Did international students want to strike?

A week after the end of the strike, international students reflect on its effects

With the reading week strike now passed, Concordia students can look back on its organization and results. International students are uniquely situated in their opinions on the strike.

From immigration requirements, to living far from their families, these students have many boxes to check in order to study at Concordia. Many international students had to take all this into consideration as the reading week strike approached. 

The Concordian spoke with a first-year Armenian-Lebanese psychology student who wished to stay anonymous. She recalled first learning about the strike while on Instagram the weekend before it was supposed to happen. 

“I was basically thinking, why?” she said. “Even though they had their reasons listed out, I wasn’t really relating, I didn’t understand.” 

Having to pay 12 thousand dollars per semester, she wanted to get as much out of her time in university as possible. “I was worried that the teachers would actually cancel their classes; I didn’t want to miss anything,” she said. 

The picketing, however, did not worry her. “When it’s a soft picket, they don’t actually get in the way if you go into class, and the class I was going to was like that, so I thought, ‘I can go.’” She decided to keep showing up to class that week. None of her classes were cancelled, although she did notice they were emptier than usual. “The two days I had to attend class, there was really nothing going on,” she said.

Looking back on the strike, she said: “Overall, I get it […] They should find different ways to get [mental health] services, because that’s really important.” On the other hand, she added: “I don’t agree with the way they’re doing it. It all seems a bit immature.” 

The Concordian also spoke with Adanna, a Nigerian third-year communications studies major who did not wish for her full name to be disclosed. She expressed mixed feelings about the strike: “Personally, I felt a bit of relief, in the sense that students are speaking out about mental health,” she said. She had hoped that a fall reading week would be implemented this year but was disappointed to see only a reading day on the school calendar. 

That being said, Adanna still went to most of her classes during the strike. Both finances and academic performance were on her mind: “Missing out on that class might just impact my grades and my understanding of what the class is about. Every single day, every single class is important.”

However, Adanna was impressed by the effectiveness of the strike. All the classes for her minor, women’s studies, were either cancelled or held online. In one of her in-person classes, only six out of 25 students showed up.

Carla Jamet-Lange, the mobilization coordinator for the Women’s and Sexuality Studies Student Association (WSSSA), has been involved in planning for the strike since this summer.

Jamet-Lange, a French-German international student, organized most of the strike for her association and is very happy with the results. “It went well,” said Jamet-Lange. “We did a hard picket, and all the classes were cancelled [for the week].”

Despite her support for the strike, Jamet-Lange understands the apprehension many international students might have for legal and monetary reasons. She knows that many international students want to go to class and get their money’s worth, which was made possible by most student associations using soft picketing.

Jamet-Lange says that the question of legality was also considered in preparation for the strike. “Every international student thinks about legal implications when doing something legally grey,” she said. Jamet-Lange accused the University of wanting to sow fear of legal consequences by advising students to call campus security if protesters physically blocked the access to classes, which she says kept some international students from mobilizing. 

“That is just what the University wants,” she said, “[to make] people afraid and not participate in the strike.”

Jamet-Lange made sure to stress the point that “students cannot get into trouble for striking, because striking is a legal right.” She found the University’s response to the strike disappointing. 

“They were just pitting students against each other.”

News Student Life

Student associations prepare to strike for a reading week

Students from different associations are working together to strike in October

Various members of the associations (MAs) held their respective Annual General Meetings (AGM) throughout last week, and voted on whether or not to participate in a week-long student strike for a fall reading week. 

Several student associations involved with the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) will come together on Oct. 3 through 7 to picket classes if the mandate is passed. 

Unlike other Quebec universities such as McGill, Université Laval, and Université de Montréal, Concordia does not have a reading week during the fall semester. In 2021, the University announced its plan to implement 12-week terms and a fall reading week. However, the new academic calendar will only begin in the summer term of 2023.

During the MA retreat last May, ASFA executives took it upon themselves to plan a student strike and shared their plans with other associations. 

