Quebec students take protest to Ontario
TORONTO — Quebec organizers responsible for the longest and largest student strike in Canadian history are taking their message to Ontario university campuses.
The nine-day Student Solidarity Tour kicks off Thursday night in Ottawa with a speech by high-profile student protest leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
The tour will also stop in Kingston, Hamilton, Windsor, Niagara, London, Guelph and Toronto before wrapping up in Peterborough on July 20.
Sarah Jayne King, the chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students for Ontario (CFSO), said the event is about educating students on how to fight rising post-secondary tuition fees in Ontario, which are the highest in the country.
“The tour comes, I think, at an important time for Ontario students where we have a host of challenges ahead of us,” she said in Ottawa. “We have seen tuition fees increase drastically since 2006.”
For the 2010-2011 chool year, Ontario students paid an average of $6,640 in tuition fees, according to Statistics Canada.
Thousands of students in Quebec have been on strike since February to oppose a tuition fee hike of $254 a year over seven years.
The daily marches, which have included classroom sit-ins, are set to begin again in mid-August once classes resume at Quebec’s 14 junior colleges.
The strike has been marred by some violence, prompting the Quebec provincial government to bring in controversial emergency legislation. Bill 78 paused the school year at institutions with striking students, imposed fines for anyone who blocked access to a school and established guidelines on how long and where the protests can be held.
King said the Quebec student leaders are not in Ontario to promote violent action, but will instead share their experiences of how they say police have been handling protesters during the strike.
“This is not about promoting militant action,” she said.
One of the tour’s speakers, Jeremie Bedard-Wien with CLASSE (the Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarite syndicale etudiante) said Ontario students have every reason to protest.
“Many grassroots organizations are sprouting up in Ontario to learn from our organization tactics and it’s clear Ontario students are interested in learning how we mobilize and how to prepare for a general strike,” said the 20-year-old college student.
“Tuition here is very much higher than it is in Quebec. I definitely think students will react more strongly.”