As many as 300,000 students have been on strike against tuition increases in Quebec over the past 3 months, with 180,000 still out on an unlimited strike. Demonstrations of more than 250,000 people have taken place in Montreal. A massive movement against austerity and for education as a right and not a privilege is unfolding just a few hundred miles from here — unknown to most Americans since it has been ignored by the mainstream media. In a small effort to break through this wall of silence, PHENOM helped bring two of the strikers to Massachusetts April 25-27.
Several others had planned on coming as well, but stayed home at the last minute to take part in negotiations with the provincial government — which broke down very quickly when the government insisted on excluding representatives of the more radical student federation from the bargaining.
Richard Hinton (a graduate student from Concordia University) and Alexia Lewis St-Pierre (an undergraduate from Université du Québec à Montréal) spoke with students and others at UMass Boston, UMass Amherst and Holyoke Community College.
They discussed the long history of student activism in Quebec, the careful year-long preparation that preceded the strike, the local autonomy, provincial coordination, and disciplined decision-making among the various striker organizations, the joyful nature of their movement, and the uncertainty about what lies ahead. While much is different about their situation, much is very familiar to us — the unnecessary tuition increases, the government’s false insistence that “there’s no money”, and the understanding that tuition increases are but one part of a coordinated corporate attack on the public sector.
There is talk of organizing a trip to Quebec this summer to learn more and deepen the connections. Get in touch if you would be interested in going.