On Campus

An update on Quebec's tuition protests

A worried judge, a counteroffer and an eager opposition

Photo by yanik_crepeau on Flickr

Retired Superior Court judge John Gomery, famous for heading the commission into the federal sponsorship scandal, has told the Montreal Gazette that he’s concerned about the fact that court orders allowing students back to class are frequently being ignored in Quebec.

Approximately one-third of Quebec students are protesting a $1,625 tuition hike by boycotting classes. Many of them continue to block students who have a legal right to return to school.

This week, classes were cancelled at CEGEP de St. Laurent, Collège de Maisonneuve, CEGEP de St. Jean sur Richelieu, CEGEP de Sherbrooke and CEGEP de l’Outaouais, despite injunctions.

At CEGEP de l’Outaouais in Gatineau, protesters shouted “On a gagné! On a gagné!” (We won! We won!) on Wednesday after interim director, Frédéric Poulin, cancelled classes and told the Ottawa Citizen he did not call police to enforce the injunction due to the threat of violence.

Opposition leader Pauline Marois, head of the sovreigntist Parti Québécois, said Wednesday that she wants an election called. “If [the Liberals] do not accept to have a discussion, to open communication with students, I think there is no solution except an election,” she told CBC News.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Sun revealed that at least two Ontario branches of the Canadian Union of Public Employees—those representing teachers at McMaster University and education workers at the University of Toronto—voted to send money to ASSE to support the strike.

ASSE’s activist branch, CLASSE, is considered the most militant of three main groups behind the strike. Education Minister Line Beauchamp refused to negotiate with CLASSE because it organized many of the near-nightly protests in Montreal that have turned violent and led to arrests.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the leader of CLASSE, has long promoted militant tactics. In 2010 he wrote in CLASSE newsletter Ultimatum that: “the pressure tactics will increase along with students’ anger, with the anger of the entire Quebec people: disruptions of MNAs offices, economic disruptions, national protests, etc. And this until the government backs down,” reports the National Post.

Today, CLASSE released a counteroffer to Jean Charest’s Friday announcement that he would spread annual tuition increases over seven years instead of five, reducing them to $254 from $325.

CLASSE proposes transferring $142-million of research funding to teaching, ending commercial advertising at universities, freezing hiring and salaries of upper management, ending all campus expansion and satellite campuses, and holding a general assembly on the future of education.