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Free education | Tens of thousands of students on strike Tuesday



Ten years after the maple spring, is the red square rising from its ashes? Tens of thousands of CEGEP and university students will be on strike Tuesday to demand free education. They will demonstrate in downtown Montreal.

Tuesday’s strike affects more than 82,000 students from the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), the University of Montreal and a dozen CEGEPs across the province, who will walk out on Tuesday to demand free education for the primary to university. A demonstration is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Place du Canada in Montreal.

“Free education means considering education not as a consumer good, but as a public good, a right to which everyone should have access”, affirms Lucia Flores Echaiz, executor at the Faculty Student Association of political science and law at UQAM, which will be on strike starting this Monday.

The date of March 22 was not chosen at random. Ten years earlier, to the day, more than 100,000 people marched in opposition to tuition hikes – one of the biggest rallies of the Maple Spring.


Aerial view of the March 22, 2012 demonstration

In addition to free education, student associations will hold strike days throughout the week for the remuneration of internships, student precariousness and the fight for climate justice.

A “barrier” to studies

Despite the tuition fee freeze, the student bill is increasing twice as fast as inflation.

Today, Quebec students pay an average of $3,761 per year in tuition fees and other costs for their studies, or $875 more than 10 years ago, according to data from the Ministry of Higher Education and Statistics Canada compiled by The Press.

Taking into account the impact of the reduction in tax credits, the increase is more like $1,020 instead of $875. This is still less than the increase of $ 1,497, all inclusive, planned under the liberal reform, and against which the students had demonstrated for months in 2012.

“The increase is considerable each year and it represents an obstacle to accessibility to studies”, observes Lucia Flores Echaiz.

Some people cannot afford it, others have to work to be in school, which affects their academic success.

Lucia Flores Echaiz, performer at the Faculty of Political Science and Law Student Association of UQAM

Free education is an issue of access to education, argues Olivier Brien, socio-political manager of the General Student Association of the Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles. Its members will be on strike from Tuesday to Friday.

“There are already students who have changed course because the fees are too high for them. We don’t just think of school fees, but everything that surrounds them, transport, food, housing, which are also part of the financial difficulty, ”he lists.

A tribute to 2012

Student associations hope to take advantage of the 10th anniversary of Maple Spring to generate new militant momentum and put free education back on the agenda. ” [L’anniversaire] is an opportunity to honour, to remember and to motivate oneself”, testifies Lucia Flores Echaiz.

An evening demonstration is also planned for Thursday at Émilie-Gamelin Park in Montreal, a nod to 2012 and its many nocturnal demonstrations.

The mobilization is organized on the sidelines of the Quebec Student Union (UEQ), which represents 91,000 members. The national association does not wish to take a position on free education, but says it supports any militant student initiative.

In 2012, free education was a source of division between the Association for Student Union Solidarity, which claimed it, and the Federation of University Students of Quebec, which argued instead for a freeze on tuition fees. These two associations no longer exist.

“There are discussions to create a new, more combative national association to help mobilization,” says Lucia Flores Echaiz.

Related struggles

Free education is not the only demand on the menu of student associations.

The strikes of March 21, 23 and 24 will be dedicated to student precariousness and the remuneration of internships. On March 25, marches for climate justice are planned across the province, including in Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke.

All these struggles are part of a broader social project, argues Lucia Flores Echaiz. “It’s a big picture. We don’t agree with how things are done, so we have other proposals. »

The new student generation was too young to get involved in Maple Spring. And yet, the next generation is there, notes the master’s student in law.

“The movement is building and we feel that it is strong. Our members feel concerned and support the project. “Will he rise? In any case, the ambition is there. “In 2012, few would have believed that it would take on this magnitude. »

With Francis Vailles, The Press

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  • $6693
    Average amount of tuition fees an undergraduate student pays per year in Canada.

    Source: Statistics Canada

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