May 14, 2012
Since February, almost half the 400,000 university students in the province of Quebec have been on strike. The provincial government is trying to impose a large tuition hike: from $2,168 per year to $3,793 or a 75% increase spread out over five years.
Already forced to pay a lot to get a university diploma, 57% of the province’s students have to go heavily into debt. This new increase didn’t pass unnoticed. Demonstrations broke out. On March 22nd in Montreal, 25,000 students and teachers were in the streets. Many other demonstrations followed, but the government ignored them. On May 4th in Victoria, where the ruling Quebec Liberal Party was holding its convention, there was a demonstration the police violently repressed, seriously wounding two protestors. Three days later, the fourteenth evening protest occurred.
According to the strikers’ spokespersons, an increase in the cost of education would automatically lead to a reduction in the access to higher education, despite loans and scholarships.
Faced with this mobilization, the Quebec Liberal Party proposed to spread out the increase ... over seven years instead of five. “It’s not an offer, it’s an insult” thousands of demonstrators shouted in the streets.
Forced to receive student union representatives, an Education official announced that an “understanding” had been reached, so the strike must stop. But at the same time, the Quebec Liberal Party announced that the tuition increase was part of the “understanding.”
Students at only two schools resumed classes and adopted the agreement. But tens of thousands of students voted again by a large majority to continue the strike. They weren’t deceived by propositions that added up to a cut in university expenditures, but not in their tuition.