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The first week back at classes has proven to be a crucial time for college students in Quebec, who have begun voting on whether to maintain the strike, which kicked off in February, or go back to school.
Thus far, students at seven colleges have voted to return to class, two have voted to stay on strike, and one has accepted an electoral truce, meaning they may vote again after Quebec provincial elections on September 4th.
"We still see that the various student associations remain mobilized, some have mandated a strike for the demonstration on August 22nd, which we want to be the largest demonstration during the electoral period," said Camille Robert, spokesperson for the CLASSE, a student coalition that has been the main actor representing striking students.
Various unions and community organizations held a joint press conference at Collège Maisonneuve on Tuesday. Collège Maisonneuve students voted to return to classes on Monday.
"The struggle is not over, what we were asking for, our demand, was not at all to have an election campaign, the demands of the SOGÉÉCOM, our demands, remain the cancellation of the tuition increase, the cancellation of all tuition increases from the perspective of free education," said Thomas D'Avignon, the communications person for SOGÉÉCOM, the student association at Collège Maisonneuve.
More colleges will hold votes through the end of this week. On Friday alone, Cégep St. Laurent and Cégep Vieux Montreal -two general vocational colleges that voted to continue the strike- are expected to hold down picket lines, while students at three colleges more will vote.
According to CLASSE, approximately 20,000 students have voted this month to go back on strike.
University students are not scheduled to start returning to classes until August 27. Department by department votes will continue to take place through August. Students from various faculties in three universities have already committed to maintaining the strike.
Students returning to picket lines face the possibility of harsh state repression, especially considering the context of Bill 78 (now Bill 12), a law passed to restrict picketing or protesting near universities, and requiring protest organizers seek police approval for gatherings of more than 50 people. Massive demonstrations as well as ongoing night demonstrations have repeatedly defied this law. Bill 78 has yet to be applied on a campus.
A night demonstration and casserole in Montreal on Monday was small but spirited, bringing out over 600 people. Neighborhood assemblies are continuing to meet and work out how to continue to fight against austerity and repression even if students at local schools go back to class.
A look at this week's votes. Updated August 15, 11:00 PDT.
Return to classes August 13th:
Cégep André-Laurendeau (end of strike, voted 9 August)
Return to classes August 14th:
Collège Maisonneuve (end of strike, voted 9 August)
Cégep Marie-Victorin (end of strike, voted August 13)
Collège Valleyfield (end of strike, voted August 13)
Return to classes August 15th:
Cégep Saint-Hyacinthe (vote August 15)
Collège Édouard-Montpetit (end of strike, voted 13 August)
Return to classes August 16th:
Collège Lionel-Groulx (end of strike, voted August 14)
Collège Montmorency (end of strike, voted August 14)
Cégep de Saint-Jérôme (electoral truce, voted August 9)
Return to classes August 17th:
Collège Ahuntsic (vote August 16)
Collège Bois-de-Boulogne (vote August 16)
Collège Rosemont (vote August 16)
Cégep Saint-Laurent (continuation of strike)
Cégep Vieux-Montréal (continuation of strike)