Following numerous conversations among the different associations and the ASFA team at the retreat, the Urban Planning Association (UPA) was the first student group to hold an AGM on Aug. 15 and get the mandate to strike. 

According to Torben Laux, president of UPA, ASFA is working closely with different associations to coordinate the strike. 

“At the moment, they’re going to be setting up a little package on how to strike, how to picket. Students will not come to classes. No assignments are allowed to be submitted, and no quizzes are allowed to be handed out,” explained Laux. 

“It’s a lot of work, but I think it’s really exciting, especially after two years of not doing much. I think it will give younger students a really great opportunity to live through a strike. So, I think it will make people feel really empowered,” he added. 

Ashley Torres, mobilization coordinator for ASFA, also expressed her frustration with the University. 

“There’s no point for us to really wait that extra year… due to the pandemic, the past few years have been extremely difficult and challenging for students, especially [regarding] our mental health, and we deserve a long week break for classes,” said Torres. 

Concordia University spokesperson Vannina Maestracci explained in a statement sent to The Concordian, the reason for the delay in implementing the break. 

“Schedules for the full university are usually made a few years in advance, and transitioning from a 13-week to 12-week term is a significant adjustment for programs that have designed their curriculum around a 13-week course, especially programs that are subject to accreditation rules.” 

“Given this, we are now doing the academic planning, training, logistics, and providing support and resources to faculty to ensure a successful transition to 12-week terms as of summer 2023,” read the statement. 

Regardless, student associations have decided to gather and raise their concerns. 

Another group that recently passed a motion to strike on Sept. 9 is the Geography Undergrad Student Society (GUSS), who are working with UPA to spread the word about the upcoming strike by sending out emails and preparing flyers. 

Liv Aspden, president of GUSS, explained that the student strike will take place during the first week of October to mobilize and emphasize better student care. 

“I’m not going to have a week off. We’re going to be striking, and we’re going to be picketing classes… we’re not going to get a break because we’re going to be obviously standing up for what we know is right and what should be happening, and just holding the University accountable for things that haven’t taken place,” said Aspden.


Students from the geography department strike for more climate action

According to protesters, Concordia would be able to divest faster than their target five-year plan.

“What do we want? Divestment! When do we want it? Now!” chanted students from the Geography Undergrad Student Society (GUSS) on Friday during a strike.

The 25 students who gathered at the Henry F. Hall building’s ninth floor were urging the university to divest faster than their previously announced five-year plan.

The Concordia University Foundation sent a press release in November presenting its divestment plan in all of its investments from the coal, oil and gas sectors before 2025, reported The Concordian.

“We want to make sure that Concordia is held accountable in this divestment protest, so making it as fast as possible and have real binding agreements, because historically, they had been kind of lax,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous for privacy purposes with the university. Other striking students asked to remain anonymous and not have their faces shown on camera for the same reasons

In 2016, the university had already established a joint sustainable investment advisory committee to “make recommendations to their respective governing bodies on socially and environmentally responsible investment opportunities” reported Concordia News. The committee included representatives from the student body like the Concordia Student Union, the Graduate Student Association and Divest Concordia.

“The Concordia University Foundation publishes an annual report which includes audited financial statements,” wrote Concordia’s spokesperson Vannina Maestracci in an email to The Concordian. “The Foundation will continue to provide these annual reports which serve to assess its investments.”

The students were handing out pamphlets with their demands that the university be held accountable for divestment at the fastest rate possible through a student-faculty body that oversees divestment, by implementing binding agreements and and that the measures taken would be communicated to students with full transparency.

The protesters claim that Concordia would be able to divest way faster than the planned rate and that a lot of information regarding the process is not publicly shared.

“We believe that five years is the time it will take to replace our remaining exposure to coal, oil and gas,” wrote Concordia’s spokesperson. “If we can do it sooner, all the better. For us, it’s not simply about withdrawing investments from coal, oil and gas. It is also about finding the new investments that are sustainable and benefit our community in terms of research, teaching and charitable programs.”

