Past student strikes

Any context to the 2012 student strike in Quebec wouldn’t be complete without a few words about the history of the student movement in the province.

It wasn’t the first time students resorted to an unlimited general strike as a means of protest. This type of collective action by the student movement actually goes back a long way; up to 1968 to be exact. Similar strikes also happened in 1974, 1978, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1996 and 2005. In the majority of cases, students were successful in either blocking counter-reforms or making outright gains in terms of keeping tuition low and winning improvements to student financial aid, a government program of loans and bursaries.

When bringing up the necessity of an unlimited general strike, student unions could draw on a history of struggles in which students not only gave themselves a fighting chance, but actually made real, tangible change.

Comparing 2012 with previous student strikes in the province isn’t without its limits, however. Never before had a strike movement involved so many students and campuses all at once. Already, the 2005 strike had established a record in terms of duration of a student strike (7 weeks), and yet that record was shattered by students in 2012, with the strike lasting over six months.