Hundreds of demonstrators marched in the pouring rain Saturday, to celebrate the repealed tuition fee increase and abolished Law 12 while continuing to take a stand for free education.
The newly formed provincial government scrapped the proposed seven-year tuition fee increase of $254 per year Thursday, following months of social unrest from the student strike movement. The Parti Québécois also abolished the controversial Law 12 aimed to limit protests implemented by the former Liberal government.
The Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante led the protest through the streets of the downtown core around 2:50 p.m. from Lafontaine Park. Members of CLASSE began the monthly protest with speeches congratulating the student movement on their victory.
“The goal of this protest is to revive the debate about free tuition,” said Jeanne Reynolds, a spokesperson for CLASSE.
Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec and Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec were not present for the march, as both student groups fought for a tuition fee freeze and not free education. Both student associations declared victory following the repeal of the tuition hike.
Concordia University undergraduate student Robin Sas marched in support of the PQ’s decision to stomp out the hike.
“We have to celebrate the victories because they are rare,” said Sas. “That’s not to say I think it’s over but it’s a big victory in a continued fight.”
John Aspler, a recent McGill University graduate, said this was the first monthly protest he did not participate in. Aspler felt that the PQ’s position on universities’ management of funds and financial aid for students remains unclear.
“I don’t even know what we’re protesting anymore,” said Aspler. “I mean, maybe learn to compromise.”
Bishop’s University student Matt O’Neil believes that the student strike movement already won their victory and that the demonstration was unwarranted.
“It’s ridiculous, they already got their freeze,” explained O’Neil. “Now it’s getting down to greed.”
“CLASSE is leading the way in the fight toward free education, a model I personally agree with,” added Sas. “Why have any barriers based on income to education?”
“As long as there is a fee, some will be excluded, regardless of ability. Loans and bursaries are often insufficient, and student debt can be crippling,” Sas explained.
The demonstration ended with the arrest of two protesters and a police officer was injured on Sherbrooke St. after being pelted with a projectile outside of Loto-Québec. The Montreal Police declared the protest illegal around 4:30 p.m. and asked demonstrators to disperse.
“I think the protests will continue but with the most radical elements involved which could be awful,” said Aspler. “All of the 22nd protests have been peaceful except for this one.
Anthony Kantara, a Vanier College student, said that students must put pressure on Premier Pauline Marois because of her plan to index tuition fees.
“She’s not perfect,” said Kantara. “That’s why we have to keep fighting.”