A year after their fight with the provincial government, some student groups are working towards maintaining visibility of issues concerning students to pressure the Quebec government to re-invest $103 million in post-secondary education.
Last March was a heated one for students across Quebec. The CEGEP student strike was in its second month, Liberal ministers’ offices were being occupied and all over the province students demonstrated in massive marches to show their solidarity and support.
Now, the certain members of the Canadian Student Federation of Quebec (CSF-Q) want to push onward. Composed of local delegates representing the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the McGill Post Graduate Student Society (PGSS), and the Graduate Student Society at Concordia University (GSA), the CFS-Q formed a new coalition in early March called the Coalition for Accessible Public Education (CAPE).
The coalition, composed of different student bodies across the province, but mainly in the city of Montreal, has been organizing events to commemorate last year’s protests, and to initiate pressure on the government to resolve certain issues. The platform includes a massive reinvestment in education, beginning with $4.9 billion in federal transfers, a real freeze on all tuition and administrative ancillary fees for all students, an end to corporate influence on campuses and improvements to the loans and bursaries system.
A demonstration, organized for March 30, has been allocated a budget of $2,000. So far $1,716 has been spent on a website, as well as printing 3,000 posters and 7,000 stickers to publicize the event.
“This is a festive mobilization. We are expressing our views through all sorts of artistic mediums, there is going to be puppets [and] theater,” said David Bernans, president of the GSA.
“This is not a strike. There will be all kinds of creative ways to show what the problems are with student debt, accessible education and student funding. This is a celebration.”
Last week, an informal roundtable discussion was initiated by CSU councillor Katherine Bouschel to discuss the CSF-Q participation in the demonstration. After the meeting, a motion was passed to end the CSF-Q’s involvement in the demonstration. Both the CSU and the PGSS voted in favour of the motion, but it was declared invalid because the meeting was unofficial and was not initiated by the chairperson, Margaret Carlyle.
“This would have crippled the march. We are deeply implicated, we initiated [the march and] we are organizing it. This is going to be this year’s biggest student mobilization and most important student mobilization since last spring,” said Bianca Mugyenyi, deputy chairperson of the CSF-Q.
According to Mugyenyi, reasons for pulling out at the last minute included the lack of time to work on the demonstration and Katherine Bouschel’s dislike for certain CSF-Q members.
Adrianna Decker a representative from the PGSS disagreed with the significance of the CSF-Q retracting its participation in the event.
“This only means that the CSF-Q will not endorse the demonstration. This involves only three student organizations across the province, not more, not less. CAPE can continue their actions, and even advertise.that the demonstration is taking place,” said Decker. “In addition, if the GSA wants to endorse the demonstration, they are more than welcome to do so. Moreover, we said that CAPE could take full advantage of all resources that the CFS-Q had already allocated. This means that they could use all the printed posters, flyers, etc., so there would be no waste of material.”
Last Friday, Bernans called a press conference to reinstate his association’s support for CAPE.
“We are asking the CSU executive council to reconsider it’s recent 180-degree turn on the March 30th event [and] that they decide to support it once again,” said Bernans. “We were under the assumption that we were all working on the same page, so I am calling on the CSU to reverse its position and hold its original position which was to support the March 30th demo.”
Mugyenyi and Veronique Allard, the GSA representative on the CSF-Q executive council, claimed that there are many student associations who are in favour of having this event, including La Conf