Marois Abolishes Tuition Increase, Seeks to Meet the Students

For almost seven months, they did what others thought impossible. After enduring disinformation from media, and endless questions from those who asked “why?” Their only answer was, “why not?”

Feb. 2nd 2012, before the strike vote

Marching in the snow, the rain, the heat, and the nude, what began as a student strike became one of the largest social movements in North American history. The movement touches upon many issues such as inequality, women’s rights, the environment, and of course, accessibility to education.
Former Liberal finance minister, Raymond Bachand released the 2011 budget, that would involve in a tuition increase of $325 per year for the next five years starting autumn 2012. However, the student associations were reportedly not consulted, which weathered the storm for the following months ahead.
Léo Bureau-Blouin speaking after a rainy protest Nov. 10 2011

The first National Day of Action would be scheduled November 10th where all CÉGEP’s and universities would hold a one day strike. 30,000 people participated, followed by a speech from former Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) president-turned Parti Québécois MNA Léo Bureau-Blouin.
“We will remember this as being the year that young people stood up, and the year we won,” he said.
“And if the government still doesn’t understand, well, next winter we’ll be even more!”
No one knew how much more that would be…
By February 13th 2012, schools all across Quebec began voting in favor of a general strike. By March 22nd, approximately 310,000 CÉGEP and university students vowed to walk out on their courses until the Charest government would drop the increase.
“… Our children will go to school, and when they open their history books- in 2012, the 22nd of March, that day will be known as the day when the youth of Quebec stood up,” shouted former Coalition large de l’ASSÉ (CLASSE) spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois into a microphone, during what would be a memorable speech.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois giving his speech March 22nd 2012

That day brought the largest student protest Canada had ever seen- so far- with over 200,000 people, garnishing support by professors, families, activists and workers’ unions. The government did not budge on their decision.
April 5th (Day 53) had officially declared the action as the longest student strike in the province, breaking the 2005 record of five weeks. That year, Jean Charest had attempted to cut $103 million from the grant and loans program. This time, he would not listen so easily to the chants.
April 22nd marked Earth Day, to spread awareness on the state of our environment, to protest against Plan Nord and Prime Minister Harper’s XL Pipeline. The event, seeing figures as David Suzuki Foundation member Karel Mayrand, Greenpeace, also invited the student associations.
Unfortunately it would be the Plan Nord convention of two days prior that brought the world’s attention to the movement, when Charest’s comments led to riots downtown. Suddenly newspapers like Al-Jazeera and the Guardian would recognize the situation in Quebec.
April 20th - Plan Nord convention turns violent
May 4th - Riots during government negotiations

The police brutality during the movement resulted in two students losing use of an eye, and was called into question by the United Nations and Amnesty International.
May 18th the government passed the draconian Bill 78 that would result in heavy fines if police weren’t warned at least eight hours in advance of a protest taking place. The bill violates the Charter of Rights & Freedoms and was condemned by lawyers. There were many debates in the National Assembly in which Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois demanded Jean Charest to negotiate with the students until an agreement was met.
May 22nd marked 100 days of strike; “100 days of struggle, 100 days of defiance.” With the impatience of the Quebec population and the anger over Bill 78, it became the largest protest to date- with an estimated 400,000-450,000 people. It was also the largest act of civil disobedience since Bill 78 was violated by students refusing to share the route with police.
May 22nd saw over 400,000 people

Protests in France, England, Vancouver, New York and other parts of the world were scheduled to mark the movement’s milestone; the red square thus grew more symbolic.
During the month of May there were long attempts of negotiations with the government. By then, education minister Line Beauchamp had resigned, seeing herself no longer apart of the solution. By the second negotiation attempt, former Premier Jean Charest made a surprise visit by sitting with FECQ, as well as the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and CLASSE, despite this group being finger-pointed whenever violence took place, even though most protests were peaceful. The former Premier, to the dismay of many, only sat with the students for thirty minutes.
On June 1st, Bureau-Blouin’s mandate as FECQ president ended, many worrying what would happen next. Éliane Laberge would be next in line to fill his position.
Two months later, Charest called for an election campaign. By then, Bureau-Blouin became candidate for the Parti Québécois.
The summertime didn’t slow down. Each month students continued to meet every 22nd to remind the government the movement is still strong, with nightly protests occurring since mid-April.
August 22nd had an estimation of 100,000

“My only regret is leaving before seeing Jean Charest gone,” wrote Nadeau-Dubois in a letter to Le Devoir, as he announced his resignation as CLASSE spokesman. This came as a shock to many, but he had mentioned earlier in the movement he didn’t plan on renewing his mandate post-strike.
By the 29th of August, certain universities were still on strike, marking 200 days since it began.
At last on September 4th, in what will stick in the mind of Quebecers for many years, the Parti Québécois was elected as government. Pauline Marois became the first female premier in the province, while Léo Bureau-Blouin is the youngest MNA in the history of the National Assembly.
Pauline Marois election night

In a press conference the following morning, Marois declared the tuition increase and Bill 78 are abolished. She has vowed to schedule an education summit involving all the student associations in order to discuss alternatives to fund university education in Quebec.
"Together, we blocked the increase"

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi; “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”
Until the summit takes place, another march is scheduled September 22nd at Parc Lafontaine for 2:00 pm. 

No comments:

Post a Comment