By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 0 Comments
What started as a protest over provincial tuition hikes became political game changer.
MONTREAL — It simmered as a provincial dispute over tuition-fee hikes before exploding into a massive movement that grabbed the world’s attention.
Not only did Quebec’s boisterous, and sometimes violent, student unrest of 2012 lead to the cancellation of the tuition increases, it also ignited a wider social-justice movement.
The historic uprising dubbed the Maple Spring eventually faded away as the seasons changed, along with the government — but was this a harbinger of the political awakening of a new generation?
One of the most-prominent figures of the movement believes the students’ success has forever marked a crop of Canadian youth.
By Martin Patriquin - Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 4:07 PM - 0 Comments
Charest’s best hope for re-election is more violent student protests
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, arguably the leading figure in Quebec’s student protest movement, is known for his sartorial streak and a pair of ice-blue eyes that have weakened the knees of many of his admirers. Yet it was the 20-year-old’s righteous way with words that was on display as the would-be revolutionary dreamboat stepped back from the protracted (and at times violent) student uprising that has consumed Quebec for much of the year. “I leave with my head high, with the conviction of having fulfilled my duty and having participated in an historic popular movement,” Nadeau-Dubois wrote in his resignation letter in early August. His only regret, he said, was “leaving my functions while Quebec is led by Jean Charest, a premier who is disdainful and violent toward Quebec and its youth.”
Charest, who is seeking a fourth term, is probably just as sad to see Nadeau-Dubois go—if only because it deprives the premier of the perfect villain. Saddled with abysmal approval ratings, stemming largely from allegations of corruption within his government, Charest has tried mightily to make the Sept. 4 election about law and order—one of the few areas where he outflanks rivals Pauline Marois and François Legault. And few people personified the tear-gas-tinged, traffic-snarling displays that were the nightly student protests this spring and early summer than Nadeau-Dubois.
Apparently aware of his value to Charest’s re-election campaign, Nadeau-Dubois told Radio-Canada he resigned in part because “it takes a target away from Jean Charest.” The group he once led isn’t quite so savvy. Through the stubborn militancy of the second-largest association in the province, the student union CLASSE has kept the spectre of further conflict alive, and may well help re-elect the man it has fought against for nine months. Unlike the province’s other main student groups, CLASSE has refused to participate in the election. Indeed, true to its anarchist tendencies, it does not even endorse the electoral system; rather, the group continues to rely on what spokesperson Jeanne Reynolds calls the “show of force and economic disruption” of old-fashioned street protests. “The victories we’ve had have happened because of the protests and the strike, so we think we should continue,” Reynolds says. “We have the momentum.”
As the election campaign enters its middle stages, Charest has made pains to define himself as the only candidate able to confront and suppress what he has called “those who have expressed themselves through intimidation and violence.” It is a soundbite-worthy way of describing the thousands who, over the past several months, marched through Montreal’s streets in a cat-and-mouse game with police. Yet these displays have largely ended as more and more students vote to go back to school, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the premier needs a certain amount of chaos in the streets-—if only to keep the public’s attention away from the raft of corruption allegations swirling around his government.
By From the editors - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 1:41 PM - 0 Comments
It’s only proper students pay their fair share
Last week voters in France and Greece turned their backs on fiscal discipline, preferring the illusion that it’s not necessary to fix their own problems. As Senior Writer Michael Petrou explains in his story on the EU crisis (“Europe votes its troubles away,” page 26), austerity and responsibility are not always the most attractive ballot options.
This week, university students in Quebec will put their own grasp of reality to the test. After several months of often-violent protests against planned tuition fee increases, Quebec students are voting on the government’s latest proposal that maintains the hikes but creates a new and fairer system for student loan repayment. Early reaction from students opposing the plan suggests reality will once again be stymied. For now.
It is beyond debate that a university degree provides substantial economic benefits to the holder. The average after-tax income boost enjoyed by a university graduate is on the order of $15,000. Per year. Society at large may benefit from a well-educated workforce, but these gains are disproportionately weighted toward students themselves. It’s only proper students pay their fair share.