Students are also demanding that Concordia declares climate emergency in which they would implement more binding language. However, Concordia has already done that last September.

“We signed a climate emergency declaration with nine other Quebec universities by which we committed to more sustainability education and research, and carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest,” wrote Concordia’s spokesperson.

The strike had been previously voted upon unanimously by the GUSS during a general assembly.

“In geography, there’s a desire for climate action in our education and sort of what the professors are learning and researching on,” said the student.

Although no other events have been planned yet, the geography student body said it is not willing to back away until Concordia takes serious action.


Photo by Jad Abukasm


The cost of the student movement

Dozens of student protests took place last spring, including this one on McGill College St. in March 2012. Photo by Navneet Pall.

The costs of this year’s student strike movement is the centre of attention yet again as the l’Université du Québec à Montréal claims the protests associated with the university amounted to $20 million and the provincial government estimates that overall costs for all post-secondary institutions are at $40 million and counting.

Both claims, made last week by the university’s rector Claude Corbo and Pierre Duchesne, the minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, respectively, attracted attention and criticism.

Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, was critical of the figures provided by UQAM and Duchesne.

“We have information that says it’s not 20 or 40 million dollars,” she said in an interview with The Concordian, “But that the strike cost the government over 150 million dollars, because we explain it to include costs for teachers, for assistants, also for people who work in the libraries. There are a lot of costs involved.”

“Of course the strike has cost a lot,” Desjardins added. “But I doubt UQAM has $20 million only due to the strike, actually I expect it to be more. They’re trying to get more and more money from the government because they’re a little bit shocked that there are no more tuition fee hikes anymore.”

For Concordia University the estimated costs came to a much lower figure of $226,755.39, all for additional security costs according to Chris Mota, university spokesperson.

“I know at other universities there was physical damage and there were other issues but at Concordia it was only the additional security,” she said.

In terms of security, McGill University devoted $275,233.39 of its budget for additional security while UQAM spent $841,414.95 and the Université de Montréal spent the least at $151,043.19 for the winter semester.

Outside of the education sector, other groups bore heavy costs from the protests as well. While the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal refuses to release any estimates of damage without a formal request filed under the Access to Information Act, the overtime pay for SPVM employees from February to June alone cost a hefty $7.3 million according to figures obtained by Radio-Canada earlier this year.

Steve Siozios, president of the Crescent Street Merchant’s Association, told The Concordian that they estimate their losses to be an average loss per business of 20 per cent at the height of the protests.

“We lost 20 per cent in April, May and June,” he said. “But it’s also more extensive than that because it kind of killed the whole summer. It had a very negative effect on merchants.”

Siozios also explained how a false perception of violence and danger in the downtown core scared people from outside of the city away from visiting.

“There were incidents, but it wasn’t as bad as they thought it was,” he said. “All of it has led to a very bad year so far. It’s closed down businesses already and by year end it’s going to close down more.”

Desjardins, meanwhile, believes the blame for costs lie firmly with the Liberal government, which is currently the official opposition in Quebec.

“They should be ashamed. They should be the ones going out and explaining themselves, why did they take so long to sit at the table and negotiate with us?” she said. “It should have been done earlier and I’m pretty sure we could have achieved an agreement at that time, in April, in March, but they waited for a general election and I think they should be ashamed of themselves.”

“They should be in front of the population and answering questions because we have been losing a lot of money over their way of handling this crisis,” added Desjardins.


Concordia University withdraws charges against striking students

Concordia University officially dropped the formal complaints launched against striking students under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities following a meeting between President Alan Shepard and the Concordia Student Union today.

President Shepard addressed the issue in an open letter, emphasizing it was time for a clean slate and that the student protests were an unprecedented situation for the university. Shepard explained that he felt the administration acted appropriately but charges are officially withdrawn.

