It’s been a decade since student protests paralyzed the streets of Montreal.
CEGEP and university students across Quebec walked out of classrooms protesting tuition hikes.
The student uprising, dubbed the Maple Spring, has a mixed legacy, with memories of peaceful marches but also intense clashes with police.
This week, around 80,000 students are on strike, and on Tuesday, 10 years to the day of one the Maple Spring’s largest protests, thousands of students are expected to protest for free tuition.
“We are fighting for free tuition and a vision of education that is different,” said Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) graduate student Lucia Flores Echaiz. “We are against commodification of education — we want to see universities and CEGEPs as essential goods that everyone can have access to.”
Though Echaiz says students are inspired by the Maple Spring protests, she says they want to move the conversation forward.
McGill political science professor Daniel Beland says the 2012 movement had a major influence on the political landscape, but isn’t sure these protests can do the same.
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“I’m really not sure where this will go. People have other things in mind — there’s still the pandemic and all other factors and issues, like inflation is a major concern for people,” said Beland. “And the Legault government is quite strong politically. So I’m not sure how much space there is on the agenda for this movement.”
Though students are striking and will be protesting for a few different issues this week, including paid internships, tuition is a top priority.
The Quebec Student Union says over the last eight years, the average tuition increase has been just under three per cent. But they fear a larger hike for this fall, and that, they say, can have major consequences.
“With the inflation, it is harder for everyone to pay their rent, groceries and everything,” said Quebec Student Union interim president Jonathan Desroches. “So we think with the budget that is coming Tuesday that the government shouldn’t tax people more, but should help them.”
In a statement to Global News, Quebec’s higher education minister, Danielle McCann, said the government is “well aware” of students’ concerns.
“Access to education is an essential element of our plan in higher education. We will be releasing information on tuition fees very shortly,” she said.