In Case You Missed It

Oct. 15, 2011 – Occupy Montreal movement begins

In coordination with the Occupy Canada movement and in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street in New York City, approximately 1,000 people showed up to Victoria Square for the first day of Occupy Montreal. Participants in the ‘general assembly’ then decided to rename Victoria Square as “Place du peuple.” Occupy Montreal lasted about a month before police forcibly vacated the square.

Nov. 10, 2011 – Massive downtown protest against tuition hikes

An estimated 30,000 students protested against the provincial government’s plan to raise tuition in the streets of downtown Montreal. Despite the downpour, a Concordia contingent left from Reggie’s terrace around 1 p.m. to meet up with other students at Parc Emilie-Gamelin. After marching through the downtown core, the movement gathered outside Premier Jean Charest’s office on McGill College. By the end of the protest, some students flocked to the James Administration building to take part in a growing confrontation. Police used tear gas and pepper spray to force protesters off McGill property. According to Montreal Police, four arrests were made that day.

February 7 – 12, 2012 – McGill students occupy James Administration building

A group of students occupied the office of Deputy Provost for Student Life and Learning, Morton Mendelson, in protest of the administration’s decision not to uphold a referendum that would continue funding the campus radio station and a social justice organization. Students requested that CKUT and QPIRG continue to receive funding and that Mendelson step down. Administration cut off access to power and plumbing, which eventually forced students out days later.

February 10, 2012 – Student representatives walk out on Board of Governors

Student governors Cameron Monagle, AJ West and Erik Chevrier quickly put an end to a meeting that had not even entered open session. The three students walked out in protest because they opposed a motion made in closed session that addressed whether or not cameras and recording equipment would be allowied during meetings. When they left, the meeting lost quorum and was therefore cancelled.

March 5, 2012 – Concordia University votes to go on strike

Concordia University became the first English post-secondary institution to join the student strike against the tuition increase. In a historic moment, undergraduate students voted in favour of a week-long general strike from March 15-22.

March 5, 2012 – Concordia Student Union execs disqualified

Then-executive candidates Schubert Laforest and Lucia Gallardo were disqualified from running for the Concordia Student Union by Chief Electoral Officer Ismail Holoubi. Holoubi claimed that Gallardo and Laforest were not registered students and thus not eligible to run.

March 9, 2012 – Concordia University is fined $2-million

Education Minister Line Beauchamp slapped Concordia University with a $2-million fine for handing out excessive severance packages and mismanaging funds. In a letter addressed to the administration, Beauchamp expressed her concern about senior administrators’ salaries and the turnover rate for those positions.

March 16, 2012 – Gallardo and Laforest reinstated

The judicial board of the CSU ruled that Gallardo and Laforest should be able to participate in the general election campaign.  Their affiliation presented evidence that they experienced trouble with their VISAs and were left temporarily unregistered.  Both candidates were reinstated.

March 22, 2012 – A sea of red to denounce the tuition fee increase

A massive demonstration of more than 200,000 students and their supporters took to the streets of downtown Montreal to protest against the tuition fee increase.  Concordia University cancelled class on both campuses that day for security reasons. It marked one of the largest protests in Canadian history and no arrests were made.

April 2, 2012 – Sit-in outside of Lowy’s office

When a Fine Arts Student Alliance general assembly failed to meet quorum, more than 70 students held a sit-in outside of President Frederick Lowy’s office on the 15th floor of the MB building. Students proceeded to demand another meeting so they could discuss concerns about the ongoing student strike. After an hour, Lowy emerged from his office to take part in the impromptu meeting which would be continued at a later date.

May 14, 2012 – Education Minister Line Beauchamp resigns

Following months of student unrest and protests against the tuition hike, Education Minister Line Beauchamp stepped down from her position and from politics entirely. Beauchamp’s resignation came after negotiations between the provincial government and student groups failed.  An hour later, Michelle Courchesne was appointed as the new education minister.

May 18, 2012 – Provincial government passes Bill 78

In an effort to put an end to the tuition crisis after 14 weeks of student unrest, the provincial government passed the controversial and historic Bill 78. The bill cracks down on the size and governance of demonstrations, imposes strict fines for individuals blocking access to classes in post-secondary institutions and ended the winter semester at CEGEPs and universities affected by the strike.

