Concordia is on strike, but what do international students think?

International students speak up on the tuition hike, current strike, and their concern for what’s to come.

Nearly 11 thousand of Concordia’s students went on strike last week to protest the government’s increase of tuition costs for out-of-province and international students, but the decision to picket classrooms left some international students feeling left out of the discussion.

Last October, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) announced that it would be raising tuition for out-of-province and international students. After back and forth between the universities and the tabling of a petition with over 33,000 signatures, the CAQ lowered the proposed tuition increase for out-of-province students from $17,000 to $12,000. Yet, the decision to maintain the doubling of tuition for international students remains firm. Further, 80 per cent of students from outside Quebec must achieve Level 5 French by the time they graduate. 

Thirteen student associations from Concordia picketed the entrance to classes from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.. The three-day strike polarized the student body, with some students  remaining unaware that their Member Associations (MA) even had a General Assembly (GA) to decide on striking and picketing terms. 

Stikes get voted on by the MAs for specific programs during their GAs. At these GAs, there is a minimum threshold of members, called a quorum, that is required to be present in order to pass motions. For example, the Political Science Student Association’s Constitution states: “Quorum is twenty-five (25) or 1.5 per cent of members, whichever is higher.” 

“As much as I agree with what the strike stands for, I can’t give myself the luxury to not go to class,” said Catalina Abello, a third-year international student from Colombia. “For me, one lecture costs almost $300.” 

For full-time international students such as Abello, , this winter semester amounted to $11,000, and for international students in JMSB, up to $14,000. This means that while, at the moment, average yearly tuition is between $20,000 to $30,000, it is estimated to rise up to roughly $60,000 under the new policy. 

According to several announcements by Concordia, the tuition hikes will not affect current students, but it will affect any student applying for fall 2024 or any student who switches majors or minors, “I´ve fallen in love with Montreal, I’m almost fluent in my French, and I was really looking forward to doing a graduate degree [in Montreal], but now I’m not sure what I’m gonna do,” said Abello. 

Another international student, who wishes to remain anonymous, emphasized the importance of solidarity and dialogue in addressing the underlying issues driving the strike.

“I just find it ironic,” they said. “I completely agree that the rise in tuition is devastating and students have the right to speak up, but no one is putting into consideration my opinion as an international student.” 

They suggested that for something this concerning, protesting outside of the university would’ve gotten more attention from the government. “Striking wouldn’t be my choice of action because I’m losing all that money that I’m fighting for at the end of the day,” they said. 

Vannina Maestracci, Concordia’s official spokesperson, gave the The Concordian the following statement when asked about the strike: 

“While we respect the freedom of students to peacefully protest and to express their views, we made clear before and during the strike that students who wanted to attend class should be able to do so.”

Maestracci showed her concerns about how this will affect the university. “We were saddened that the strike took place in our buildings, affecting the university, which has not made the decisions regarding tuition fees that were being protested but, instead, has clearly stated throughout the fall its disapproval of the tuition measures and has worked, and continues to work, hard to reverse them,” she said.

Despite the efforts, on Feb.2, the government announced that the tuition hike is still going forward. As the situation develops, the international student community in Concordia will be closely watching the impact of the strike and the ongoing discussions surrounding the laws proposed by Premier François Legault. The outcome will not only affect these students’ immediate academic futures, but it may also impact future immigrants arriving in Montreal in hopes of receiving better education. 

The next strike being planned by ASFA against the tuition hikes will be a five-day strike taking place from March 11 to 15.


The Salon du Livre de Montréal: a wonderful abode for book lovers

From Nov. 23 to Nov. 27 Montrealers had the privilege to enjoy books from the francophone world

As one entered the Salon du Livre, they were immediately greeted by the Agora, which served to host author interviews and book readings. People were given maps that displayed the names of the publishing houses around the immense space that is the Palais des Congrès.

Despite the venue’s cold appearance, the salon was able to add life to its walls, with colourful posters and shelves of publishers that extended across the broad space. 

The salon occupied the space with colourful tables, couches and plants to give it life, encouraging people to sit and read their new purchases.  

The morning of Sunday, Nov. 27 was buzzing with people, making it hard to move without being pushed, as patrons were wandering aimlessly into the vast world of literature. 

The salon had accessible prices and was free for visitors under 12, it also included spaces reserved for kids. It was clear they wanted to promote reading to a young audience.

On Saturday night, people were exhausted from Black Friday shopping, evident from visitors walking slowly, tired looking writers, and the staff seemed ready for their workday to end.

Authors were seated on odd pedestals in front of their respective publishing houses. When no one came to sign their work, their only distraction was a mere cup of water and their own books. 

The pedestals seemed in no way effective as very few people were having their books signed, unless the writer was someone already well-known. 

The Salon had organized a series of talks with authors.

Expert of Quebecois horror literature Patrick Sénécal gave a hilarious talk presenting his new book Résonances. On that Saturday night, he seemed exhausted, as he answered in a more relaxed cadence than his usual character. 

He discussed how most people think he must be mentally insane to write such disturbing novels, to which he responded “I’m just like everyone else.” 

These series of talks served to humanize authors as people, not idols. Novelist Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette echoed Sénécal’s words, talking about finishing a book: “Once it’s out it belongs to you [the readers].”

She discussed her two recent books, Femme forêt and Femmes fleuve, which distinguish themselves greatly from her previous autobiographical work. Both harbour metaphorical verses, and propose to the reader a storyline following nature’s cycle. 

She noted that these books were the first time her writing did not depict her life specifically: “It’s the first time that this is not about me.”

She discussed her recent film Chien Blanc, noting that film was an interesting avenue in itself, but her preferred medium was writing, and at least in the near future she would stick to that.

She confessed, among other things, the difficulties in finding Romain Gary’s hermit son in the Spanish countryside to obtain the rights to make the novel into a film. 

“Writing is a solitary voyage,” she noted, whereas film involves teamwork and the considerations of different people. 

Wendat journalist Geneviève Pettersen namely spoke about her new book La reine de rien, a sequel from her first novel La Déesse des mouches à feu as an adult. 

She said she wrote a sequel because everyone kept on asking her what had happened to Catherine, the main character, and in her mind, it was obvious that she simply continued living. 

This coming-of-age story, which takes place in Chicoutimi, explored the ease of falling into bad habits and wanting to revolt. It received immense acclaim upon its release in 2021. It was even made into a film directed by the aforementioned Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. 

Beyond the bookworm aspect of book fairs, the salon had a noticeable commercial aspect to it. The books were not affordable, averaging in the mid-$30 price range. The clear intent was consumerism. Though the principal theme was books, the available seating was not comfortable enough for visitors to be entirely absorbed by a book. Talks that revolved around authors were centered around buying the copy to then get it signed. Not a single person was seen leaving the Salon without a book in hand. 

Salons du Livres happen around the world, on a yearly basis.

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