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Concordia takes Quebec Attorney General to court over tuition hikes

Quebec government challenged over tuition hikes for out-of-province and international students.

On Feb. 23, Concordia applied for judicial review by the Superior Court of Quebec over tuition hikes for out-of-province and international students. The university feels it has “no choice but to pursue a just outcome through legal action,” according to a message by Concordia President Graham Carr. 

In the application, Concordia highlighted the main issues with the proposed tuition increases; they contradict the responsibilities of the Minister of Higher Education, they disregard the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by restricting mobility rights of Canadians, and they could worsen the Quebec university system’s pre-existing funding problems.

The application also lays out a clear timeline of events, including key communications between Minister Déry or subsequent representatives of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government and Concordia concerning tuition fee structure. 

Beginning in and around April 2023, the CAQ started to probe and question Quebec’s English-language universities about their out-of-province students. According to the application, Minister Déry said that “non-resident students at English-language universities were not staying in Québec, that the government’s funding policy on non-resident students gave an advantage to English-language universities.” (Lawsuit, 180)

Discussions like the one in April were followed up continuously throughout the year until the announcement of tuition hikes for out-of-province and international students to the universities on Oct. 10. This was just three days before they were formally announced to the public in a press conference held by Déry and the Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge.

Throughout months of discussions with Déry, the Québec government never provided data to back up their claims that out-of-province and international students contributed to the decline of French in Montreal.

Concordia’s lawsuit argues that the Québec government has disregarded many norms of practice, responsibilities and legally binding documents.

Déry only notified CCAFE that the government was seeking advice on the tuition fees for out-of-province and international students on Dec. 14, 2023. As the Minister of Higher Education, Déry has a responsibility to consult with the Advisory Committee on Financial Accessibility of Education (CCAFE) before implementing changes to tuition fees per Section 88 of the “Act Respecting the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.” English-language educational institutions are not represented in this committee.

CCAFE responded on Jan. 19, 2024, that there was a lack of data provided by the Minister, that tuition fees for out-of-province students in Quebec was already higher than in other provinces, that universities would take on the loss of revenue due to the new grant structure, and that the tuition structure would “create significant financial barriers for students.” (Lawsuit, 180)

The application also claims the decision will restrict the mobility rights of Canadians since the new tuition structure would contradict Section 6.(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that “every citizen of Canada […] has the right […] to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.” The Charter indicates that this includes discriminating against a person based on their province of present or previous residence. 

In the application, Concordia also brought up sections on equality rights as well as minority language rights as the new tuition would limit the freedoms of out-of-province students as well as disproportionately affect the English-language post-secondary institutions of Québec.

It remains to be seen if the CAQ will use the notwithstanding clause to shield the tuition increases from the scrutiny of the Charter. The CAQ has previously used this clause to defend Bill 21 as well as Bill 96 in the bill’s expansion of the investigative powers of the Office Québécois de la Langue Française (OQLF).

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Breaking: Concordia files lawsuit against the Government of Quebec

Concordia and McGill file lawsuits for the Quebec Government’s implementation of damaging tuition increases for out-of-province students.

Concordia University is taking on the Attorney General of Quebec in the Superior Court over the tuition increases for international and out-of-province students. 

On Feb. 23, Concordia University filed a lawsuit where it aims to “quash the decision of the Minister of Higher Education” to significantly raise tuition rates of students living outside Quebec, regulate tuition fees of international students and require francization of non-resident students

In the 47-page lawsuit, Concordia calls out Pascale Déry, the Minister of Higher Education of Quebec, for basing the “decision on stereotypes and false assumptions about the English-speaking community of Québec and its institutions.” 

The lawsuit also calls out the “underlying mobility rights of Canadians,” according to Michael N. Bergman, the lawyer for the Task Force on Linguistic Policy.

“All Canadians are equal. All Canadians have mobility rights, meaning all Canadians can travel without restriction,” Bergman said. 

Limiting mobility rights directly goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to the lawsuit, the tuition increase directly “engages the [Charter] values underlying equality rights, in particular, as they relate to discrimination based on language.”

Bergman believes that Concordia has “a very reasonable chance in succeeding in their lawsuit.” Since this directly contradicts the Charter, they have a strong case but the results of which remain to be seen.

As it currently stands, McGill University is asking for an immediate injunction, which is a court order to suspend the tuition increases. If the injunction is granted, the tuition increases will be lifted until further examination through the courts, Bergman said.

Along with Concordia, McGill also filed a lawsuit against the Quebec Government for their tuition increase for students living outside of Quebec. 