“As president of the university, I also believe it is time for our community to turn the page and focus on the future together. I acknowledge that some members of the community will not agree with this approach, and I respect their point of view on the matter,” the letter read.

Kris Szabo, an undergraduate student who faced seven formal complaints from Concordia, is relieved to know it’s over.

“I’m incredibly relieved, I thought this may happen,” Szabo told The Concordian. “This would have been a disaster for administration.”

Szabo spoke to Shepard personally and said the president understood his concerns. Since June, Szabo attended several meetings with other charged students to strategize and organize a plan to have the charges dropped.

“The Advocacy Centre and the Concordia Student Union gave us a lot of peace of mind,” Szabo said. “They really helped us.”

“I think this happened because we were resilient.”

“It’s good to see how all of our collaborative work is becoming fruitful,” said CSU President Schubert Laforest.

“I was surprised, I had a little ray of sunshine when Shepard said he would think about it,” said Laforest. “I had never heard that before.”

“I have to tip my hat to Dr. Shepard for taking this decision,” added Laforest. “I felt that dropping the charges is the act of goodwill to prove that Concordia is changing direction for a brighter future.”

Several students received formal charges from Concordia for allegedly violating Code 29G for obstructing or blocking classrooms during March 26 2012. The striking students, 23 undergraduate students and three graduate students, opposed the proposed tuition fee increase by the provincial government.


Formal charges against students still up in the air

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan.

UPDATE – 8:30 p.m. 18/09/2012
Concordia University announced it is dropping all charges against the striking students after meeting with the Concordia Student Union this afternoon. More details to come.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Discussions concerning the formal complaints launched by the University against striking students this past June involving administration, students and student unions has reached an impasse this month.

The university filed the complaints against 23 undergraduate students and three graduate students for allegedly violating Code 29G of the Code of the Rights and Responsibilities for obstructing or blocking access to classrooms following the events on March 26, 2012.

In a formal letter to President Alan Shepard, the Graduate Students’ Association claimed Concordia acted irresponsibly when they sanctioned students under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities and students were unfairly targeted.

“This brings us to an essential point: at the GSA, we are all strikers. If the administration charged these students, why didn’t they also charge the GSA, and every student who attended our assemblies, not to mention those students who did not show up to vote and who are thus equally responsible for our strike vote? It is unfair to target individuals whose actions were based on a collective, democratic decision,” stated the letter.

The Concordia Student Union President Schubert Laforest said he believes that the current negotiations between the administration, charged students, and the CSU reached a deadlock when the University requested a formal letter of apology from those charged.

“What they seem to be looking for is a letter of apology for obstructing classes but I don’t think it’s fair to demand them to apologize,” Laforest said. “Most students aren’t interested in it and I am not either.”

“It’s something they believed in and something they fought for, ” added Laforest.

According to VP Advocacy and Academic Lucia Gallardo, the letter of apology divided talks between the university and the charged students. Gallardo also believes that the initial strategy of the CSU trying to represent students as a whole failed to work because individual students wanted different solutions.

“We are stuck,” admitted Gallardo. “The university wants some things that we can’t give them. We’re not giving up, we’re not going to stop trying, we just have to find more creative ways to find a solution,” she said.

Laforest said he plans to present a motion to council during the upcoming CSU meeting on Wednesday.

“It’s not political, it’s personal and it’s something that affects me personally,” Laforest told The Concordian. “If we can’t get the charges dropped, we’ll have to go outside the system.”

Confidentiality prohibits student associations and administration from addressing the issue in detail but the affair is ongoing according to University spokesperson Chris Mota.

“The process is proceeding,” said Mota. “Hearings will be held, though information about the hearings and their outcome will be considered confidential.”


A Summer of Red

The ongoing conflict between the government, universities and students in what has been Quebec’s longest student protest to date reached a climax this summer.

