On Campus

Students march in Quebec City

As many as 1,500 students protesting Charest's tuition hikes

Students from across the province marched in Quebec City Thursday to protest the defreezing of tuition.

Quebec students have been sparring with the provincial government since the fall over the tuition hikes. Last year, the Charest government announced tuition hikes of $100 a year in each of the next five years. Average tuition in Quebec reached just over $2,000 this year, while out of province students pay over $5,000 a year.

This story will be updated as we receive further information.
Click here to read “A Dishonest Student Movement,” Carson Jerema’s analysis of how the Quebec tuition movement is split.

Maclean’s reached Max Silverman, a vice president of the Students’ Society of McGill University, just as buses from McGill arrived in the provincial capital for the “Day of Action.” He reported that the demonstration was just getting warmed up and estimated that 1,500 students were in attendance. He also noted that police officers with riot gear were present.

Social science students at Université du Québec à Montréal have been on general strike since Monday. Students in other faculties voted against strike action last week. Striking students will vote on whether to continue the strike action after a week.

In November some Quebec students’ unions staged a one-week strike culminating in demonstrations in Montreal. In 2005, Quebec students were on strike for several weeks, including as many as 200,000 at one point.

Today’s Day of Action marks the first demonstration in Quebec City in some time. Most protests take place in Montreal. Student leaders have said that they felt it was time to bring the protests directly to the politicians that are making decisions that affect post-secondary education.

The demonstrations were organized by the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Etudiante, a provincial student lobby group that has been pushing for a province-wide general strike. The group is calling for free education and a massive reinvestment in post-secondary education.

Students at UQAM are particularly worried about tuition policy because of financial changes proposed at their school to bail the university out of a $350 million debt. The university has enacted a moratorium on hiring new teachers and there are other cuts to come.

Silverman told the student paper the McGill Daily that transfer payments from the federal government are also key to their position. “The federal government is sitting on a $20-billion surplus. All we’re asking for is $1-billion of that,” he said.

However, because of the $800 million increase in transfer payments announced in the 2007 federal budget, and economic caution resulting from the downturn of the economy in the US, it is unlikely that new federal funding will be announced in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s February 26 budget.