quebec and despite large tuition increases over the past several years, Ontario universities had a record number of applications this year.
In Alberta, where tuition rates are comparable to the national average, participation is the lowest.
It seems that provincial economies and the demands of the job market have far more to do with participation rates than tuition fees. In Atlantic Canada, with the decline of the fishery and mining sectors and in Ontario, with the decline of the manufacturing sector, jobs that existed a generation ago — and didn’t require a university education — are gone. While in Alberta the oil industry is still going strong.
The counter-intuitive difference between participation rates in Quebec and provinces where tuition is much higher may also have to do with the unique nature of Quebec’s education system. Quebec students graduate from high school in grade 11 and must attend two years of CEGEP (or go to a private college) before attending university. The CEGEP/college system has a participation rate of over 60 per cent — giving Quebec the highest college participation rate in the country.
While the system was created to encourage university participation it may be having the opposite effect, with CEGEPs also offering three-year technical degrees, it is more appealing for some students to do one more year of CEGEP and graduate with a skilled trade rather than going to university, and with the cost at CEGEPs being slightly over $100 per semester it’s certainly the cheapest and fastest way to get into the workforce.
Sometimes, even peaceful protest isn’t the answer
There are several ways one could have gone about making a point regarding this weekend’s G20 summit in Toronto. Some opted to break windows and throw feces—not so subtle. Others selected arson as their method of choice—a brilliant (excuse the pun) way to illuminate (excuse again) their serious socio-economic concerns. But the majority chose “peaceful protest.” They gathered at Queen’s Park, chanted and held signs, and marched through the streets of Toronto, calling for free tuition, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and, most collectively, for G20 leaders to go home.
For complete coverage click here
Yet to me, the futility was obvious. Don’t get me wrong; I recognize the value of the right to protest. And I, too, was outraged at the $1 billion security bill, the evacuation of University of Toronto residences, the security fence and “fake lake.” But a protest—peaceful or otherwise—was not, in this case, an effective way to call attention to frivolous G20 measures. If everyone, and I mean everyone, had stayed home drinking tea on Saturday and Sunday, the message would have been way more effective (there’s that word again) than 10,000 protesters taking to the street. What better way to “humiliate the apparatus” (to borrow a phrase from the anarchists) than to really demonstrate the uselessness of a billion dollar security fleet?
Of course, no such concerted effort was made. While protesters spent time dousing their handkerchiefs in vinegar and silkscreening “F*** the G20” on their brightly-coloured tees, the effectiveness of a strategic, silent protest seemed to evade most of the outraged. I should apologize, though—I haven’t completely shaken the youthful naïveté that a protest should be about actually getting something done. But I’m working on it. After all, this weekend confirmed—at least to me—that demonstrations are more about hearing yourself than actually being heard.
On Saturday afternoon, I went to check out the Canadian Federation of Student’s Student Feeder March. Like an idiot, I thought the march was to demonstrate Canadian students’ objection to the G20 summit, specifically regarding the evacuation of U of T’s downtown campus. Obviously I’m new, because I was surprised when I was treated to a megaphone lecture about Indigenous rights, Stephen Harper’s maternal health plan, and the evils of corporate America. After the obligatory “Education is a Right!” chant and a few dozen “Shame!’s,” we were off.
The group marched through the spitting rain, east from Bloor and Spadina towards the desolate U of T campus. There were a few hundred students, and no police escort. Despite the grey skies and murky ground runoff, energy was high. The chanting was constant (and, I’ll admit, quite catchy). As students turned onto U of T’s closed campus they got louder. “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? OUR STREETS!” Followed by, “This is what democracy looks like!” which evolved into a confusing “This is what democracy smells like!” And, of course, it wouldn’t be a student march without, “We gotta beat, back, the corporate attack.”
When I was in Grade Six I learned about the standard, five-paragraph argumentative essay. “You need a thesis,” said my teacher from front of the elementary school classroom. “One point that you will argue,” she continued. “The rest of the essay will support this point.”
Could you have two theses, I wondered? Three? Four? Like most eager 11-year-olds, I wanted to impress my teacher. “Just one,” Ms. Levitt reminded the class. “A focused argument will always be stronger.”