Following months of protests and students taking to the streets during the early months of 2012 to protest the proposed tuition fee increase, the winter semester ended abruptly for many in the wake of unresolved tension.

Negotiations between the provincial government and student leaders began in April following massive protests in cities province-wide. The Charest government introduced a new deal of a $254 per year increase over seven years to total $1,778 compared to the initial increase of $1,625. This offer did not sit well with student organizations and negotiations quickly dissolved.

In May, following unsuccessful attempts at negotiations between the provincial government and student leaders, then Education Minister Line Beauchamp resigned from her position.

Upon stepping down, Beauchamp said that following discussions with students leaders she lost confidence in striking a compromise.

“I am resigning because I no longer believe I am part of the solution,” announced Beauchamp on May 14.

Following the appointment of new Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, the Charest Liberals tabled a controversial and historic bill aimed at ending the student crisis. The National Assembly passed the emergency legislation May 18 with 68 in favour and 48 opposed.

Bill 78 imposes strict regulations for protests and limits the size, when and how long individuals can protest. Demonstrations must be restricted to 50 people or fewer, where the individuals must provide an itinerary eight hours in advance to police.

Hefty fines are imposed for individuals who block access to classes as the law is aimed to ensure students may attend their courses if they so wish.

The law also immediately suspended the winter semester of 11 universities and 14 CEGEPs affected by the student strikes.

The emergency legislation was immediately implemented and met with backlash from students, citizens, various groups and the Quebec Human Rights Commission that condemned the bill. It resulted in students and their supporters taking to the streets in large numbers in nightly demonstrations.

In defiance, student group Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale etudiante encouraged students to challenge the law by protesting in the streets. Thousands took to the streets in a sea of red during the following days resulting in mass arrests May 22 and May 23. More than 500 lawyers marched in silence to oppose Bill 78 on May 28.

During this time, demonstrators banged pots and pans every night at 8 p.m. from their balconies and in the streets of the downtown core as a way to voice their discontent with the provincial government. International protests were organized to show solidarity with striking Quebec students and the iconic red square even made an appearance on Saturday Night Live when Arcade Fire performed.

As summer continued, so did protests but in smaller numbers. Dozens still march every night but demonstrations fizzled out shortly after the tumultuous Grand Prix weekend in Montreal where police and protesters clashed.

In anticipation of a provincial election, Léo Bureau-Blouin, former president of Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, announced his candidacy for the Parti Québécois on July 25. Bureau-Blouin runs for the riding of Laval-des-Rapides.

The provincial government called an election for Sept. 4 on Aug. 1. Political parties were given 34 days to sell themselves to electors. More than six months of student protests is a force behind the upcoming provincial election.

On Aug. 8, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois quietly announced his resignation as a spokesperson from CLASSE. Nadeau-Dubois’ resignation was timed with students heading back to CÉGEP and participating in strike votes. The move was surprising as Nadeau-Dubois has been the face behind the student movement since February but he felt it was time for “new blood” to arrive.

In a letter published in Le Devoir, Nadeau-Dubois wrote that the student movement had a new stage of renewal, and that it was time for him to go.

In mid-August, thousands of CEGEP students voted to return to class to finish their winter semesters. Following the return to classes of a dozen CEGEPs, students of CEGEP de Saint-Laurent and CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal also decided to discontinue their strike.

As Concordia’s new president Alan Shepard emphasized in an interview with The Concordian, the future of the student strike “depends on the outcome of the election.”

For now, the student movement and crisis has reached a lull while student groups encourage students to vote on Sept. 4. The student strike, while it continues on the 22nd of each month has reached a standstill for the time being.


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.


ConU spent thousands on extra security during protests

During the winter semester, universities in Montreal spent thousands in additional funds on extra security measures during the student strike and multiple protests that followed.

Le Journal de Montréal reported on July 4 that Concordia University spent a total of $226,755.39 on security for the entire semester.

Concordia University spokesperson Cléa Desjardins confirmed that the amount dished out by Concordia was over budget and “related solely to student protests.”

