*UPDATE 4/19: At around 2pm this afternoon, the rector of the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) suspended classes for the rest of the day and turned over control of campus to the police, after students defied the injunction for the fourth day in a row. The crisis brought on by the court-ordered return to class had deepened in the morning, as hundreds of supporters were bused in from Montreal, and Gatineau police called for reinforcements from the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) riot squad.
Classes are suspended indefinitely.*
Gatineau riot police stormed the campus of the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) this morning, kettling protesters and arresting 160, including at least one professor, on the third day of an escalating conflict involving the local student association, which has voted multiple times to renew its strike, and a small number of students who obtained a court injunction ordering classes to resume beginning Monday. Those arrested were among over 200 receiving fines of $444 for blocking traffic on the roads leading to campus. La Presse reported that the day saw the largest police operation yet in the Quebec student strike.
The injunction criminalizes protests within 25 meters of the UQO campus. University security deny building access to anyone wearing a red square or believed to support the strike, and post agents inside classrooms.
Monday, the administration canceled classes after students barricaded themselves inside a building. Police injured one student, who was hospitalized.
Tuesday, riot police entered the campus as students blocked roads and protested inside and outside buildings. One professor was arrested, and another was forcefully expelled from a building.
Today, multiple contingents of demonstrators defied the injunction again, blocking roads, protesting outside of buildings, and seeking to outflank police lines upon the deployment of kettles. In mid-afternoon, police began making mass arrests, filling two buses with protesters, including at least one professor, destined for a detention facility. Many others were ticketed on site and released.
Buses tomorrow morning are expected to transport dozens of supporters from Montreal to Gatineau, where resistance to judicial and police intervention in the strike will continue.
Student associations are facing similar battles elsewhere in Quebec. A critical site will the Université de Sherbrooke, where a judge today ordered all students back to class tomorrow morning and banned protests within 25 meters of campus for the next ten days. A protest is planned for tonight at 8pm outside the Sherbrooke courthouse. Another judge rendered a less heavy-handed decision on a request for a similar injunction at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, upholding today the agreement between the administration and students suspending all classes, with the exception of those in which the petitioner is registered, which are mandated to restart.
The Association des juristes progressistes has joined all national student organizations in denouncing the government’s growing recourse to the courts to repress student protest and strike activity.
More info and photos: www.mediacoop.ca/story/riot-police-kettle-uqo-students-make-dozens-arrests/10572Read More
Still refusing to negotiate with students on the issue of the tuition hike, Education Minister Line Beauchamp announced Thursday additional funds for student loans, as well as a new repayment structure in which repayment requirements after graduation would vary based on income. The response came quickly Thursday evening, with a march drawing close to 1000 students to denounce Beauchamp’s announcement and demand the cancellation of the hike. On Friday, the spokespersons of the CLASSE were joined by the presidents of both student federations in announcing that the proposal would have no chance of ending the student strike, now the longest in Quebec history.
Many student associations have already taken stances against the remboursement proportionnel au revenu, or RPR, believing it represents a false solution to the problem of accessibility in postsecondary education. A 2008 study by the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS) deemed RPR a “de-collectivization of risk,” serving not to increase access to education but to change the university funding model, facilitating a greater individual contribution and less public funding.
Student associations representing over 80,000 students are now on grève éternelle – on strike with no requirement to renew until an offer from the government – and most will not vote on Beauchamp’s proposal, as most General Assemblies are not recognizing it as an offer. The Quebec government continues to say the $1625 tuition hike is non-negotiable.
Yet the strike is entering a critical new stage for both students and the government, with the threat of a cancelled semester increasingly real. Several Cégeps have already cancelled their summer sessions, and, after Tuesday, it will become very difficult to make up for lost time before June 15, which is when most Cégep teaching contracts end. Likewise, the Université de Montréal has warned students that if the strike extends past Tuesday, some winter courses may be “suspended,” resulting in a loss of credits. Student associations say such warnings are scare tactics intended to avoid the crisis that will build as institutions need to extend the semester into the summer.
Just as logistical headaches are intensifying, the strike is placing an increasing burden on the Quebec economy. Figures compiled by the FEUQ place the cost of the strike at $104,000 per hour, which includes teacher pay, the costs of demonstrations to the city of Montreal, and additional expenditures on policing due to protests.Read More
Refusing to let their strike falter after 22 March’s momentous day of action, and concluding that economic pressure is the only kind to which the Charest government will respond, students have continued to take the streets over the past two weeks, conducting daily actions designed to interrupt the flows of capital that sustain the state and the private sector. CLASSE has supported the strategy, calling for successive weeks of locally organized economic disruptions in order to raise the pressure on the government, which has so far refused to negotiate on the issue of the tuition hike.
