News Photo Essay

Picketers lead ‘shame convoy’ with Legault mannequin

Photos from Thursday: ‘Shame Convoy’

Photos from Wednesday: Classroom picketing


What the CAQ’s tuition increase will mean for prospective out-of-province students

One Toronto high-schooler is reconsidering his choice of university after the Legault government’s latest announcement.

The Legault government’s announced tuition rate hikes are causing much debate amongst students and university officials. As undergraduate tuition is set to nearly double next year, those looking for a future education in Montreal might start looking elsewhere.

“It’s pretty disheartening,” said Gaven Niron, a senior high school student from Toronto. “I think several of my friends saw ourselves in Montreal. Now, the future doesn’t look so promising.” 

For some time, Niron has been eyeing Concordia’s journalism and art history programs. He practises music and writing in his spare time, which he believes might be inspired by Montreal’s culture following his multiple visits to the city.

Not long after the Coalition Avenir Quebec’s (CAQ) initial announcement, Niron was informed of the tuition raise, coming just in time for his first semester at Concordia. “It would be a very tough pill to swallow to put aside school in Quebec,” he said. 

The tuition raise was announced by Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, on Oct. 13. Following this information, Concordia posted an informational guide regarding the announcement. By fall of 2024, out-of-province students will be required to pay about $17,000, almost double the previous average of $8,992. International students will have to pay a “minimum rate” of $20,000, although this may be subject to change depending on the university, according to Déry. 

Déry explained that the new rates will more closely reflect what non-Quebec students would be paying outside of Quebec. She also claimed the change would rectify a trend of out-of-province students taking advantage of Quebec’s decreased rates only to find work elsewhere after graduation.

The additional cost generated by this change will go directly into funding “the French-speaking network,” Déry said in an interview with the Journal de Québec.

Although his understanding of Quebec’s politics is sparse, Niron views the policy change as disruptive to Quebec’s growing diversity. He believes international students might not feel welcome after hearing the news, and hopes Quebec’s student population will come together in protest of the CAQ’s announcement. 

Two university students have already started planning a first major protest in opposition to the tuition hikes. Titled the “Bluefall Protest,” this project first took root on social media, garnering support from major university institutions, even the francophone ones.

The protest is headed by Noah Sparrow, a third-year creative writing student at Concordia University, and Alex O’Neill, a second-year McGill political science student.

“Our goal for this protest is to showcase to the Quebec government that we are united in our cause, and we’re not going to be silent about it,” Sparrow said. 

Sparrow and O’Neill believe the change is rooted in larger issues of discrimination against English-speaking minorities. They believe the CAQ’s decision was undemocratic, as students and professors were not consulted over such a large change in the status quo.

The Concordia Student Association (CSU) and the Student Society of McGill (SSMU) have also condemned the hike by releasing a joint statement on their social media accounts. 

The Bluefall Protest organisers have a history in rousing collective action, and have high hopes for their new undertaking. “We can use the [protest] to show that the province has moved past language politics,” O’Neill said. The university-joint strike is expected to take place on Oct. 30 near Dorchester Square. 

Lorraine O’Donnell, Senior Research Associate at the Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN), believes the recent hikes were foreshadowed by previous moves like Bill 101 and Bill 96. She worries this will have a negative effect on enrollment and teacher employment.

O’Donnell sympathised with out-of-province students who will miss the opportunity to attend university at an affordable rate, which would eventually widen the class divide between anglophones and francophones. 

As for Niron, he plans to gain residency in Quebec by taking a gap year in the province, which will allow him to pay the Quebec student tuition rate.

Tuition Hike

In response to Concordia University’s statements to the Concordian regarding the administration’s proposal to increase tuition for incoming international students in deregulated programs through cohort pricing (“Concordia responds to possible tuition hikes,” Tuesday November 18), as an elected representative of the Concordia Student Union I feel obligated to present clarifications of our own.

University spokesperson Chris Mota’s assertion that there would be student input regarding the proposal is very questionable. Yes, “all members of the board, student governors included, will vote on the proposal;” but of 25 members of the board, only two students are eligible to vote, and only one is an undergraduate. A single representative vote at the point of adoption is not the opportunity for proper undergraduate input.

The CSU, like the Concordian, has been told that the cohort pricing proposal is justified by feedback from surveys with prospective international students. We are still waiting, however, on any basic details regarding these surveys, including when and where they were conducted and what exactly were the questions asked. In any case, market surveys are not a substitute for consultation which those who represent the memberships that will be affected.

We are confused by President Alan Shepard’s statement that “historically, [Concordia has] been setting the tuition to be exactly identical to the tuition rise prescribed by the Quebec government for Quebec residents and the rest of canadian [sic] students, which is still regulated by the government,”

We do not know if he referring to one of two different rates of annual tuition increase: for example, in 2015 the increase was 1.5 per cent for Quebec residents, and 3.8 percent for Canadian students out-of-province.