“The security presence was meant to ensure the well-being and safety of students, staff and faculty,” Desjardins said, “as well as the security of the university’s physical infrastructure.”

Concordia Student Union VP External Simon-Pierre Lauzon expressed his disappointment but emphasized that he was not surprised.

“We’re getting used to the administration making these kinds of decisions,” Lauzon said. “If management misuses money, nothing happens.”

Increased visibility of security was a point of contention between administration and students at Concordia during the winter semester. While administration deemed it necessary, many students disagreed with the additional security measures taken by Concordia.

The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec’s Vice-President Yanick Grégoire emphasized that this move was in direct violation of the student strike mandate and the measures were imposed as a method of intimidation, not protection.

“Violence and intimidation doesn’t work,” Grégoire stressed. “Discussion and speaking with one another is key.”

Grégoire criticized Quebec universities for their management of university funds, stating that the money could have gone towards students and research.

“Universities chose confrontation instead of discussion,” Grégoire told The Concordian.

In comparison, McGill University devoted $275,233.39 of its budget for additional security. The Université du Québec à Montréal spent $841 414.95 while the Université de Montréal spent the least at $151,043.19 for the winter semester.

In light of recent media coverage and scrutiny from student organizations, McGill University released a public statement on Monday, July 9. Vice-Principal of communications and human relations Olivier Marcil defended the university’s additional funding due to the student movement.

“We have a responsibility to ensure the safety of our students and staff and to avoid damage to buildings on our campus, many of them heritage buildings. We take that responsibility seriously,” Marcil said.

Marcil also emphasized that 80 per cent of the additional costs were a result of the five-day occupation in the James Administration building in February.


ConU files formal complaints against students

Concordia University’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities has launched formal complaints against students regarding actions taken during the student strike which violate certain behavioral codes.

According to Concordia Student Union’s VP Advocacy Lucia Gallardo, approximately 60 students received emails from the university administration on Friday, June 1. Although the content of these messages remains unclear due to confidentiality, students may be facing charges under the Academic Code of Conduct or the Code of Rights and Responsibilities.

Gallardo went on to explain that students could be facing charges under Code 29G for obstructing or blocking access to classrooms. Under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities, 29G states the following:

“Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, study, student disciplinary procedures or other University activity. For example, peaceful picketing or other activity in any public space that does not impede access nor interfere with the activities in a class or meeting is an acceptable expression of dissent and shall not be considered an infraction of this article.”

The CSU’s Advocacy Centre has reached out to Concordia’s entire student body since Gallardo explained they do not have “a comprehensive list of students who received formal complaints.”

CSU President Schubert Laforest, who took office June 1, confirmed that while some letters had used a basic template for the complaints, others were more specific, citing dates when students had violated the code in question.

Laforest emphasized that the CSU’s goal is to help represent these students and to help them realize “the potential ramifications.”

The CSU was informed about the charges around 4 p.m. on the first day of their mandate, and Laforest criticized the university administration for being late to address the issue.

“It’s relatively irresponsible to charge these students now,” he said. “It’s June. This should have been dealt with in May.”

Laforest went on to say that the timing of the emails does nothing to help students who could not access their classes during the winter semester.

“The situation should have been remedied,” Laforest explained. “It’s negative, it’s political and it’s tricky.”

University spokesperson Chris Mota explained that the university purposely waited until to file the complaints.

“The university made a conscious decision to wait until exam period was over,” said Mota. “We had to see which complaints were legitimate and then process them.”

Although an exact number cannot be confirmed, Mota explained that approximately 40 inquiries were made during the semester, though not all led to complaints.


Student movement moving into its third month

The Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale etudiante listed its demands on Thursday as the student movement against tuition hikes heads into May.

The student group announced that tuition fees should remain frozen and that the money to fund post-secondary institutions can be found elsewhere without burdening taxpayers.