Actions have targeted sites tied to the governance of postsecondary education, such as the Federation of Cégeps, occupied by students on 26 March, as well as state-owned corporations like the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). Students blockaded the SAQ head office on 27 March and its Montreal distribution center on 5 April. Access to the Port of Montreal was blocked for a second time in less than a week on 28 March. Private-sector targets have included a National Bank shareholders’ meeting, interrupted in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel on 4 April, and an office tower housing a number of companies linked to the Plan Nord, which was briefly blockaded the morning of 2 April.
On 29 March, students organized a “Grande Mascarade,” consisting of four simultaneous demonstrations that wound through downtown Montreal, with most participants masked, in response to the recent crackdown by police and city officials on protesters concealing their identity.
After a long weekend’s pause, students will resume economic disruptions Tuesday.Read More
Over 200,000 students from across Quebec descended on Montreal today for a march that stretched for 1.5 km and paralyzed the downtown core for more than 4 hours. In numbers, it was the largest protest in Quebec history and the largest student protest ever in North America. Organizers of the march included CLASSE and the student federations, FEUQ and FECQ. No violence was reported, as riot police kept their distance from the marchers. No arrests have been confirmed.
The day of mass protest began with economic disruption early this morning as around 100 students blocked an entry to the Port of Montreal in the east end of the city. Riot police intervened, dispersing the crowd.
The student strike is now the largest in Quebec history, with 308,723 students participating. Close to 200,000 of these have unlimited strike mandates.
Students plan on raising the pressure on the Quebec government starting next Monday. CLASSE has called for a week of disruptive actions that will directly affect the economic levers of Quebec society.Read More
Riot police responded to a student protest on Sherbrooke just east of McGill Wednesday with baton strikes, pepper spray, and stun grenades, injuring around 20. A student from Cégep de St-Jerôme has lost the use of one eye after being hit by shrapnel from a stun grenade thrown directly into a crowd of demonstrators by the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM). He remains hospitalized.
Around 100 students had occupied the lobby of the Loto-Québec building, where the offices of the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ) are located. The CREPUQ has been among the most vocal proponents of tuition hikes in Quebec. Around 800 more demonstrated peacefully outside.
Dozens of riot police moved in and charged at the assembled students. Some were thrown to ground; others were hit by batons and pepper spray. Police launched at least a dozen stun grenades, many directly into the crowd of students. Shrapnel from one grenade struck a student in the right eye, severely injuring him. Police reportedly refused to help him when he asked for an ambulance to be called. An SPVM spokesperson said the intervention was necessary because students had not told the police the route of their march.
In response to the police violence, enraged students took to the streets after night fell, marching from Berri-UQAM metro to the SPVM headquarters on St-Urbain, where some protesters tried to break the building’s windows with a metal barricade. Demonstrators continued through the downtown core, overturning trash cans, spraying graffiti on police cars, and smashing the windows of at least one SPVM van. Riot police arrived, blocking off St-Denis as the march returned to Berri-UQAM for a candlelight vigil.
But the night was not over for the SPVM; riot police forcefully dispersed the vigil, pushing students to the ground and making two arrests.
Montreal’s annual demonstration against police brutality will go forward on Thursday, March 15.Read More
Six Concordia student associations, representing 6,380 students, voted Wednesday and Thursday for an unlimited general strike, marking the entry of anglophone campuses into the Quebec-wide movement. Nearly 116,000 students across the province now have strike mandates, with 25,500 of those awaiting an initiation date. According to the CLASSE, around 60,000 more have strike votes planned.
The Women’s Studies Student Association spearheaded the events at Concordia, voting unanimously in favor of a strike at a General Assembly Wednesday afternoon. Geography, urban planning, philosophy, and political science students, as well as the 3,700-member Fine Arts Student Alliance, have since joined them. The CSU, representing all Concordia undergrads, votes March 7 on a renewable strike.
In the last unlimited general student strike, in 2005, no anglophone associations participated, but this year has seen unprecedented mobilization at Concordia, McGill, and anglophone Cégeps such as Dawson and Vanier. McGill’s Arts Undergraduate Society, numbering 7,515 students, will vote on Tuesday, March 13.
