Canada

The student movement in Quebec is facing a crucial summer of discussion and organising.

Law 78, which suspended classes at strike-bound institutions in May, directs their resumption in mid-August. The government of Liberal Party Premier Jean Charest is preparing a judicial and police assault against striking students and their associations. It aims to force open school doors and see its proposed 82% university tuition fee hike over seven years prevail.

The opening salvo in a promised, summer of protest by Quebec’s student movement was delivered at the annual, Montreal Grand Prix auto race and surrounding festivities from June 7 to 10. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students and their allies used the high-profile event to press demands for a freeze in post-secondary tuition fees and an end to police and state repression.

Active solidarity with the Quebec strike movement against fee hikes, which has lasted more than 100 days in the face of Premier Jean Charest's crackdown, is crucial for all struggles against austerity.

The Quebec government is targeting the right to organise collectively.

This means spreading the red square everywhere. The red square is the pervasive symbol of the Quebec student movement, whether pinned to clothing or used as a graphic on signs, leaflets, culture jams or websites.

”Nothing is working anymore in Quebec City.” So began the report on Radio Canada (French language CBC) of the collapse of negotiations between the Quebec government and the four associations of post-secondary students on strike. Around 4 pm on Thursday, Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne walked out of the talks.

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.

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