Looks like the Spaniards and Greeks of Canada are taking their message west.Quebec student leader takes protest on road as CFS looks to create ‘democratic strike movement’ in Ontario
Quebec student protest leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, known for his telegenic looks and refusal to condemn violence, has been recruited to teach Ontario student leaders about Quebec’s paralyzing student strikes, as Ontario students appear to be setting the stage for their own season of discontent.
The Canadian Federation of Students has organized and funded Mr. Nadeau-Dubois and other Quebec organizers to tour 10 Ontario universities for its Quebec-Ontario Student Solidarity Tour.
“We are optimistic that a general student strike in Ontario can and will succeed, given the right ingredients,” an open letter from Quebec activists to the CFS said, adding the letter “represents a first step towards creating a radical, democratic strike movement in Ontario and beyond.”
The nine-day tour will kick off Thursday at the University of Ottawa, and Mr. Nadeau-Dubois said Tuesday his group, CLASSE, is considering a September tour to other provinces.
“They contacted us a few weeks ago to say that there were a lot of students organizations in Ontario who were interested in receiving us,” according to Mr. Nadeau-Dubois. “It’s really an opportunity to share what we have learned in the last months; to share our knowledge of mobilization, of social organization.”
Asked if the CFS wishes to see the same paralyzing strikes here in Ontario, spokesperson Sarah King said the CFS is a member driven organization and does not currently have a mandate to support a strike. All decisions regarding policy and campaigns are made at bi-annual general meetings. The meetings typically host 120 of Ontario’s nearly 400,000 students.
The University of Toronto will also host a separate Student Strike Training Program this month. The workshops include “creating and/or radicalizing student associations,” and methods of “enforcing strikes.”
“For me, the main point is just sort of, let’s help people not make the same mistakes we made and replicate the successes,” Quebec student and event organizer Jamie Burnett said.
The event has also received a shower of support from unions, including the Ontario Union of Postal Workers local 538 and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“Our union recognizes that the fight to keep tuition affordable is linked to the fight for decent wages and working conditions,” the Postal Workers wrote in a statement. The union has donated money for the CFS event, but a union spokesperson was unable to confirm the amount.
Rodney Diverlus, president of Ryerson University’s graduate association, said its own CLASSE event is being funded, in part, by the student association.
“You need to show solidarity with Quebec and the work they’re doing and student power across the country but it’s making sure we’re still having the conversation in our province with students on our own particular campuses to talk about our issues too,” Mr. Diverlus said.
The CFS is best known for its annual Education is a Right and Drop Fees campaigns, which lobby the provincial and federal governments to lower tution fees.
“Our tuition fees are the highest in Canada and have gone up since 2006 by 71%,” CFS spokesperson Sarah King said. “Ontario students definitely have a lot to work on and definitely should be inspired to do so.”
Not all students, however, are happy about the program. Alexandre Meterissian, a student journalist and outspoken opponent of the student strikes, said the student groups are “playing politics” with students’ money.
“I would not advocate to stop the workshops,” he said. “I just don’t want my money to pay for it in any way or if I was a university of Toronto I wouldn’t want my money in any of these workshops.”
Mr. Meterissian said students’ time would be better spent by getting involved in politics.
“There’s other ways to influence policy than going into the streets. Getting involved politically would have a much better return on their investment in terms of money than organizing these gigantic rallies that cost thousands of dollars to organize.”
Mr. Meterissian has been the voice of what he calls Quebec’s “silent majority.” Despite calls for solidarity, roughly two-thirds of Quebec students, primarily from McGill, remained in school and finished writing their final exams.
Quebec students took to the streets in February to protest a proposed increase in tuition fees of $1,625 over five years. The daily marches included violence from masked Black Bloc activists, and soon developed into a movement calling for free education across Canada. Quebec students currently pay about half of what other Canadian students pay.
In Ontario, the McGuinty government introduced a 30% tuition rebate for students last fall but, according to Mr. Burnett, the funds are not reaching enough students due to the program’s strict qualifications. In addition, Ontario students said the government hiked tuition rates shortly after the rebate took effect.http://news.national...trike-movement/