Regardless, we read this statement as false, since Concordia has been setting the tuition increase rate for international students in deregulated programs the same as the rate for regulated programs, with the exception of major tuition hikes for some deregulated programs implemented in the 2008/09 and 2009/10 academic years. This is why international undergraduate students in JMSB currently pay an extra $186.26 per credit ($717.69 instead of $531.43), and undergraduate international ENCS students pay an extra $62.62 per credit ($656.21 instead of $593.59), compared to the regulated programs (refer to

We agree with Dr. Shepard in that we “regret [this] being played out […] like we’re debating international tuition in the press,” since we at the CSU would prefer that conversations regarding decisions that impact members of our community be open, transparent, and bring representatives of affected stakeholders to the table. We invite direct conversation with the University administration in place of conversation through the proxy of the student press. However, it is better that these ‘debates’ happen at all than have no conversation prior to the Board of Governors’ adoption and its presentation as a fait accompli.

This past Wednesday we heard international students at our public Town Hall talk about their own experiences with financial precarity and disenfranchisement within the institution, and we suggest that Concordia listen to its students as well.

– Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, General Coordinator of the CSU


Ministry of education to issue formal directives

Quebec universities can expect to receive official directives from the provincial government regarding the reversal of the tuition fee increase, applied to student accounts at the beginning of the fall term, by the end of the week.

Concordia University has been awaiting formal instructions since Premier Pauline Marois announced last month that her government cancelled the tuition hike. The increase amounts to $254 per student for the academic year, assuming a student is attending university full-time.

Following Marois’ decision, the university stated that the tuition structure in place at the start of the term, which included the increase mandated by the outgoing Liberal government, would remained unchanged until further notice.

Joël Bouchard, spokesperson for Pierre Duchesne, the minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, confirmed with The Concordian last Thursday that an official letter, detailing the formal procedures to follow, would be sent out in a matter of days.

“We will confirm in writing the amount that will be charged and refunded and the document should arrive shortly,” said Bouchard.

Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota confirmed that as soon as the university receives formal instructions, students will be informed immediately.

“The minute we have the official notification, the tuition hike will be reversed,” she said. “As soon as we get those instructions, all of our students will receive an email. Everybody will be alerted to the fact that their accounts have been changed and what options will be open to them.”

Mota re-affirmed that students will be able to request a refund if there is a credit balance on their accounts and will also have the choice of crediting the amount to account for the following term.

McGill University spokesperson Julie Fortier confirmed that McGill is also waiting on formal directives in order to know what amount will be refunded and that students will also have similar options available to them.

Schubert Laforest, president of the Concordia Student Union, said that he hopes that because the university has had time to accommodate the tuition freeze, the transition will go smoothly.

“It would pain me to see students penalized because of an inability to cope with the situation appropriately,” said Laforest.


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.


Stomping out the hike?

Photo by Madelayne Hajek.

Concordia University announced that it will not be modifying the current tuition fee arrangement, which includes the increase tabled by the outgoing Liberal government, until it receives directives from the new Government of Quebec.

In a press conference following the Parti Québécois’ minority government victory, Premier-designate Pauline Marois announced her government will abolish tuition hikes by decree and annul Law 12.

Universities province-wide are waiting on official instructions from the newly formed government on what kind of adjustments will be made. Marois will officially become Premier Wednesday, Sept. 19.

Concordia University spokesperson Chris Mota explained that the setting of fees is not within the university’s discretion nor is the timing. The government decides it and universities must comply. In accordance with the increase set by the outgoing Liberal government, Concordia charged a surplus of $254 per student for the academic year.

“Once the new fees were mandated, the increases went into effect,” said Mota.

Université de Montréal spokesperson, Mathieu Filion, confirmed that tuition fees for the 2012-13 academic year were decided before the elections, and that like Concordia, U de M is waiting on the government’s instructions. McGill University spokesperson Julie Fortier also confirmed with The Concordian that McGill took a similar stance.

It is not clear yet on how university students will be compensated across the province, whether it be by a credit system applicable to the following term or by full refund.

“The university certainly budgeted with the increase in mind,” said Mota. “However, we were prepared to adjust the budget in the event that the increase was reversed,” she explained. “All Quebec universities have been quite vocal about the need for increased funding. Where that funding comes from is up to the government to decide.”

Along with educational institutions, many student groups also voiced their concern over the fact that the increase was implemented before the election campaign began. Concordia Student Union President Schubert Laforest told The Concordian that he hopes Concordia administration has a backup plan to deal with this turn of events.

“I hope the university has a bulletproof plan to deal with this roll back in a sustainable way for when it does happen,” said Laforest, “as opposed to [having] the situation crash and burn because it wasn’t planned for.”

Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec President Martine Desjardins expressed that it’s a troubling situation with the repeal of the tuition fee increase.

“I think the majority of students were surprised to see the tuition increase on their bills while we were in the middle of an election campaign,” said Desjardins. “To see that they were so eager to have students pay will only cause [universities] more administrative headaches to in turn refund students.”

VP external affairs of the Student Society of McGill University, Robin Reid-Fraser explained that there was a lack of communication between the institution and students regarding the tuition increase.

“McGill was very much planning that the increase was going to happen and fit it into their budget. It is not clear that McGill was really considering a plan B despite everything that was happening with the strike,” said Reid-Fraser.

According to Desjardins, representatives of the FEUQ plan to meet with the Minister of Education in the days following his or her appointment. She estimates it will take up to a week before they will be able to transmit any new and clear information about the current situation. Desjardins said she believes that the PQ will not back down on its decision to cancel the tuition fee increase.

“It wasn’t just a promise; it’s a commitment,” said Desjardins. “A government that pledges so forcefully simply can not backtrack.”

Exit mobile version