Quebec’s struggle to embrace bilingualism

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Quebec, for many years, has been a melting pot of various cultures, languages and customs. There was even a time when Francophones were justifiably worried they would lose their language and culture as time went on.

However, Quebec has instead grown to accept herself as a true bilingual state. Although still aware of her need to protect the French culture, she accepts her English side as well.

And yet, there are still political parties set on making language an issue once again.

Apart from tuition fees and ensuing riots, recent news in Quebec revolves around the notorious “pastagate” and the effects Bill 14 will have on our society if the PQ government successfully passes it through the National Assembly.

Colin Standish is a third-year law student at Université de Laval. He is president and Editor-in-chief of the Revue Juridique des étudiants et étudiantes de l’Université de Laval. Last week, Standish was also on the popular Quebec television show Tout le monde en parle to speak out against this bill.

‘‘Bill 14 is an amendment to the Charter of the French Language. But the government is not actually protecting French, it’s taking away the rights of other groups,’’ said Standish to The Concordian.

For example, one of the proposed laws is to strip the bilingual status of those Quebec municipalities and boroughs that are composed of 50 per cent or less Anglophones.

The mayors of these municipalities decided they would not go down without a fight. Last week, Pierrefonds-Roxboro got the majority of the Union of Quebec Municipalities to help defend its bid to remain bilingual. Even Francophone mayors supported the decision.

Longueuil is considered a PQ stronghold but it too is backing Pierrefonds-Roxboro. It is also actively supporting its own borough, Greenfield Park, in its quest to remain bilingual.

Ironically enough, the bill also has legislation that would hinder Francophones.

The bill proposes to base the CEGEP application process on the language spoken by the students’ parents. Anglophone CEGEPS will have to accept all Anglophones applying before considering Francophone applications.

‘‘The application process will not be on academic merit anymore and so this will reduce the quality of education in Quebec,’’ said Standish.

According to him, another highly contentious aspect of the bill is the right it will give to the Office Québécois de la langue française to search and seize ‘‘anything from your business without warning’’ if they find it objectionable.

After “pastagate” blew up in the OQLF’s face, other businesses came forward to recount their run-ins with them. The general idea was that even ‘‘on/off’’ labels for light switches needed to be changed to French. Does that mean the proposed seizures would include anything remotely English?

Twitter erupted with both English and French speaking Quebecers mocking the OQLF over the pasta debacle.

This unity of voices alone shows that there is solidarity between Francophones and Anglophones in Quebec, despite what seems to be an effort by the PQ government to create new divisions between them.

The PQ is wrong in thinking that French will die off in the future if we don’t take strong action today and expand Bill 101. According to Statistics Canada, new immigrants seem to be eagerly adopting French as their main language in 2011. It is actually their use of English that is waning.

The PQ government is trying to reinforce their base of Francophones for the coming elections, but Bill 14 is not achieving its intended objective. Rather, it will only appeal to those few xenophobic cells that still persist in a largely accepting Quebec.

Francophones in general will not rally behind them as they once would. Instead, they’re rallying behind the Anglophones and fighting back.


An ideological divide

Photo by Catlin Spencer

The highly anticipated summit on higher education organized by the provincial government began Monday morning, where Premier Pauline Marois clarified that the two-day conference would “establish an open dialogue” on post-secondary learning but would likely not reach a solution.

Following a whirlwind provincial election, the Parti Québécois announced the summit in September in an effort to appease all sides in the student movement crisis that rocked Quebec for months last spring. The minority provincial government cancelled the tuition fee increase of $325 per year over five years, and later $245 over seven years, imposed by the Charest Liberals upon taking office, effectively freezing tuition for the time being.

The conference was initially pegged to resolve the issues at the core of an ideological impasse over higher education.

Heavily guarded by the Montreal police, guests had to pass through three checkpoints before entering Arsenal gallery on William St. in Griffintown.

Day one

During the first day, Minister of Higher Education Pierre Duchesne offered three proposals in relation to post-secondary education: create a provincial council to oversee universities, a law that would provide a framework for universities and a plan to hold institutions accountable for financing and budgeting.

In a meeting that lasted over 12 hours, multiple issues were discussed: the development of post-secondary funding, research, quality of education and accessibility.

While various concerns were voiced by participants, the most contentious issue of the day was the issue of tuition.