The CFS placards on Saturday afternoon read, “Keep Education Public!” But to the uniformed bystander, the group could have been marching about anything. Native land rights? Corporate greed? A woman’s right to choose? While marchers took great pride in reminding spectators that, “The people, united, will never be defeated,” they really should have kept in mind that a message, diluted, is not properly entreated. (See? I can rhyme too!)
It just got worse when we reached Queen’s Park, the designated protest site. I saw signs about occupation in India, a group for animal liberation, and a slew of unionized men and women advocating for workers’ rights. Okay, I get it; I saw the “Long Live Socialism” sign. The idea was undoubtedly to highlight the causes that could have done with some diverted G20 cash. But as long as protesters were present, there needed to be police. And when store windows were crashed, riot cops had to be brought in. The Toronto Transit Commission lost revenue because of afternoon system closures and someone’s gonna have to pay for that damaged public property.
I’m not saying we should be silent on the issues that matter most. But ironically, silence might have been the way to go on this most important matter. Imagine how silly it would have looked if the feds spent a billion dollars on riot gear, bringing in the RCMP, army, private security and swarms of police on bikes, motorcycles, and horseback, and the downtown core turned out to be empty as air. The Black Bloc certainly made things worse for everyone, but even the “peaceful protesters” weren’t really helping their cause.
I would hope students, as the “bright thinkers of tomorrow” would lead the way by initiating constructive means of protest. Or, at the very least, come with a focused, coherent message. I wasn’t beaming with pride when I spotted student leaders amid a mob standoff with riot police, nor was I pleased to accompany a student march rallying for a mess of different causes, only some of which I supported.
Police certainly overreacted, peaceful protesters were detained, media was arrested, and rioters wreaked havoc. So, until next time, G20, I’ll be drinking my tea.
As they chanted “death to the dictator,” riot police fired tear gas
Security forces and militiamen clashed with thousands of protesters shouting “death to the dictator” outside Tehran University on Monday. National Students Day is met with baton beatings and tear gas, witnesses said.
The protests were the largest in months, as university students—a bedrock of support for the pro-reform movement—sought to energize the opposition with rallies at campuses across the country. The opposition has been reeling under a fierce crackdown since turmoil erupted over the disputed presidential election in June.
Thousands of riot police, Revolutionary Guard forces and pro-government Basij militiamen flooded the area around Tehran University since the morning, vowing to prevent any unrest from spilling out into the streets.
Banners and signs bearing slogans from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blanketed the tall campus fence, hiding whatever took place inside. Cell phone networks around the universities were shut down, and police and members of the elite Revolutionary Guard surrounded all the university entrances and were checking IDs of anyone entering to prevent opposition activists from joining the students, witnesses said.
The heavy clampdown raised fears of an escalation of violence during Monday’s clashes. “There’s anxiety that there will be violence and shooting. I shout slogans and demonstrate but try not to provoke any clash with the security,” one Tehran University student, Kouhyar Goudarzi, told The Associated Press in Beirut by telephone. “We are worried.”
Clashes erupted when thousands of protesters massed in the streets outside Tehran in support of the students. As they chanted “death to the dictator,” riot police fired tear gas and Basij militiamen charged the crowds, the witnesses said.
The plainclothes Basijis beat protesters on the head and shoulders as the crowd scattered, then regrouped on nearby street corners. Nearby, protesters and Basijis pelted each other with stones, the witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Inside the university, thousands of students marched through the campus, many of them wearing surgical masks or scarves over their faces to protect against tear gas. Some wore green wristbands and waved green balloons, the colour of the opposition movement of Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Student pays for tuition with cart full of coins
Now, this is how to protest!
On Monday, a student paid his $1,037 tuition in nickels and dimes. Teale Phelps Bondaroff wheeled a cart filled with 90kg of coin into the University of Calgary student accounts office to protest a recent change to payment policy.
The universities cite administrative costs on credit cards transactions for their decision. Both universities have pledged to use the savings from credit card payments for scholarships and bursaries.
To their credit, they have not cited high interest on credit cards and concerns about student debt as a reason. If they did, they would be hypocrites. Like most Canadian universities, they rip students off by charging credit card levels of interest. The interest rate on outstanding tuition payments at the University of Alberta is 18 per cent. The University of Calgary, only charges 12 per cent on outstanding fees.
Neither school offers Air Miles or other perks to go with their high interest rates.
Update: University of Calgary told The Calgary Herald they are concerned about students using high-interest credit cards to pay tuition.