Quebec student strike claims victory

A new provincial government repeals tuition fee hike, which triggered mass protests

Topics: Education, Quebec student strike, Education Reform, Activism, Montreal, Quebec,

Thousands of Quebec students and their allies are claiming victory Friday as the newly-elected government immediately scrapped the proposed tuition fee hike, which sparked the longest ever student strike in the region.

Within 24-hours of stepping into power, the Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois announced that the fee rise would be cancelled. She also repealed the contentious Loi 78, a draconian anti-protest law passed in mid-May to contain and control the then-nightly mass mobilizations of around 300,000 students and supporters.

Voices from the moderate end of student leadership celebrated Marois’ election and the repeal of the fee hike. The Montreal Gazette reports:

“It’s a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which is the largest student association with about 125,000 students. “It’s a new era of collaboration instead of confrontation.”

Representatives from the more radical, influential student union, CLASSE, were less unmitigated with their praise. In a press release, they note that the fee hike repeal “is not the end of the fight and that student and citizen mobilization should continue.” For many individuals and groups involved in the six-month strike, the proposed tuition hike was just a trigger issue to mobilize against neo-liberal education reform and more.

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A number of strike participants and pundits have noted that focus given to the recent elections not only broke the student strike effort, but defanged a burgeoning movement. As Zachary Bell noted in an article for Alternet, before the fee-hike repeal was announced, “whatever the wins th[e Quebec] election may eventually deliver for students, they are dimmed in large part because the election broke the back of the strike, paralyzing the movement in the process.”

Natasha Lennard
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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