The PQ announced later in the evening that they plan to index university tuition at approximately three per cent annually, meaning that tuition will rise by $70 per year leaving student representatives feeling deceived.

Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, said that indexation would “punish” students and send the wrong message. “I’m telling you there will be an impact,” said Desjardins.

However, Duchesne said that the province can simply no longer afford the same rates and that a freeze would force Quebec into a crisis.

Lowering the expectations

The summit has been the subject of backlash the last few weeks, with university rectors only receiving invitations 10 days before the start of the summit. Principal Heather Munroe-Blum of McGill University blasted the provincial government, citing disorganization and poor planning before calling the conference “a joke.”

Concordia University is waiting on the results of the provincial conference to know when the additional funding promised by the PQ is coming — something that was promised to the university in the wake of the tuition freeze.

Protests throughout the day

Peaceful protests marked the first day of the summit, with a small contingent gathering outside Arsenal gallery in the early morning during guest registration. Approximately 30 protesters passed through the streets of Griffintown calmly without ever accessing the highly guarded building.

Similarly, a gathering of 20 demonstrators including professors, students and civilians congregated on Notre-Dame St. to reiterate their position on accessible education. The protesters did not mobilize, choosing instead to read poetry and sing in support of students in front of the building.

In the afternoon more than 1,000 protesters marched through the streets of downtown Montreal, leaving from Cabot Square. The protest was promoted by the Association pour une solidarité syndicate étudiante, the student association that backed out of the conference since free education would not be part of the discussion.

“We feel sort of betrayed by the Parti Québécois,” said Concordia University student Serge Del Grosso. “They say they support the student movement and are against the hikes and then they say they will index it.”

Del Grosso went on to say that those present didn’t want tuition to rise and genuinely believe free education is a possibility.

Protesters headed south before arriving at the summit, where police officers from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal and provincial police guarded the building. There was no intervention before demonstrators resumed their march east toward the downtown core.

The protest, though declared as illegal from the start, was largely peaceful. The SPVM reported two arrests. Police claimed that projectiles were launched and flags from some downtown hotels were removed by student protesters.

By 6:30 p.m. protesters had made it to Ste-Catherine St. and McGill College St. but by 7 p.m. most of the protesters left after tear gas was deployed. Several demonstrators met at Parc Émilie-Gamelin heading east but dispersed close to Beaudry Metro station.


Earlier Monday, several buildings were vandalized with red paint including the offices of Duchesne and of former student leader Léo Bureau-Blouin. The Ministry of Education building located on Fullum St. was also covered in red paint.

Vandals wrote in white outside the offices of the minister responsible for Montreal, Jean-François Lisée, and several windows were also broken.

No arrests have been made in relation to those incidents.

With files from Robin Della Corte and Matthew Guité.


A fresh side of politics with your sweet 16

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has been inspired by the decision of First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond to lower the voting age to 16-years-old for the next Scottish referendum in 2014.

Although it was not a part of the party’s platform during the 2012 election, Marois and the Parti Québécois have indicated that they are in favour of following suit.

The only reason I believe Marois is not completely against lowering the voting age to 16 is for one particular reason; she is trying to get the youth’s vote. Marois seems to have many tricks up her sleeve and trying to change the voting age in order to benefit her own party in the next election is one of them.

There is no issue with the voting age, so why change it? At 16 years of age, most teenagers have definitely not acquired enough knowledge to decide what is best for our province. Not every 16-year-old is uneducated and ignorant in regards to Quebec politics, or politics in general, but a strong majority of this demographic will not take these privileges as seriously as they should be taken.

To me, simply possessing some form of driving privileges at the age of 16, especially in Quebec, is too young. A significant amount of accidents occur because of teenagers and young adults. Statistics Canada reports “about 80% of speeders involved in a fatal crash were under the age of 45, and half of those speeders were aged 16-24 years.”

Last year, Argentina lowered the voting age from 18 to 16. and they are not alone Other places in the world like Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua currently have the voting age at 16. East Timor, Indonesia, North Korea, Seychelles and Sudan give the right to vote at the age of 17.

Marois had planned on discussing the voting age with Alex Salmond in Edinburgh, however, in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Marois stated that “Scotland is different. Quebec is different.”

If Marois realizes that Scotland and Quebec are so different, why is she all of a sudden so adamant about having the voting age lowered? It is very hard to take a law or a strategy that is used in one country, apply it elsewhere and hope for the same results.