A four-point plan was proposed as an alternative to Premier Jean Charest and Education Minister Line Beauchamp’s offer to extend the increase over seven years instead of five which some student leaders have called “insulting.”

The plan calls for several changes in university governance, including asking that universities to reallocate existing funding. In their presentation, CLASSE representatives said that 26.2 per cent of university funds goes toward research and that $142 million could be spent on improving teaching instead.

CLASSE demanded that university advertising budgets be cut, saving an estimated $18 million a year, and called for a moratorium on the construction of satellite campuses and a suspension on any current expansions. Additionally, CLASSE insisted that an immediate freeze on the salaries and hiring of university administrators and rectors be implemented.

The group also wants an open debate on free education.

If the government does not accept the offer, students and their supporters will continue to strike in the streets according to CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.


Although many universities and CEGEPs are reaching the end of the school year, student strikes continue on a daily basis with more planned for the rest of the week:

  • Thursday, May 3 – A nude protest is set to starting in Emilie-Gamelin Park at 8:30 p.m.
  • Friday, May 4 – A demonstration is planned in Victoriaville outside of the general council of the Quebec Liberal Party.
  • Sunday, May 6 – A “Mother’s Day” protest to be held outside of Charest’s office on McGill College in Montreal.

Concordia Student Union News

CSU votes in solidarity with the FEUQ

UPDATE (25/04/2012):

On April 22, the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale etudiante unanimously voted to denounce deliberate acts of violence by student protesters and was allowed to enter negotiations.

However, tentative talks between student groups and the province fell apart after Education Minister Line Beauchamp banned the CLASSE once again from joining the discussion.

The minister’s decision came on April 25 in response to a violent student demonstration that took place the previous night. Though the CLASSE stated they did not organize the protest, Beauchamp said they were responsible in part for announcing the demonstration on their website.

As a result, the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec and the Fédération étudiante collègiale du Québec have abandoned negotiations with the government unless the CLASSE is re-admitted. 

–   –   –   –   –

On Tuesday, the Concordia Student Union voted on a symbolic motion to support the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec’s  decision to stand in solidarity with another student group, during a special CSU meeting regarding negotiations with the government.

Education Minister Line Beauchamp offered to speak with the FEUQ and the Fédération étudiante collègiale du Québec on Sunday, after the FEUQ requested an independent government commission to investigate university management.

Beauchamp made it clear that there would be no discussion of the incoming tuition hike at the meeting, and that the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale etudiante would not be invited.

The CSU decided in a unanimous motion that it will only support negotiations between the provincial government and the student leaders if all student associations are invited.

Following a presentation by CSU President Lex Gill, the special council meeting was quickly voted into a committee of the whole, allowing for more informal dialogue and an open discussion for those present at the meeting.

Gill emphasized that at the last FEUQ meeting it was clear they were not willing to engage in negotiations without the CLASSE, who has been very active throughout the year in the fight against tuition increases.

“There is a consensus at the CSU that the CLASSE should be at that table as well,” said Gill.

Beauchamp stated earlier in the week that she would only extend an invitation to the CLASSE if the student association agreed to condemn acts of violence and vandalism as means of protest. CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said at a press conference held April 16 that while the association does not associate itself with these acts, it cannot condemn them. Nadeau-Dubois said the CLASSE would not change its position without consulting its members first.

“We find it unacceptable that our coalition, which represents 47 per cent of the people on strike right now, is being rejected from the negotiation process,” said Nadeau-Dubois on Monday. “If our coalition is not part of the solution, there won’t be any actual solution to the student strike.”

More protests are underway this week. On April 19, a morning demonstration is planned for the downtown core. That same day  in Gatineau, students will be protesting the injunctions ordered against striking students at L’Université du Québec en Outaouais. On Sunday April 22, students will join in what is expected to be a large march coinciding with Earth Day.

With files from Sarah Deshaies and Marilla Steuter-Martin.


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