More to come on this developing story.

Corrections:

  • In a previous version of this article, in the second to last paragraph “As it currently stands, Concordia is asking for an immediate injunction, which is a court order to suspend the tuition increases,” we indicated that Concordia asked for an injunction. This is not correct. McGill is the university asking for an injunction. We acknowledge the mistake and apologize to our readers.
Categories
Music

 Rick Astley sues Yung Gravy

 Did Yung Gravy just rickroll himself into a lawsuit?

What is Yung Gravy up to this time? Is he dating a pornstar? Is he taking Addison Rae’s mother to the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards? Nope. Rick Astley is suing him. You heard me right, the ’80s singer is suing Gravy for his song “Betty (Get Money).”

Astley filed the lawsuit on Jan. 26. Yung Gravy  — who’s known formally as Matthew Raymond Hauri — and his team had procured the rights to record similar parts of the melody and lyrics for the core part of the song’s backing track. In music, this is known as “interpolation.”

After all, it’s not uncommon for rappers and hip-hop artists to sample other musicians’ work, right? Unfortunately for Gravy’s case, it happens to be more complicated than that. In “Betty (Get Money),” you can hear singer Nick Seeley (Popnick) impersonating Astley, singing “Get Money” in the chorus. That was the final straw that led to the lawsuit.
According to SkyNews, Astley says he wants “the profits of the song.” He also wants the  “millions of dollars in damages.” Apparently, Yung Gravy had gone overboard. He toed the line, stole Astley’s voice, and had Popnick impersonate him, instead of just using the melodic track. It’s too soon to know the fate of the Rochester, MN native rapper. What do you think — did he do it for the rickroll clout?

Graphic by Carleen Loney @shloneys

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“Justice for Joyce” protestors march against systemic racism

Thousands march through downtown Montreal, calling for more accountability from the government

 

Thousands of protestors gathered on Saturday to demand action against systemic racism in Quebec after an Atikamekw woman, Joyce Echaquan, died at Joliette Hospital where she was racially abused by staff.

Mask-wearing demonstrators packed Place Émilie-Gamelin with drums, Indigenous flags and “Justice for Joyce” signs. Many were on bicycles, others pushed baby strollers. Protestors shuffled toward the speakers, all the while attempting to maintain a two-metre distance from each other.

The multilingual demonstration began with a prayer for Joyce. Buffalo Hat Singers were followed with a drum-pounding performance. Chiefs, local politicians, and Indigenous activists took to the stage to denounce the denial of systemic racism in Quebec public institutions and to call for a criminal investigation into the case of Joyce Echaquan’s death.

Cheers and chants of “justice for Joyce” punctuated remarks.

“I have spent the last few days wondering, am I next?” said one Indigenous speaker, fighting back tears. “Who’s next? I’m tired of hearing about intentions. We don’t want intentions!”

Manon Massé, co-leader of Québec solidaire, urged Premier Legault to engage with First Nations communities more respectfully and to put into practice the 142 calls to action listed in the Jacques Viens report, which in 2019 concluded that Indigenous people face systemic discrimination when trying to access public services in Quebec.

On whether political parties are working together in the National Assembly to address the issue of systemic racism, Massé told The Concordian that “The CAQ and the PQ don’t recognize that there is systemic racism [in] Quebec, [in] our institutions,” but she insisted that she is willing to work with other parties to advance change.

Jessica Quijano, who works at the Iskweu project and the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal said that the Indigenous community needs its own health centre.

“First Nations people often don’t seek medical attention because of systemic racism.”

However, she saw positives in the protest turnout.

“I think it’s hopeful to have this many people, but I always say that protests are dress rehearsals for what’s really to come.”

Jennifer Maccarone, the Liberal Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for Westmount–Saint Louis, had strong words for Premier Legault.

“I think he’s completely disconnected from the community he represents.”

She accused the CAQ of doing little to address racism in the province and acting without transparency.

“Joyce deserved nothing less than proper health care and respect,” she told The Concordian.

“You have to change the way people think,” Gregory Kelley told The Concordian, the Liberal MNA for Jacques-Cartier. He called for Quebec’s educational curriculum “to have more Indigenous content so people understand better who the Indigenous peoples of Quebec are and what are the challenges they face.”

The demonstrators observed a moment of silence for Joyce, then marched from Émilie-Gamelin toward René-Lévesque Boulevard and stopped at the Quartier des Spectacles. One nurse and one orderly have been fired from the Joliette Hospital, and three investigations have been launched. A GoFundMe page has been created for the family, and the Echaquan family is filing a lawsuit against the hospital.