Marois told The Toronto Star that “The Parti Québécois wants to change politics,” but the thing she doesn’t understand is that change is not needed in this case.

Marois might also be targeting teenagers for their support because many don’t have an extensive background knowledge of Quebec politics aside from what they are taught in class, which can be biased. Another factor is the traditional sovereignty movement, which seems to be growing stronger with young people.

If we are going to give 16-year-olds the privileges of an adult, it needs to be very carefully thought out, and other rules that currently apply to 18-year-olds need to be restructured as well. Come on, Pauline. Why the hassle, if not for your own personal interests? Frankly, I see it as an enormous waste of time and money and a misguided attempt to win over young voters. If 18 is good enough for the rest of Canada, it’s good enough for us.


Concordia digs into deficit

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Concordia announced Jan. 23 that it will enter into a deficit of up to $7.5 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year; one of the biggest deficits declared in the university’s history.

After the province announced a $124-million slash to university funding across Quebec in December, Concordia administrators were scrambling to find a way to end the winter semester as planned with a loss of $13.2 million.

Concordia President Alan Shepard explained that the cut accounts for approximately five per cent of Concordia’s operating budget and that the interest rate on the deficit will be a standard 2.5 per cent. Shepard went on to say that since provincial funding is dispensed incrementally throughout the school year in the form of an operating grant, Concordia will never see the $13.2 million it had been banking on.

Board of Governors Chair Norman Hébert stated in an interview that “we don’t have a history of running deficits,” and that “both the financial committee and the Board took this extremely seriously.”

University spokesperson Chris Mota confirmed that prior to the government cuts, “this would have been the third year with absolutely no deficit.”

Mota also explained that deficits in the past usually ran between $20,000 to $30,000 and were “not anywhere near what we’re dealing with now.”

As Shepard explained, deficits are a “short-term solution,” and not something the university is eager to enter into. He went on to emphasize that his priority moving forward would be to avoid making any changes which would negatively affect academics, research and student financial aid.

Concordia’s budget has been revised four times since the beginning of the academic year. The university had originally planned for a $600,000 surplus in an earlier draft of the budget, but now the money will go towards covering the $13.2-million loss. The university will also be cutting costs by closing positions which are currently vacant and have been vacant for some time.

Looking to the future, Shepard said that it is still unclear whether or not this government cut will be a one-time occurrence and that “all eyes are on the [education] summit” which is set for Feb. 25 and 26.

Shepard also explained that Concordia will likely not be alone in declaring a deficit.

“It will surprise me if, in the final quarter of the year, anybody has five per cent of the money sitting around and they can just absorb it no problem. We run closer to the bone than that,” he said.

When Quebec Premier Pauline Marois cancelled the tuition hike imposed by the former Liberal government in the fall, universities were promised additional funding to make up for the loss in revenue. As of yet, Concordia hasn’t received confirmation about the exact amount or when that money will be transferred.


Searching for a solution on education

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

One of the most anticipated promises from the Parti Québécois, the provincial summit on education, will be held next month to discuss future plans for Quebec’s governance and management for post-secondary education funds.

As a part of her agenda, Premier Pauline Marois abolished the proposed tuition fee increase of $1,778 over the next seven years imposed by the previous provincial government led by former Premier Jean Charest. Near the end of last year, Marois stated that it was time for discussion and an open debate on the subject of education in the province. The conference, to be held on Feb. 25 and 26, will not only examine the dispute on tuition, but other aspects of higher education and identify the main goals of the universities in Quebec. It will take into account the voices of university administrations, students and taxpayers in the province.

The provincial government has been accepting comments and questions electronically, through a website and a Facebook page created for the summit. Denis Comeau, a real-estate agent, says he remains skeptical on the contribution of opinions from taxpayers like himself despite the outreach from the PQ.

“The system is only as good as the people who use it and maintain it,” said Comeau.

He explained that when it comes down to the summit itself, a pressing issue is the quality of university education and some schools are “suffering” from being underfunded.

Due to Marois’ freeze on tuition, universities are short $32 million. In December, the provincial government slashed universities’ budgets by $124 million, with Concordia suffering a $13.2 million loss.

In an interview with The Concordian, University President Alan Shepard said that the best scenario which can come from the summit next month is having “clarity of funding, support for students, research funding, [and] renewed and refreshed commitment to the central role of universities in our society.”