July 26, 2012 – Jun Lin’s funeral

A Concordia University student Jun Lin was remembered in a public funeral nearly two months after his brutal murder. Family and friends gathered at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery at 9 a.m. to mourn the loss of 33-year-old Lin. His ashes were buried in Montreal, where he had started to make a life for himself. The suspect was apprehended and his trial is ongoing.

August 1, 2012 – Alan Shepard takes office

Concordia University’s incumbent President Alan Shepard took office on Aug. 1 to commence his five-year mandate. Shepard was hired to replace Frederick Lowy who was appointed as interim President following the resignation of Judith Woodsworth in Dec. 2010.

Concordia Student Union Opinions

Editorial: You did good, CSU

The Concordia Student Union has taken a lot of heat recently, and rightly so. They failed to properly promote two general assemblies to vote on a strike and their recent elections were an utter disaster with a seriously low voter turnout.

Nonetheless, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. The CSU proved to be a fine leader last Thursday during the massive protest against tuition hikes, when over 200,000 people, many of them students, took to the streets to tell the Charest government to take their planned increases and shove it.

Early Thursday morning, hundreds crowded around the Hall building, where they designed protest signs and discussed their strategies for the day. By noon, over 500 students were heading down to the march’s main meeting point, being lead by CSU President Lex Gill and vice-president external Chad Walcott.

Considering the controversy that has surrounded the CSU in recent weeks and the criticism the executive has faced with regards to a lack of organization, it was pleasing to see the CSU hype up the crowds and lead the massive march for the better part of the three-hour event.

The fact that it was the CSU, the student union of an English Quebec university, playing such a pivotal role in the demonstration sent a strong message, one that said that anglophone students in this province — at least a large part of them — have no intention of being left out of this fierce battle against tuition hikes. While francophone student associations continue to receive most of the praise for their efforts in mobilizing students and keeping the movement alive, the CSU showed us last Thursday that anglophone post-secondary institutions can be just as feisty in this fight with the Charest Liberals.

The demonstration as a whole was a huge success. While it may not have succeeded in swaying the government’s position on tuition, it proved how serious students and their supporters are when it comes to accessible education. The fact that so many people poured into the streets to take part in one of the largest demonstrations in Quebec’s history is very telling of the public mood in this province.

Education Minister Line Beauchamp may do her best to sleep at night by telling herself that the march was simply comprised of “the usual players,” but what the minister has failed to realize — among other things — is that it wasn’t just students or big unions out in the streets on March 22; there were countless parents, grandparents and students from other provinces (Ontario, notably) marching that day as well.

Solidarity between people of different generations and of different backgrounds has not been this evident in Quebec for many years. So it’s important to not let the power of solidarity diminish. The CSU may have taken another hit this past Monday with its failed general assembly — only about 300 students showed up — but this in no way means that the student movement at Concordia is slowly fading away.

The CSU must harness the frustration and anger Concordia students are expressing with regards to tuition increases and the administration’s mismanagement of public funds. Mobilizing students on a large scale is still very much a possibility. The CSU proved to be a powerful leader last Thursday; there’s no reason to believe they can’t do it again.


March 22 photo gallery

Check out these photos from the March 22 march taken by The Concordian’s Sophia Loffreda.

And if you haven’t already, you can read this story on the march and have a look at how everything went down by looking at the live blog here.

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Hundreds of thousands flood the streets

Check out a photo slide show from the march here.

Over 200,000 people took to the streets March 22 to protest tuition increases, many of whom were students from universities across Quebec.

The Concordia delegation, which led the way for the better part of the three-hour event, congregated near the Hall building around 12 p.m. Over 500 students then began to proceed down Ste-Catherine Street lead by Concordia Student Union VP external Chad Walcott, and President Lex Gill.

The scene at Berri and Ontario at Thursday’s tuition hike protest where an estimated 200,000 people took to Montreal’s streets.

The march began officially at Canada Place, where buses full of students from outside the city started arriving earlier in the day. The approximate length of the route was 5 km, with protesters marching down both Sherbrooke and Ste-Catherine Streets to their ultimate destination, Jacques-Cartier Place in the Old Port.

Protesters held signs denouncing Premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government, the leadership of Education Minister Line Beauchamp, and the idea that accessible education is not a priority.

The historic nature of the march had some people in the Twittersphere saying that a “Printemps erable” (Maple Spring) — clearly a play on Arab Spring — had arrived in Quebec.

Despite the massive turnout, the protest was extremely peaceful and the SPVM reported no major incidents during or after the march. Police presence was very light in comparison with other demonstrations that have taken place over the past few weeks.

