Quebec student stand firm against repression

Since February, Quebec students have been on strike against plans to restructure the higher education system of the province, which will see annual tuition increases of $325 in a five year period, representing an overall increase of 75%

(see: Quebec students resist education cuts – May 2012). On 18 May, the government of Quebec passed Bill 78 which requires prior police approval for any demonstration over 50 people, establishes extremely high fines for anyone who pickets or tries to block access to schools, and effectively makes supporting the strike illegal. In response, on 22 May estimates of between 300,000 and 500,000 marched on the streets of Montreal in support of the strike and against political repression by the Quebec government, which had included police use of rubber bullets, sound grenades, and mass arrests against protesting students. Attempts to challenge Bill 78 in the courts faced defeat after the Quebec superior court struck down attempts to challenge the law on 27 June, despite the UN declaring the law as being a threat to civil liberties.

The increasing attacks on the right to protest have been met by resistance, with 100,000 marching through Montreal and 10,000 through Quebec City on 22 June, with regular night time protests continuing as well against the draconian measures of Bill 78. Earlier in the month, students also attempted to disrupt the Montreal Grand Prix, in protest against the hubris of the rich. Solidarity with the student movement has been expressed by numerous organisations throughout Canada. Protests in solidarity with the Quebec students have taken place regularly throughout Canada, and there have also been demonstration in support of the strike outside of the G20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro with 200 people showing solidarity with the Canadian student struggle.

The Quebec government has twice refused efforts at mediation by the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ) and the Quebec Federation of College Students (FECQ), with Finance Minister Raymond Bachand stating that the tuition conflict will be resolved in an election. CLASSE, the most militant student union, has announced that the strike shall resume on 17 August with the start of the next term and for another major protest against the tuition hikes on 22 July, as well as continued night-time protests.