Marois acknowledged that many will push for tuition increase, others for indexations and the rest for free tuition — a subject that many Quebec residents remain divided on.

“I do believe that they should not raise the tuition more, in fact, they should lower the tuition,” said TD Canada Trust financial sales representative Vita Carrara. “It is already very difficult for young adults to be able to afford today’s living expenses and have to pay for their own education.”

Karyna Bourgault, a dog groomer, said she believes that the relevance of the curriculum taught in the post-secondary environment should be reviewed. She feels that students shouldn’t have to pay more tuition because “accessible education will allow more opportunities.”

Members of the Liberal Party of Quebec, the official opposition of the PQ, believe the PQ is going into the summit with their minds already made up on the issue of tuition. If the freeze continues, some Liberals argue it will put Quebec universities in an $80 million shortfall.

“Students should pay more tuition, eventually. You can’t keep something like that frozen. I don’t agree with having to pay more, but yet, just like opus passes, people will be forced to pay more,” said Joe De Cicco, a customer service representative at Indigo Books and Music.“I don’t see any other way around it.”


Summing up the highlights 2012

The year 2012 is coming to a close my dear friends, and what a year it’s been. From American politics to Montreal soccer, we’ve summed up some of the most interesting events of the past year here.

Image via Flickr.

Robin Della Corte
Assistant news editor

In a province that is so often identified by it’s language issues, having an English mayor elected in office is a very symbolic moment for many people around the Montreal area.

Michael Applebaum’s election not only shows diversity, but a change in the right direction. After Pauline’s Marois’ election, I was terrified to live in a province where language mattered more than economic and social issues and where putting money towards ‘language police’ was a priority. After Applebaum’s victory against a French-speaking candidate I felt as if, politically and socially, things had changed slightly. Applebaum, being both English and Jewish, was elected, and it seemed as though most of the people in power didn’t care so much as to what language he spoke, but actually what he was going to do to improve our city and have the job done right.

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Stephanie La Leggia
Life editor

Image via Flickr.

Even with all the warnings and evacuation calls, Hurricane Sandy came as kind of a shock to me. Many underestimated its power and potential level of deconstruction, destroying homes and diminishing people’s lives and belongings to a suitcase.

Although I may live in Montreal, I’m a New Yorker at heart, travelling down at least three times year. With family and friends to worry about, I constantly checked CNN for updates. Although the video footages and article were quite alarming, it wasn’t until I saw photos of the aftermath that the horror of it really hit me; photos of people line-up to get their fill of gas, giant trees in the middle of the street, the diminished Jersey shore boardwalk, and people’s belonging scattered about like they were insignificant pieces of junk.

While some simply lost power in their skyscraper apartment building, others were not so lucky. When people think of New York, they narrow their focus to Manhattan, forgetting about the other burrows that were so badly hit, like Staten Island. Not to mention the damages the hurricane caused in Haiti. The photos of the aftermath and the personal stories of those without a home and insurance really put things in perspective for me. While my biggest concern may have been an assignment due by the end of the week, these survivors had to worry about basic needs like heating and food, needs that we take for granted on a daily basis.

You ask me what affected me most this year as 2012 comes to an end, it’s Hurricane Sandy, a hurricane so powerful it stood up against the Big Apple.

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Image via Flickr.

Kevin Duarte
Sports editor

The event that affected me the most in 2012 was the Montreal Impact’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer. To start, I am a diehard football fan… the real one, played with a round ball on the floor. Football, or to make it less confusing, soccer, is an integral part of my life. Right up there with breathing and eating, I’d say. The Impact expansion into the MLS finally gave me a chance to watch some decent soccer in my hometown. Prior to this year, Montreal was playing in the second tier of North American Soccer, a league that never really meant much at all. This past year, they just finished their first season in North America’s top flight. Fans got a chance to see some world-class players visit Saputo Stadium. More importantly for me, someone who studies the game as a coach, it was the higher quality of the sport that I enjoyed the most.

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Image via Flickr.

Casandra De Masi
Staff writer

Thousands watched, as did I, as Pauline Marois gave her acceptance speech in September. She had just become the first female premier of Quebec, and in the same night lived through an alleged assassination attempt. It all happened so quickly and it almost overshadowed the election itself. Throughout the election campaign, the wedge between the Francophone and the Anglophone community became larger and sharper. There were arguments and all-around ignorant behavior from both sides. This was the icing on the spoiled cake. As someone who lives and works in a French community, but was raised in a primarily English household, it just puzzled me as to why so much emphasis was being put on language, with so many other issues plaguing our province.

