Quebec students continue to rebel against tuition hike
By David Hollinshead, Staff Writer
Quebec students protesting planned tuition hikes were met with force from riot police last Friday on the streets of Montreal. The protesters, whose demonstration was recently declared illegal by police, were offered to have the provincial government’s $1,625 tuition hike spread over a span of seven years instead of the proposed five. Protesters promptly rejected the concession.
In 1990, the Quebecois Liberal Government, controlled by Robert Bourassa increased tuition from $500 to $1,600; a raise that would hike up $280 annually over four years. The tuition raise was not received positively, as thousands hit the streets in protest, but was unable to turn the decision. Six years later, the streets were full of 100,000 protesting students after the Parti Quebecois education minister Pauline Marois attempted to raise the tuitions again by 30 per cent. She changed her mind after seeing the reaction given, announcing a tuition freeze until 2007.
Once the Liberals came back into power, it seemed as though they planned for a war to break out between them and the student body. Nine years later, the Liberal Government again enraged students, deciding to cut $103 million from financial aid. Two hundred thousand students, doubling the protests of a decade previous, came out in protest, and once again, in a few weeks, the decision was changed. Once 2007 came around, the Liberals took advantage of the freeze ending, and intended to increase tuition $500 over a five year period, meeting another negative reaction, but the movement stayed.
[quote style=”boxed”]The students’ protesting activities have become more and more elaborate and destructive… Four government officials’ offices were vandalized by Molotov cocktails.[/quote]
In 2010, Line Beauchamp became the education minister in the cabinet shuffle, and a year later, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand announced that Quebec was again to raise tuition fees, beginning in September 2012. The plan was to raise tuition by $325 annually over five years. The total increase will amount to $1,625, raising Quebec tuition to $3,793 in 2017. Despite this raise, the tuition in Quebec will remain among the lowest in Canada.
Following this decision, students began campaigns against the tuition hikes, with several peaceful rallies held in Montreal in an attempt to apply the pressure to the government to change their minds. However, on February 23, 2012, a student was pepper-sprayed at another protest rally, and less than a month later, a student was wounded in the eye by a police officer during an altercation. The student, Francis Grenier, become the face of the rebellion, invoking students to wear a patch over their eye in tribute to him.
Students then protested on the Champlain Bridge during rush hour to apply further pressure upon the government; each student was fined for this act.
The students’ protesting activities have become more and more elaborate and destructive. The outside of the Beauchamp office was painted red and used as a rally point. Four government officials’ offices were vandalized by Molotov cocktails. When it finally looked as though the violence would end, the talks broke off, and in another rally, students were arrested and fined.
Currently, the situation is at a standstill. The student looked to renegotiate with the government, but were turned down.