Over 30,000 students have voted to strike in the province of Quebec. The reason: the Couillard Government’s austerity measures.
Much like the student strikes of 2012, individual faculties and student unions have held strike votes, resulting in 30,000 in favor of a strike. This may seem like a lot at first glance, but consider that university students in the province number nearly 160,000 and CEGEP and college students number over 165,000. 30,000 only represents 9% of the Quebec student population.
Talk about tyranny of the minority. For the most part, students are escaping the current round of government measures unscathed. Public sector workers will really be feeling the pinch, but, according to a letter sent out to UQAM students and faculty by 14 political science professors, students are using austerity as an excuse to exercise their protest spirit. Student leaders dismissed these professors as not being on “their side,” and accused them of limiting political discourse.
Both student leaders and professors will be paid during any strike action; only the ordinary students get squat.
It seems as though the striking organizations are the ones under fire for limiting discourse. As in 2012, the method used to bring about a strike refuses to allow online voting. Instead they use marathon general assemblies to force their vote. Katherine Giroux, a third year law student at UQAM, insists that online voting would be far more representative than these assemblies; it would allow people who can’t skip class or work during the assembly time to exercise their right to vote.
Camille Godbout, a spokesperson for one student union, refuted that statement by claiming such assemblies are the best way to make all aspects of the issue known to students. Apparently, Ms. Godbout feels that students are incapable of reading these platforms online or doing their own research. If that is the case, we must support this strike; the quality of education has clearly hit record lows if university students can’t read or research on their own. Perhaps Ms. Godbout and others fear what the students might find. The internet gives access to both union and government sites, along with a plethora of media outlets.
David McLaughlin, a student of UdeM, has taken his student union to court, asking for an injunction to stop the strike vote. McLaughlin is a part time student with a job and a family, and has had classes disrupted many times by the striking students. His argument is that they held a vote in January (which failed), and that the student union shouldn’t keep holding votes until they get their desired result. Lucien Bouchard may have tried to do the same thing with the Quebec Referendum. The Canadian Federation of Students approves of this method—as long as no one is voting to decertify them, in which case they prefer to smother the democratic process. Oddly, however CFS had little to say on the looming student strikes; so far anyway-but that isn’t suspected to last.
Regrettably for McLaughlin and others, the injunction failed to pass while the strike vote succeeded. Mr. McLaughlin will now sue his student union for $21,000 for having disrupted his studies over the past three years. Good for him! We just need to hope that this effort doesn’t take even more away from his studies than the strikers already have. I hope he’s including his legal fees in the suit.