Canada: Students blockade the Port of Montréal, 2005

Article about blockade by students in Canada striking against cuts in education.

16 March: Between 60,000 and 100,000 militant students marched in Montréal on March 16, 2005. Thousands more marched in Québec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivière, and just about every other Québec locality with a CEGEP (somewhat similar to U.S. community colleges) or University. Students blocked the Port of Montréal, closed down the lucrative Montréal casino, blocked Federal Highway 40, and occupied various government and Liberal party offices in Québec City and Montréal - often for days at a time. In all, close to 300,000 students went on strike, closing almost all public higher education in Quebec for up to seven weeks (and continuing on many campuses). Up to 15,000 secondary school students joined demonstrations in solidarity - with backing from the teacher’s unions. Many University and CEGEP professors’ and administrators’ associations also endorsed the strike - as did a wide range of Quebec’s other labor unions.

The strike began February 23 with a walkout by 30,000 CEGEP and University students, organized by the most radical of the three major student associations, CASSÉÉ (a coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity - ASSÉÉ - and unaffiliated student groups). The motivating grievance was a drastic cut in student stipends from the Quebec government, announced by the Liberal Minister of Education - some 103 million Dollars (Canadian Dollars - US equivalent about 80 million Dollars) per year, beginning with this academic year’s promised amount. ASSÉÉ included in its demands an end to the Liberal government’s planned privatization and decentralization of some CEGEPs and other higher education programs, as well as a call for free tuition, and “humanistic curricula.”

Tuition in Quebec is already the lowest in Canada - which is, of course, lower than almost all public institutions in the United States. Disabled and very low income students receive further assistance, which were not included in the cuts. Yet student groups were nearly unanimous in outrage at the take back of scholarship money. The two largest federations of students - FECQ for CEGEPs and FEUQ for universities - endorsed the strike almost immediately. Even traditionally conservative associations representing students in medicine, law, business and education, joined in. The elite private, English-speaking universities took symbolic but important steps by staging a one-day strike (Concordia) and issuing supportive statements - though the militant atmosphere did not carry over to the Anglo institutions, for the most part. (Concordia’s radical student government was ousted after a huge and heavily funded media campaign vilifying it’s pro-Palestinian stance last year.) Among the French-speaking, working-class students, CASSÉÉ itself grew rapidly in membership - now up to about 60,000.

And the strike has been a huge success. On April 3, the Liberal government caved almost completely on the student stipends - promising to restore immediately 70 million Dollars this year, and to return to the 103 million Dollars for coming years. They also shelved immediate plans for privatization and decentralization (seen as an attempt to divide students). (from: April 15, 2005, Lessons for US Radicals, Students Rise Again in Québec, by Tom Reeves)

From www.prol-position.net

Posted By

Steven.
Nov 22 2006 16:02

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