“This sends an incredibly strong message to the government,” said Gill of the protest. “If anything else, the Liberal party has lost 200,000 voters for life.”

She went on to say that the march was the “largest mass demonstration over a public issue […] in years. It’s twice what they had in 2005,” she said of the last major student strike in Quebec.

The participation far exceeded the predictions made earlier in the day, proving that there is more public support for the student movement than estimated. Despite the success of the demonstration, Gill explained that protesters still have much work to do.

“The fight is not over,” she said. “There will be massive actions in the coming weeks until the government backs down.”

Walcott agreed with her saying that “it’s not a done deal,” and student groups need to “keep the pressure on. He said that the organizers’ willingness to communicate with the SPVM really made a significant difference in the tone of the day’s activities.

Participants in the March 22 demonstration represented every age demographic, from toddlers with their parents to cheering grandparents. Grade 10 student Terra Leger-Goodes of Paul-Gerin-Lajoie School in Outremont was at the march with a large group of students from her class.

“We heard that the cost of going to university is going up by a large amount, so we’re here to protest that. Society can only advance if people can go to school and gain knowledge,” she said, mentioning that by the time she enters university four to five years from now, the government’s tuition hikes will have almost reached their maximum. The Charest Liberals are planning to increase tuition by $325 a year between 2012 and 2017.

For grandmother Danielle Genereux, accessible education is an issue that affects everyone in Quebec, and should be at the top of the government’s priority list.

“Major investments in education should be an absolute priority. There should be no further discussion on that,” said Genereux, a grandmother of seven. “[The government] says opposition against tuition increases is not representative of the whole population. But today, they will see that it is representative.”

At the end of the march, Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarite syndicale etudiante spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told students to return to their schools and to keep the student movement going. By 6 p.m., most of the protesters had dispersed, crowding into the nearest metro stations.

CLASSE, one of the main organizers of the day’s march, is planning a series of protests next week in an effort to cause an “economic disturbance” in the city, which they say will only end when the government retracts its decision to up tuition. The first “manif-action” takes place Monday, March 26 at 11 a.m. at Henri-Julien Park.

Concordia’s next general assembly where students will vote whether or not to remain on strike is scheduled for Monday, March 26 at 2 p.m. on the Reggie’s terrace. The university has already made clear that as of Monday, students who continue to block access to classrooms or buildings will face charges.

Opposition parties join students

Earlier in the morning, a press conference was held at Palais des Congres by the Federation etudiante universitaire du Quebec and the Federation etudiante collegiale du Quebec, and included representatives from groups such as the Centrale des syndicats du Quebec and the Confederation des syndicats nationaux, as well as opposition political parties, the Parti Quebecois, Quebec Solidaire and Option Nationale.

At the conference, PQ leader Pauline Marois reiterated that a PQ-elected government would not proceed with the tuition hikes, and would call for a provincial summit on post-secondary education. “The Charest government must stop considering students as enemies of the state,” she said.

QS spokesperson Francoise David, for her part, emphasized that the government could increase taxes on larger corporations in order to bring in more revenue, rather than asking for more money from students.

After the conference, PQ post-secondary education critic Marie Malavoy spoke to The Concordian about the issue of mismanagement of public funds in Quebec universities that has often been brought up in the debate on tuition increases.

Speaking on Education Minister Line Beauchamp’s recent decision to impose a $2 million fine on Concordia for handing out severance packages totalling $3.1 million, Malavoy said “there is no reason to have targeted one university. We must look at the salaries, the benefits and the severance packages at all universities. It’s foolish to think it’s just Concordia,” she said.

Malavoy mentioned that an idea has been floating among PQ ranks to institute a “commission” to look more closely at the management of public funds in Quebec universities.

Reaction from the government to the March 22 protest became more severe as the days passed. On the morning of March 22, Charest told reporters at the National Assembly in Quebec City that his government would “never stop listening to students.”

By Friday, his education minister was telling the Canadian Press that students needed to get back to class, or else they would face consequences. Line Beauchamp reiterated that the government would not back down from its decision, and said that should students continue to boycott classes, they risk having their semesters extended or classes scheduled at night. Concordia already indicated in a previous statement that it has no intention of prolonging the winter term.


Police officers on horses were at the tail end of the march.



March 22 live blog recap

[View the story “The Concordian at March 22” on Storify]

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