As horrible as the shooter’s actions were, especially because he killed an innocent man, he led people to a realization. People realized that, ‘Hey, maybe we should band together and focus on things that affect all of us, no matter what language we speak.’

That week, people came together, condemning this man’s actions. Just to see people agreeing that we should learn to coexist, that this silly war needs to end, was refreshing. It was hopeful. It didn’t last long, but knowing it is possible is what counts.

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Image via Flickr.

Paula Rivas
Managing editor

An event that kept me on the edge of my seat, as odd as it may sound to many people my age, was Obama’s victory in the American elections. The buildup from the presidential debates left my head spinning and I was looking forward to the elections like a child waiting for Christmas Eve.

The day of this historic event, I turned off my phone, avoided plans with any of my friends, and watched the CNN coverage like a hawk while Wolf Blitzer and other A-team reporters announced the advancement of the polls. My heart jumped with excitement as the state I spent 10 years of my life in, Maryland, turned blue in support for Obama. The blue wave that followed as the hours passed made me swell with pride to again see a glimpse of the United States that I love — not the ugly, homophobic and closed-minded side, but the side that many Canadians unfortunately don’t get to see. I’m talking about a United States that stands up to defend women’s rights when archaic restrictions were being suggested to govern women’s bodies and also to defend Hispanics when immigration laws were threatening to throw out hard-working citizens.

My own family was once living illegally as Hispanics in the States and we felt the harsh reality of being treated like second-class citizens. But most of all, to defend an America devoted to the idea that coming together as one is stronger than the idea that every man is out there for themselves. Thanks Obama, you made my year.


Commonwealth tradition with a Quebec spin

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

Premier Pauline Marois made headlines when she gave her inaugural speech at the National Assembly two weeks ago, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Many veterans and citizens across Canada were offended when they realized the poppy she was wearing in honour of Remembrance Day had a fleur-de-lis, a symbol of Quebec’s cultural and political identity, over it.

After the incident, Marois’ director of communications, Shirley Bishop, told the Globe and Mail that Marois’ “objective was not to create a controversy.”

If her objective was not to create controversy, then what was it? To promote Quebec’s national identity on a holiday that celebrates Canada’s triumphs in past wars? To solely support Quebec’s veterans in the war?

Marois proved to be incredibly close-minded in the past few months, and that’s made her look ignorant and disrespectful.

Bishop continues to tell the Globe and Mail that “Marois has a lot of respect for veterans and a lot of respect for all the people who’ve lost their lives for their homeland. The fact of putting a fleur-de-lis was not at all, not at all, a political act … She’ll continue to wear the poppy but, given the controversy, she will not put the fleur-de-lis.”

I believe Marois knew very well that putting adding the fleur-de-lis pin was a political act. I feel this shows Quebec, and the rest of Canada, that she supports the Quebec soldiers in the war and perhaps doesn’t take any consideration for all the other Canadians soldiers who lost their lives as well.

Margot Arsenault, the Royal Canadian Legion’s provincial president, also believes that it was a political act and told the Globe and Mail that “[the veterans] fought for Canada, not just Quebec.”

Arsenault stated that she received 15 calls and about a dozen emails that day from veterans (even Quebec veterans) who claimed the act was unacceptable. The Legion states on their website that the poppy is not to be modified or altered in any way.

Remembrance Day is the day Canada remembers all the veterans who fought for freedom. To put any political symbol within the poppy automatically portrays you as supporting a single portion rather than the whole. In Marois’ case, having the Quebec symbol placed over this Canadian symbol clearly shows that Marois prefers one over the other.

For Marois’ director of communications to actually state that she didn’t want to create controversy is very ironic because Marois has been stirring up controversy ever since she was elected.

I’m extremely fed up with Marois’ acts. It’s embarrassing to be a part of a province with a premier who doesn’t recognize that we live in Canada. Furthermore, on a holiday that means so much to most Canadians, trying to display her political views through a symbol that symbolizes unity of Canada is extremely frustrating.

Marois would have been hard-pressed to keep wearing the fleur-de-lis, and I give her credit for taking it off just in time. Maybe this once, she can respect a Canadian tradition without making it strictly Quebec related.


