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As thousands of students prepare to demonstrate in Quebec City this afternoon, the strike against tuition fee increases continues to grow: As of today, 84,500 students are officially on strike, with another 16,000 or so having voted in favor of a strike mandate, but not officially going on strike. This means the total could soon reach the 100,000 student mark, with some of the largest student associations in the province still to hold votes in the coming weeks.
Latest polls also indicate a majority of Quebeckers are supportive of the students' cause. Numbers released by Forum Research polling on Feb. 24 showed that 53 per cent of Quebeckers oppose the Liberal government's proposed increases.
Beginning this fall, tuition fees in Quebec will increase by $325 per year for the next five years, under the Liberals, increasing tuition fees by a total of $1625, or 75 per cent. Students and supporters opposed to the hike have pointed to studies that show tuition fee increases often lead to lower-income students either interrupting or deciding against pursuing post-secondary studies.
English associations gaining momentum
The vast majority of student associations that have voted for the strike have been Francophone so far. But with strike votes scheduled by several student associations at English schools today (including Dawson College, with 10,500 students), the momentum seems to have crossed the linguistic divide.
Yesterday at Concordia, several smaller student associations totalling about 1,200 students, voted in favor of a strike, including Women’s Studies & Sexuality Studies, Geography – undergrads (GUSS) and the School of Community and Public Affairs – undergrads (SCPASA). Today, another two department associations (Philosophy – undergrads (SoPhiA) – at 2:45pm, in H-110, and Political Science – undergrads (PSSA) – at 2:30pm, H-7th floor), as well as the much larger Faculty of Fine Arts – undergrads (FASA) (1:30pm, CSU Lounge), will also be holding strike votes.
While the Concordia Student Union, which represents all Concordia undergraduate students, will be voting on March 7 for a strike mandate for March 26, departmental and faculty associations are holding their own votes in order to reach more students at a grassroots level (since many departments represent just a few hundred students as opposed to tens of thousands), wrote Rushdia Mehdi, a member of the Concordia MobSquad which is helping to mobilize and organize students for strike votes, in an email exchange. "Having students mobilized at the grassroots level (department/faculty) will help the [March 7] strike vote," she added.
Several more departments are planning votes in the coming days.
Dawson admin meddling in strike vote?
With Concordia and McGill-wide votes still to come, by far the largest English institution to consider striking at this point will be the Dawson Student Union, which is holding a Special General Assembly today (5pm, room 3C.1). Representing over 10,000 students, DSU students will be voting on whether to hold one-day, three-day, or unlimited general strikes, and whether simply to endorse the March 22 National Day of Action being organized by student federations.
In a press release today, though, DSU representatives have been crying foul over administration tactics. They are alleging that the CEGEP has been interfering in the mobilization for the General Assembly, claiming that they have emails showing administrators providing advice to the No committee organizing against the strike vote, and that they have traced a petition to cancel the GA back to administrators as well.
"The behaviour of Dawson College administrators is highly unethical, and potentially illegal," said Audrey Deveault, chair of the Dawson Student Union in the realses. "CEGEP students can make decisions on their own. They do not need administrators interfering in the democratic process."
Despite the concerns, the vote will be going ahead as scheduled this evening.
Updates about today's march in Quebec City and results of strike votes will be posted as they develop.