More than 400,000 filled the streets of Montreal this week as a protest over a 75% increase in tuition has grown into a full-blown political crisis. After three months of sustained protests and class boycotts that have come to be known around the world as the "Maple Spring," the dispute exploded when the Quebec government passed an emergency law known as Bill 78, which suspends the current academic term, requires demonstrators to inform police of any protest route involving 50 or more people, and threatens student associations with fines of up to $125,000 if they disobey.

Quebec’s student movement, and the swelling ranks of its popular allies, staged a huge rally and march in Montreal on May 22. The march supported the students’ fight for free, quality public education and rejected government repression.

Estimates by some mainstream news outlets and by many independent observers put the number of participants as high as 400,000.

In Occupy-style, they are pop-up and pop-out protesters on Montreal's streets.

A jester threw juggling clubs high in the air, a masked face beamed — the sweat of the warm day glistening over her make-up — and the nose of a clown tilting up to figures on stilts, occasionally twisting round in a dance-trot.

An impromptu band shook beans in glass bottles and beat drumsticks, while an accordion played old favourites.

Whistles tried to organise the crowd. Dogs menaced one another, tying themselves up in their leashes as their owners passed by.

The strike of post-secondary students in Quebec has taken a dramatic turn with the May 18 approval by the provincial government of a special law to cancel the school year at strike-bound institutions and outlaw protest activity deemed disruptive of institutions not participating in the strike.

Details of Bill 78 were unveiled the day before and debated in a special, overnight session of Quebec’s National Assembly.

Quebec college and university students are now in the 13th week of their militant province-wide strike. They have voted overwhelmingly to reject a government offer that met none of their key demands.

After a 22-hour bargaining session involving ministers of the Charest government, university and college heads, and leaders of the major trade-union federations, the student leaders agreed on May 6 to put the offer to a vote of their memberships without recommending acceptance.

If the offer was accepted:

As Rocky Mountaineer’s lockout of award-winning on-board staff enters its 10th month, ads are once again being placed to hire more scab workers.

Rocky Mountaineer is Canada’s luxury tourist train that takes tourists throughout the summer months from Vancouver to the scenic Rocky Mountains. Nearly 40% of these visitors to Canada come from Australia.

On June 22 last year, as the Rocky Mountaineer pulled into Kamloops for its overnight stop, regular staff were ordered off the train and sent back to their homes in Vancouver. One hundred and eight staff were locked out.

For the past 12 weeks, students of Quebec’s colleges and universities have been on strike against Premier Jean Charest’s proposal to increase tuition fees by 75%. The indefinite strike involves more than 170,000 students and is now attracting high school students. Broad layers of the general public are sympathetic to the movement.

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.

The general membership of Carleton University’s Graduate Students’ Association voted overwhelmingly on March 21 and 22 in support of the Ottawa university divesting, via its pension fund, from companies complicit in the illegal military occupation of Palestine.

The plebiscite question, which has provisionally passed by 72.6%, marks the first time in Canada, and what is believed to be the second time globally, that a student union has taken a position via a direct vote in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli violations of international law.

Tens of thousands of students and their supporters marched in big Quebec cities on March 18 to oppose the Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s government’s promise to impose a 75% rise in post-secondary education fees over the next five years.

In Montreal, about 30,000 “former, present and future university students” protested. The march stretched for more than 1.5 kilometres, newspaper Le Devoir said. Thousands more marched in Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Alma.


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