Anglophone universities prepare for education summit

Students of anglophone universities hope to voice their concerns at the upcoming education summit put forth by the provincial government to investigate university governance and management of post-secondary funds.

As part of her mandate, newly elected Premier Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois abolished the proposed tuition fee increase of $1,778 over the next seven years set by the previous Charest government, and promised a conference to address the concerns of post-secondary students.

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations of Concordia University set precedent in late September by approving a motion that mandated all member associations to consult students on the future of university education in preparation for the summit.

ASFA VP academic-Loyola, Eric Moses, told The Concordian that ASFA is in the process of forming a sub-committee that will examine all details surrounding the consultation of MAs.

“We [ASFA] are excited and in high gear with plans to facilitate our member associations’ process,” said Moses.
Following the consultation of its member associations, ASFA intends on bringing the concerns of their students to the table before the provincial government.

The structure of the summit and the date on which it will be held have yet to be confirmed by the PQ government but the Concordia Student Union’s VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon explained that the CSU, along with the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, is lobbying for an open process whereas any student group who desires to, can show up and argue their position.

“This [education summit] is important because we have a government that has shown interest in the satisfaction of the Quebec student body; it would be a disservice to students given our responsibility as representatives to skip that opportunity to provoke more positive change for our student body,” said Lauzon.

Lauzon explained that if he represents Concordia at the summit, he will argue on behalf of undergraduate students from both inside and outside of the province.

“What makes Concordia special is that it is very multicultural, there are a lot of international and out-of-province students,” said Lauzon. “My goal is to push for their interests because I feel if we don’t do that sort of lobbying then it will not be done.”

The Fine Arts Student Alliance of Concordia attempted to have a special general meeting to discuss students’ concerns Thursday but was unable to reach quorum. FASA councillor Erika Couto said that a second special general meeting will likely take place in November.

“We’re looking towards a general assembly, in which we’ll discuss specifically concerns we’re worried about as fine arts students,” said Couto. “A lot of students are concerned because Marois said she’d be cancelling the hike for this year but there are no guarantees about anything going forward.”

Couto sees the proposed summit as a positive development considering the events that took place in the last year surrounding the Charest government’s proposed increase of tuition fees. According to Couto, a consultation between the government and students is a step in the right direction.

“It is good step into educational reform in Quebec. Who better to know what students need and what it’s like to be a student than students.”

According to VP external affairs of the Student Society of McGill University Robin Reid-Fraser, SSMU is hoping to work with the Post-Graduate Student Society on a possible collaborative effort across campuses to gather students’ perspectives on university governance, tuition and the role of universities in society amongst other issues.


Tuition fee increase officially repealed

MONTREAL (CUP) – The Parti Québécois’ cabinet meeting last week was the first time Pauline Marois executed her actions as premier of the province, spelling out the end of solidarity within the student movement and heralding a new structure of government-student relations.

Marois announced the abolition of both the tuition hike as well as the controversial Law 12, save a few provisions largely in connection to the scheduling of the disrupted winter semester.

She also announced her cabinet, making public a new ministry – the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology – which will be led by Pierre Duchesne.

Marois’ announcements mark the fulfillment, at least verbally, of some of her campaign promises made by herself and other PQ candidates leading up to the Sept. 4 election.

Division at the base

Despite claiming the seven-month long student strike victory, the abolition of the hike signals the parting of ways for the student associations Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, and the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, which had collaborated, despite a historically tense relationship.

All three representative bodies publicly claimed a tuition freeze as the goal fueling the strike, however, for CLASSE, the goal represented a compromise on their members’ part – a compromise they are no longer willing to make.

“We had adopted a negotiating stance during the strike for a freeze on the 2007 basis – it was seen as a compromise to mobilize more easily and to perhaps win more easily,” explained Jérémie Bédard-Wien, an executive of CLASSE, addressing students at McGill before Marois abolished tuition.

He said that the end of the strike permits CLASSE to focus on some of its own major political projects like their campaign for free education, one of the core objectives for CLASSE and its larger supporting organization, Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante.

Bédard-Wien said that for the Sept. 22 demonstration – a routine of protest held on the 22nd day of each month – the theme was to support free education. For the student federations, however, FEUQ President Martine Desjardins said that the association would not be participating in the Sept. 22 demonstration as FEUQ supports the objective of a tuition freeze, not free education.