Photograph courtesy of Joe Bongiorno

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News

Lawsuit against Concordia for alleged owed salary and vacation pay.

Residence assistants claim Concordia University owes them a combined total of $60,249.17, according to a lawsuit filed against the school by The Commission des Normes de l’Équité de la Santé et de la Sécurité du travail on Nov. 18.

The Lawsuit filed with Montreal’s civil court claims that Concordia owes Matthew Conner, Alexi Laishley, Olivia Lemieux, Kathleen Tahara Ochoa Briggs and Monica Thom for salary, statutory holiday and annual vacation pay.

“Us, as the support staff, we’ve never actually had any problems like that,” Donna Fasciano, the president of the Concordia University Support Staff Union (CUSSU), told The Concordian.

Fasciano claimed she was unaware of any lawsuits regarding pay disputes being brought forward against Concordia. She said the CUSSU often receives calls from employees asking questions regarding what they are entitled to when it comes to their pay and vacation days, but never any complaints about them being owed anything.

The Concordian was not able to confirm with Concordia if these individuals are still employed with the university or what position they held, but according to Laishley’s and Thom’s LinkedIn profiles, they both worked as residence assistants from August 2018 to May 2019.

A residence assistant is a non-unionized position that full-time second and third year students can hold while living in residence, whose role the university’s website describes as to “facilitate the growth and development of the residence community and help each student achieve their academic, social, and personal goals.”

According to the job description, each residence assistant is required to work a minimum of two shifts per week. It implies working with their manager to organize and implement educational and leisure programming in the residences, assisting with the check-in and check-out of residents to and from the dormitories, and acting as a mediator and resource person to all residents, as well as other additional responsibilities.

They must be prepared to spend at least three of every four weekends and at least two evenings in residence outside of duty shifts as well as maintain an academic GPA of 2.50 or better.

As remuneration, the website indicates that the residence assistant’s rent fees are waived during the period of the contract, they receive an on-campus meal plan and will have documentation of this position on their co-curricular record.

In addition to the $60,249.17, in accordance with Section 114 of the Norme du Travail’s Act Respecting Labour Standards, the complainants are requesting an additional 20 per cent of the amount they claim is owed. It represents $12,049.83, which would be paid entirely to the Commission des Normes de l’Équité de la Santé et de la Sécurité du travail, as well as interest and court costs.

Concordia University spokesperson Vannina Maestracci declined our request for an interview stating that the school does not comment on judicial disputes, pending or threatened.

The university has 15 days from the time the lawsuit was filed to respond or a default judgment can be placed against them.

 

Graphic by Victoria Blair

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Concordia has strength in numbers

The Concordia Student Union and the Canadian Federation of Students are back at it again.

The CSU called a special meeting last Wednesday to address the ongoing lawsuit between it and the CFS, the nation’s largest student association that works at a federal level.

The meeting, with a brief introduction from former CSU President Lex Gill, was conducted in closed session to discuss the potential joining of the separate cases filed by the CSU and the university’s Graduate Students’ Association against the CFS.

Both student groups have been trying to leave the CFS unsuccessfully for years, resulting in a slew of accusations from the CFS that both the CSU and the GSA owe unpaid and mounting dues.

On Friday, Jan. 11, the GSA unanimously voted in favour of collaborating with the CSU pending the undergraduate association’s approval.

CSU President Schubert Laforest said the CFS has been notified of the motion.

“After a lengthy discussion where council weighed the pros and potential cons of joining the cases, council decided unanimously to join the cases,” said Laforest. “The CFS is aware of this but we haven’t gotten any response about it as of yet.”

This Wednesday, a motion will be brought before the courts to allow the merging of the two cases against the CFS so they can be tried at the same time.

In March 2010, the CSU held a referendum where an overwhelming percentage of students voted to leave the CFS. The association in turn claimed the process was illegitimate and barred the CSU from leaving. Similarly, when students voted for the departure of the GSA from the CFS in April 2010, the CFS refused to acknowledge the referendum.

Approximately a year later following failed negotiations, the CSU filed a lawsuit for the organization to officially recognize the results and allow them to leave.

In response, the CFS countered with their own lawsuit against the CSU in early 2012, claiming that the union that governs the undergraduate student body owed them close to $2 million in unpaid fees. Since 2010, the CFS has been claiming that the student association have an obligation to pay $1 million.

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