Plenary Session II
Tuition Struggles in Quebec
Joel Pednault (McGill University)
Looking back on the 2010-2012 Quebec Student campaign against tuition fee hikes
The student movement in Quebec is unique in North America for its militancy, its capacity for massive mobilization, and its effectiveness. For the last two years, students organized towards a student strike which began in February 2012 against a 75% tuition fee increase. What were some of the successes and challenges of this movement? What lies ahead, not only for student activism but for social movements in Quebec?
Matthew Brett (Concordia University)
Austerity, Oppression and Resistance: An anti-capitalist perspective of the global student movement
The student movements in Québec and abroad must be situated within the systemic crisis of capitalism that emerged in 2007. Historically, structural crises of capitalism have spurred significant reconfigurations of class power and the prevailing social order. In this presentation, I draw on examples from Québec and internationally to argue that challenges to the prevailing order are being met with oppression by capitalist state power. I will also address the moral, ethical and personal considerations of this struggle. I close by
offering potential strategies for effective anti-capitalist struggle within the student movement, including the need for student organizations to radicalize existing public and private sector union coalitions.
Rushdia Mehereen (Concordia University)
Grassroots organizing in the face of electoral student politics
Concordia University did not have the culture of general assemblies and student consultation for the past decade. Student involvement was limited to elections and referendums. All this changed when an online petition for a union-wide general assembly was launched. Further mobilizations paved way to grassroots organizing leading to a beautiful manifestation of direct democracy at the departmental level — sizes of which ranged from 20 people to 1,600. This grassroots mobilization lead to a historic moment in the Anglophone milieu in Quebec: Concordia was the first university to join the general student strike with a number of departments and faculties voting on an open-ended (unlimited) strike. The presentation will address how collaboration emerged between
Anglophone and Francophone institutions in Montreal, the latter of which have a tradition of student strikes. I will also address some of the barriers we faced in the movement.
Joël Pedneault has been involved in the Quebec student movement since 2008. He is currently Vice-President External of the Students’ Society of McGill University.
Matthew Brett is a political science graduate student at Concordia University. He is interested in anti-capitalist theory and practice, including socialism, communism and anarchism. His academic work is focused on international political economy and the global economic crisis of 2007. He is active with the Society for Socialist Studies, the Socialist Project, Canadian Dimension magazine and in the Québec student movement. I am moving to Toronto in September of 2012 and would love to meet people. His email
address can be found on the ZSpace community: http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/m_brett
Rushdia Mehereen is a Master’s candidate in the department of Geography Planning and Environment at Concordia University, Montreal, and a member of the Social Struggles Committee of ASSE/CLASSE (Broadened Coalition of Association for Solidarity Amongst Student Unions formed for the 2012 Quebec General Unlimited Strike). As a coordinating member of Free Education Montreal (FEM), she worked to challenge international students’ tuition increases, among many other initiatives against the increased privatization of our universities. As a member of the Concordia Mobsquad (mobilization squad) strike committee, she is part of the mobilization that made history: Concordia, an Anglophone university in Quebec, joined the general unlimited strike.