“There’s no tuition fee hike, there’s no Law 12 and, so we think, now we have a minister who’s more open to discussion – we need to take this path,” she continued. “We won yesterday.”

Though CLASSE has also publicly deemed the student strike a victory, Bédard-Wien explained that the choice was made in order to emphasize the seven months of mobilization on the part of students.

“We want to make clear that now if the PQ cancels the tuition fee hike and cancels Law 12 it’s because we have risen and we have put intense political pressure on these political parties and they are afraid of us,” he said.

According to him, CLASSE takes a different approach to relations with the newly-elected PQ government than the student federations’ collaborative approach.

“The PQ has a long history of making promises that they don’t keep and are certainly no friends of any progressive social struggle,” he explained. He said that CLASSE is on alert for the tuition hike to return in the coming weeks and months.

A ministry devoted to higher education
First-time MNA Duchesne, a former Radio-Canada journalist and journalism professor at Université Laval, will be the first minister for the newly created Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology.

Staff within the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sport said they have yet to receive directives from the PQ as to how responsibilities will be divided between it and the new ministry.

The veteran PQ MNA Marie Malavoy will be the new Minister of Education, Leisure and Sport, a position formerly held by Liberal MNA Line Beauchamp, who resigned in the midst of the student strike before Michelle Courchesne was appointed to take her place.

According to Desjardins, Malavoy will not be involved in settling outstanding issues related to the student strike or the organization of the upcoming summit on higher education, which the premier has committed to organizing. Desjardins said the summit is likely to occur in February or March 2013.

Impact on students

Though now abolished, the tuition increase was already billed to students attending Quebec universities.

Circumstances vary depending on the institution: at the Université de Montréal tuition billing was delayed so no students will need reimbursement. At the Université du Québec à Montréal, the period to pay tuition ranges from mid-July to Nov. 2 so the number of students affected is undetermined, whereas, at McGill University, the deadline for fall 2012 tuition payments was set for the end of August. At Concordia, students were instructed to pay tuition including the hike weeks ago.

Spokespeople from Concordia, McGill and UQÀM confirmed that the universities have yet to receive any official direction from the government as to how and when reimbursements to students are to be provided.


Kiss the hike goodbye

After holding office for only one day, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is following through on her campaign promise to cancel the university tuition hikes imposed by the outgoing Liberal government.

Students and accessible education activists are celebrating this highly anticipated move, after months spent protesting the controversial hikes implemented by former Premier Jean Charest.

Marois said Thursday that her Parti Québécois minority government plans to maintain the $39-million increase on student financial assistance set up by the Liberals prior to the election. She went on to say that tuition for the school year will be capped at $2,168.

“The increase is cancelled for this year, for 2012-13 and for the next years, we will have the discussion at a summit on education,” said Marois during a news conference.

This summit is expected to happen within the first 100 days of the PQ taking power.

Her second order of business upon taking office was to put an end to Law 78, another controversial piece of legislation which limited the legality of protests taking place almost nightly within the province. CBC Montreal reported that the law would officially “come off the books” Friday.

More to come.


Hundreds mourn the death of Denis Blanchette

Photo by writer.

Hundreds gathered to honour Denis Blanchette at a candlelight vigil and makeshift memorial outside Metropolis last Wednesday night.

As Premier-designate Pauline Marois gave her victory speech during the Parti Québécois rally on Tuesday, Sept. 4, Blanchette was shot at close range outside the building.

Those in attendance at the vigil were invited to share their thoughts and feelings and to remember the 48-year-old lighting technician at a microphone set-up in front of the venue. Many speeches called for harmony and peace, as well as tougher gun laws.

Friends and colleagues tearfully remembered Blanchette as a hard-working man, a loving father and a good friend.

One colleague, who was only identified as Marie-Jo, told the crowd that Blanchette’s death was not a political statement.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” shouted Marie-Jo. “The man who killed him is mentally ill.”

“We’ll overcome this together,” she added before stepping away from the microphone.

Former Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois attended the vigil to show his support for the victim’s family.

“It was very shocking,” Nadeau-Dubois said of the tragic end to election night. “We’ve talked a lot about violence in the past few months in Quebec but this was real violence. It’s possible to debate the strike, it’s possible to debate on what a protest should be, but there’s no debate to be had on the events that happened last night – it’s just total horror,” he said.

