It’s time to strike
Although the CSU’s plan to hold a general meeting on March 7 for a potential strike from March 26 to 29 is great, it comes a little late. All across Quebec, students from other universities and colleges are already organizing and mobilizing for a general strike. The first student unions will go on strike around mid-February, more than one month before us. This means we have to act before the end of March.
The student movement in Quebec has a strong history of strikes. Since ’68, eight general student strikes have taken place, the latest being in ’05. On Nov. 10 we were 30,000 in the streets. When politicians do not listen to the people, it’s time to strike harder.
Concordia departmental associations do not have a strong history of political activities. However, in most Quebec universities, the fight against tuition fees and the strike starts from the bottom and not from the top. Departmental student associations have the advantage of often being closer to their members than the CSU. They can hold general meetings on a regular basis in order to listen to students and to take action. They can be the basis of a broad, democratic and mobilized student movement.
If we do not strike, next fall, the tuition increase will come into effect. If we do not strike, thousands of people, mostly from precarious socio-economic backgrounds will be prevented from going to university. If we do not strike, universities will be a little closer to being run like corporations and a little less like what they are supposed to be: learning places as emancipatory as possible.
In the face of government arrogance: we organize
This year, we will make history. Together, we can force the Charest government to back down and reverse their $1,625 tuition fee hike, and ensure accessible, quality education for future generations. On Nov. 10, we filled the streets of Montreal with over 30,000 people to denounce the Quebec Liberal Party’s unjustifiable fee hike. This winter, we can do even more.
In autumn, despite students’ determination, the government remained obstinate. Not only did they try to minimize the solidarity that gives life to our movement, but were so petty that they tried to buy Google keywords for student associations to promote the pro-increase agenda. As if by shoving it down our throats, this fee hike would suddenly become acceptable. We know better: their plan will add to the massive financial burden students carry, promote individual and family debt, and will do absolutely nothing to resolve the real problems of university mismanagement!
Following the massive demonstrations this fall, proposals for student strikes are gaining incredible momentum on campuses. Already many associations are planning to consult their members directly on the question, knowing it is perhaps the only way to make the government back down. We urge you to participate in these debates, express your ideas and opinions so that this campaign faithfully reflects your wishes and values.
It is not lightheartedly that we plan a Quebec student strike this winter. No student wants to voluntarily interrupt the course of their studies, but it may be the only option—especially compared to the government doing it by force through this massive increase.
Unfortunately, the Charest government has refused to listen. We have taken every reasonable step to prove the devastating consequences of this increase in black and white, supported by clear data and research. Nevertheless, this government has essentially denied reality and chosen to ignore the inconvenient facts. Are we willing to deny our younger siblings, our friends and allies, and future generations access to the education we’ve been privileged enough to have, simply because they won’t be able to afford it?
Is this really what we want for Quebec society?
We knew from the start what we were dealing with—an arrogant government, stubborn and obstinate, which has never had the well-being of students or their families at heart, blinded by neoliberal ideology and a failing “user pays” mentality. It’s the same blindness they had in 2004, when they attacked the poorest students and tried to cut $103 million in student aid—but we fought against it, united, and won.
So get involved! Join the movement! No matter how you participate, we need to send the message to Jean Charest that this hike will not pass, that students will fight to defend accessibility to university studies, that they will not let the Liberals burden us with more debt or shut us out of classrooms.
Students, rise up! Let us be united, work in solidarity, and together, we will win!
Let us make 2012 the year of youth!
President of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec