Quebecois student activist to join Resistance national conference

June 1, 2012

Guillaume Legault, a leading member of Quebec’s CLASSE student organisation, will join this year's Resistance national conference “A Time of Revolution” over July 20-22 in Adelaide.

CLASSE — the Broad Coalition of the Association for Student Union Solidarity — is the most radical student association leading the student strike in Quebec against rising tuition fees. Hundreds of thousands of students and supporters have taken part in the strike and daily protests.

The movement recently celebrated 100 days of the strike on May 22, which saw 400,000 people marching through the centre of Montreal. Numbers at the march were bolstered by public outrage at the government’s introduction of laws designed to stop the demonstrations, which clearly failed.

The latest round of talks between the Quebec government and student leaders ended when education minister Michelle Courchesne walked out of a meeting on May 31.

Courchesne claimed that both sides showed good faith during the negotiations but they couldn’t find a resolution. However, CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said that Courchesne acted “in bad faith from the beginning to the end”. Over previous days student negotiators claimed that the minister didn’t even bother to read their proposals.

Premier Jean Charest predicted that with the negotiations over, the following weeks would be “a period of calm”. How he came to that conclusion is a mystery, because the students reacted as most people would have predicted.

Nadeau-Dubois told Radio Canada, “When a government cuts off dialogue, when a government sabotages negotiations, the only place left for the population to make itself heard is in the streets. And there's where we are returning.”

The students called for a big demonstration on June 2. “We want people to bring their pots and pans so we can be heard all the way to Quebec City," Nadeau-Dubois said.

CLASSE aims to link the student movement with other sectors of society to create a broader campaign. They have explicitly named neoliberalism as their target and called for a “social strike” to not only defeat the tuition rise but to counter other neoliberal policies.

The strike’s impact has extended beyond blocked streets and noisy pot-banging. Business groups in Quebec and the mayor of Montreal are raising concerns that the ongoing demonstrations are affecting their profits in the tourist industry.

The festival season is drawing near, beginning with the Montreal Grand Prix, which usually attracts many thousands of people and millions of dollars. The pressure of time weighs heavily on the government, to the advantage of the students.

Thousands rallied across Canada on May 30 in solidarity with the striking students. In Quebec’s neighbouring state, Ontario, the governing Liberals have offered a tuition rebate to students, clearly in an effort to prevent a similar uprising.

The Ontario government’s chief of staff, Chris Morley, said: “The movement has taken on a life of its own and become a symbol for anti-government protests.” Fearing the spread of the movement, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has ordered his staff to examine the “intergenerational disconnect” and in an upcoming speech he is expected to acknowledge the fears held by many young people.

Resistance is helping to ensure that the spirit of the student struggle spreads beyond Quebec’s borders. We look forward to meeting Legault and other young people from around Australia who want to ensure that we have a future in a sustainable society run for our needs rather than profit.

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