Concordia University marketing graduate Kim Belair was on Ste-Catherine St. when the shooting occurred. Belair said it was strange for her because her mother was present for the Concordia University massacre in 1992 and her cousin experienced the Dawson College shooting in 2006.

“I like to think that everyone involved, no matter what language they speak, would be able to look at that [shooting] as not representing an opinion but as representing mindless violence,” explained Belair with regards to the gunman’s words about an English uprising during his arrest.

“I optimistically think that no one would ever take his words or his intentions as representative of anything.”

A second victim, Dave Courage, survived the shooting but suffered severe injuries.

An official civic funeral for Blanchette was held on Monday, Sept. 10.

With files from Kalina Laframboise.


New government ushered in with violence

Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois were elected to form a minority provincial government in a night that ended with a fatal shooting Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The victory party for the newly elected sovereignist government was interrupted when security rushed Pauline Marois off-stage at the Metropolis venue on Ste-Catherine St. in downtown Montreal.

Two colleagues who were working the event, Denis Blanchette and Dave Courage, were shot just outside the concert hall minutes before midnight as Marois delivered her speech onstage to a sea of supporters.

Blanchette, a 48-year-old lighting technician, died at the scene after being shot at close range while Courage suffered severe injuries. The gunman then set the stage door on fire with hundreds of people still inside the building.

The alleged suspect, Richard Henry Bain, was taken into custody by Montreal Police shortly after the shooting. Dressed in a blue bathrobe and escorted into a police car, Bain screamed in French that it was “payback time” and that “anglos are waking up.”

The final results

After a 35-day campaign run, Pauline Marois will become the first female premier in Quebec history as soon as she is sworn in.

The Parti Quėbécois won the provincial election with a total of 54 seats in the National Assembly while the Liberals obtained 50, and the Coalition Avenir Quėbec gathered 19 seats.

In order for a political party to form a majority government in Quebec, they must have a minimum of 63 seats out of 125 in the National Assembly.

The Liberal party is the official opposition after nearly a decade in power. Quebec’s outgoing premier Jean Charest lost his own seat in his home riding of Sherbrooke by a landslide of nearly 3,000 votes to former Bloc Quėbécois MP turned Parti Quėbécois MNA Serge Cardin. Charest’s loss came 28 years after he won a federal seat as a Progressive Conservative member of parliament.

Leader of the CAQ, François Legault, secured 19 seats in the National Assembly and came in third place overall.

Québec Solidaire, led by Amir Khadir and Françoise David, gained a seat. The party now has two seats while Jean-Martin Aussant of Option Nationale, lost his only seat.

The undoing of Charest

After a nine-year era, Charest and the Liberal party were defeated and shelved to become the official opposition to the new PQ government.

Following months of social discontent, Charest called a provincial election August 1., which led to his defeat and resignation.

Flanked by family, Charest congratulated Marois publicly and expressed gratitude for the continuous strength and contributions from his colleagues and supporters on election night.

“I want to say to all of you tonight and all of you interested in the future of Quebec that the result of this election campaign speaks to the fact that the future of Quebec lies within Canada,” he said.

Charest bid his opponents good luck but did not announce his resignation the same night. He officially resigned as the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and from politics Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Ending his 14-year tenure as party leader and nine-year term as Quebec’s premier, Charest said he had no regrets.

The student movement

Léo Bureau-Blouin, former president of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, won his riding of Laval-des-Rapides to become the youngest MNA ever elected to the National Assembly at the age of 20.

Bureau-Blouin joined Marois in July as rumours swirled about a pending provincial election.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, former Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante co-spokesperson told The Concordian Wednesday night that this win was a step forward for the anti-hike cause.

“It’s a beautiful day for the student movement,” said Nadeau-Dubois. “We have forced the Parti Québécois to take a position on the tuition increase, we have forced them to promise they will cancel it. So, it’s a pretty big victory for us today.”

Alleged suspect charged

Richard Henry Bain, the man allegedly behind the attack on election night, was formally charged with first-degree murder and 15 other charges Thursday, Sept. 6.

The other charges against Bain include weapons violations, three counts of attempted murder, arson-related offences and aggravated assault.

Police seized 22 weapons from the accused, all of which except for one were registered. Two were recovered from the scene, three were in Bain’s vehicle and the rest were found at his home in La Conception. Bain’s next court appearance is set for Oct. 11, 2012.

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