Francophone and anglophone organizers have sought to bridge the traditional divide between their campuses, collaborating on events like 2 February’s march, entitled “Don’t Fuck with Notre Éducation,” as well as Wednesday’s rally for free education at McGill, which drew dozens of striking students from UQAM and Cégep du Vieux-Montréal.Read More
The Mouvement des étudiants socialement responsables du Québec (Quebec Movement of Socially Responsible Students; MESRQ), an organization that supports the tuition hike and opposes the general strike, is facing heat from media and student groups over revelations that some of its spokespersons and leading members are tied to the governing Liberal Party of Quebec.
On its Facebook group and website, the MESRQ has represented itself as a movement of independent students in favor of the Liberal government’s planned $1625 increase in tuition. But photos circulated Wednesday on social media reveal two of the group’s spokespersons, Marc-Antoine Morin and Jean-François Trudelle, are in fact members of the Quebec Liberal Party and hold leading positions in its Montreal youth wing. La Presse reports that a third head of the MESRQ, Arielle Grenier, was also recently active with the Quebec Liberals. In the past week, the MESRQ leaders have appeared in a number of televised interviews in which they made no mention of their Liberal Party ties.
The controversy deepened on Thursday, when another photo was made public showing Education Minister Line Beauchamp meeting with MESRQ spokesman Morin. The day before, Beauchamp claimed she had never met with members of the MESRQ. In addition, the Journal de Montréal reports MESRQ representatives attended a private meeting several weeks ago with Finance Minister Raymond Bachand, to discuss the tuition hike.
While the individuals implicated have denied any impropriety, student representatives across Quebec say the revelations seriously jeopardize the MESRQ’s credibility. “I find it deplorable that a student group claiming neutrality is in fact run by Quebec Liberal Party activists,” said Léo Bureau-Blouin, President of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec. In a press release, the Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l’Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM) called on Minister Beauchamp to condemn the “dishonest practice[s]” of the MESRQ.Read More
The unlimited general student strike against the tuition hike appears increasingly unstoppable. As general assemblies across Quebec continue to vote for strike action, around 10,000 students demonstrated in the streets of Montreal today, paralyzing the downtown core before forcing the closure of the Jacques-Cartier bridge at the height of rush hour. The demonstration was organized by the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE).
In the largest show of force since 10 November, students gathered at 1PM in Philips Square and marched through downtown Montreal, pausing at Berri-UQAM metro.
From there, several thousand students continued toward the Jacques-Cartier bridge in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district, where they were met by multiple squadrons of riot police blocking off entrances to the bridge. At around 4:30PM, the bridge was closed off to traffic, reopening fifty minutes later. Riot police reportedly used pepper spray to disperse protestors, raising tensions as hundreds of officers followed the march back to Berri-UQAM.
Over 53,000 students at universities and Cégeps across Quebec are now participating in an unlimited general strike, while 11,500 have voted in favor of a strike but are awaiting a start date. Around 90,000 more have votes upcoming.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp continues to say her Liberal government will not back down on the tuition hike, but if the strike continues to grow, it may have no choice.Read More
Several hundred protesters blocked access to downtown Montreal’s stock exchange tower this morning in opposition to the austerity agenda of the Quebec government. The action was organized by the Coalition opposée à la tarification et à la privatisation des services publics in collaboration with unions and other groups to demand the withdrawal of the planned tuition hike, health tax, and electricity rate hike.
For the students, workers, and unemployed present at the action, it is clear that these policies are components of a single agenda that places the burden of a weak economy on those who can least bear it, while asking little to nothing of the wealthy and the corporate sector. There are no plans to raise Quebec’s corporate capital gains tax rate of 0%.
After disrupting the beginning of the workday in the heart of the Financial District, demonstrators moved to extend the blockade to the nearby Delta Hotel, where tensions with police escalated. Police used pepper spray on protesters and made four arrests.Read More
The first wave of the unlimited student strike to block the Quebec government’s planned tuition hike has begun. On Monday, February 13, fine-arts students at UQAM in addition to social work and graduate sociology students at Université Laval initiated strike action. They were joined on Tuesday by five other student associations at UQAM and ULaval, bringing to 11,440 the number of students with strike mandates.
Tuesday afternoon, around 500 striking students marched through downtown Montreal to mark the strike’s debut. The march visited McGill, chanting UQAM, McGill, même combat! (“same struggle”) and picking up demonstrators along the way.
The march stopped in front of the James Administration building, where a UQAM student addressed the crowd with a megaphone, noting the intervention days earlier of police on McGill’s campus for the second time in three months to expel protestors. “No matter where you go – UQAM, McGill – the police always come to clamp down on those who demonstrate for their rights,” he said.
The strike is expected to grow exponentially in coming weeks. Ten thousand students will begin strike action Monday, February 20, and at least 66,000 more have strike votes scheduled.Read More