The Student Movement in Quebec

April 25, 2012


A crowd estimated at 250,000 people or more wound its way through Montréal April 22 in Quebec’s largest ever Earth Day march.

They raised many demands: an end to tar sands and shale gas development, opposition to the Quebec government’s Plan Nord mining expansion, support for radical measures to protect ecosystems, and other causes. And many wore the red felt square symbolizing support to the province’s students fighting the Liberal government’s 75 percent increase in post-secondary education fees over the next five years. The Earth Day march was the largest mobilization to date in a mounting wave of citizen protest throughout the province.


The students of Quebec are 11 weeks into a strike and have shut down several major institutions in the province. 170,000 students are boycotting classes, while police repression has been rising. The government has refused to meet with CLASSE, the most militant (and largest) student group organising the strikes and protests, citing violence and criminal actions in prior actions. CLASSE responded last week by pledging to continue “their support of actions of civil disobedience such as occupations of parliamentary deputies’ offices or blockages of certain sites such as bridges, roads, etc.” The situation is clearly rather polarised, and the students are keen to press on, with substantial popular support.

But trade unions remain detached, despite petitions urging them to strike in solidarity, meaning that the student movement has not really begun to translate into a broader demand for alternatives across society. There have been some signs of conjunction. At a protest today, students and workers sacked by Air Canada came together outside the company’s shareholder meeting.

Quebec’s Education Minister, Line Beauchamp is seeking to divide the student movement, painting CLASSE as reckless, ill-disciplined and more radical than other participating groups, so far without success. But tensions may rise between student groups if the decentralised, democratic structure of CLASSE is not embraced by the movement as a whole.




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