MONTREAL—Quebec students at several junior colleges have begun the return to class today under the provisions of a special law imposed by the Charest government.
It’s unclear how smoothly the return will go.
Students at three colleges have opted to end their strikes, which made international headlines last spring, or they have opted to call a truce during the Quebec election campaign. They have voted to continue the boycott at only one of the four institutions to have already voted.
Other votes will be taken today and during the week. As for universities, they return to school later.
About one-third of Quebec students had their spring session interrupted by the strikes. The controversial law passed by the Charest government, Bill 78, mandates their return to complete the semester over the coming weeks and sets stiff fines for people blocking schools.
At one institution in Montreal’s west end, police kept watch and were posted at several doors as students streamed back to class.
Votes are taking place at several colleges where students clashed with police and prevented their colleagues from going to class.
Federations representing junior college and university students have said they are leaving it up to each association to decide whether to continue the boycott or return to class.
Jean Beauchesne, the president of the Federation of CEGEPs, warns that sessions could be cancelled if students are slow to return to class.
Federations representing junior college and university students have said they are leaving it up to each association to decide whether to continue their boycott or return to class.
The students face major strategic dilemmas as they vote on whether to return to class.
There are personal concerns about what impact continued strikes might have on academic progress. There are also electoral concerns — such as whether continued strikes will only help the Charest Liberals, by making the student conflict a key ballot-box issue.
And, finally, there is an ideological tug-of-war over the nature of democracy.
The more hardcore student activists believe their strike votes are eminently more democratic than a parliamentary election, and are adamant that their “direct democracy” movement not be subservient to the concerns of provincial electoral strategy and “representative democracy.”
A prominent anarchist and participant in the protest movement, Jaggi Singh, has posted messages on Twitter that the strikes aren’t about opposing one party or government — but about opposing a “destructive system.” The veteran activist is among those urging that the strikes continue during the election.