It felt a lot like 2012 in downtown Montreal Tuesday afternoon, as over 1,000 students loudly demonstrated in the streets, demanding free university tuition.
The demonstration marked 10 years to the day after the biggest protest of 2012’s Maple Spring.
Montreal students were back on strike wearing red squares once again, with dreams of reigniting the movement.
“We want the government to make a change and give us free tuition now,” said 17-year old Ludmila Herault, a student at CEGEP Bois-de-Boulogne.
On March 22, 2012, hundreds of thousands marched against a university tuition increase planned by then-premier Jean Charest’s government.
It was part of a student movement that paralyzed the city for months, and the increase was eventually scrapped.
Herault was eight years old at the time.
“I was in primary, and my school was paid. Nowadays I’m in college and I’m going to university and I don’t have my tuition paid,” she said.
Marie-Claude Barbeau Sylvestre was a masters student in 2012 when she joined the protests. She attended the 2022 version a teacher supporting her students in their demands.
“It’s really nice to see that there’s a legacy, and at the same time that they can take the subject in their own hands and add their own voice and concerns to it,” the CEGEP Vieux Montreal philosophy teacher said.
The new protesters want free tuition, paid internships and more.
The demonstration was mostly francophone but there was a small contingent from the city’s English universities, Concordia and McGill.
None of the English CEGEPs’ student unions voted to go on strike.
“It’s about really kind of showing the student mobilization is still alive and showing that, you know, we’re still able to collect together in groups and are still (able) to make demands collectively in this way,” said Concordia student Joshua Sallos.
Unlike in 2012 when the students were on an unlimited strike, this one was only for a day.
More than 50,000 students voted to walk out of class to protest.
“It’s supposed to be a basic right, a fundamental right to study,” said David Dessalines, a student at College Maisonneuve.
Police said they were not informed in advance of the route students would take as they marched through downtown Montreal.
“Everywhere the living standards of the working class and the students is getting attacked while the rich are getting richer,” said Olivier Turbide, a student at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).
There is another nighttime protest planned on Thursday. In 2012, those often got out of hand.
Students will also march for the climate on Friday.