Ontario students inspired by Quebec ‘solidarity tour’
Published Monday, July 16, 2012 11:54AM EDT
Organizers of Quebec’s massive student protests are in Ontario this week to tell students about how they’ve managed to organize the longest and largest student strike in Canada's history.
Leaders from the student group CLASSE are visiting nine cities in a tour billed the Student Solidarity Tour, to spread the word about how Ontario students can let the government know they’re tired of rising tuition fees.
Sarah Jayne King, the chair of the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students, says Quebec student leaders are telling Ontario students about their challenges in fighting tuition hikes and Bill 78, which was passed by Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s government and severely limits the rights of students to demonstrate.
“It’s about having an opportunity to speak with students from Quebec about their experiences in fighting the tuition fee increases and the opposition to Bill 78,” King told CTV’s Canada AM from Windsor, Ont., where the nine-day tour is making its latest stop.
While Quebec students have been very vocal about the tuition fee issue for months, it’s Ontario students who pay the highest fees in the country. Tuition has risen by 71 per cent since 2006 and now stands at an average of $6,640 a year.
While the Quebec protests have quieted since the summer began, King is hoping the tour will inspire Ontario students to take “some form of action” to protest fee hikes.
“We know that we need to continue this fight. We have seen a government that’s prioritizing increasing tuition fees instead of reducing fees even though they promised to do during the (provincial) election,” she said.
Asked whether Ontario student leaders expect that the call to action to stir up the same violence that’s been seen in the streets of Quebec, King responded: “Well, I certainly would hope the (Ontario) government would not respond in the same way the Quebec government has responded, with so much violence in the streets, if students were to take this sort of action.”
King says last Thursday’s stop at the University of Ottawa, the first stop in the tour, saw more than 200 students and community activists attend.
“It is the summer so there are definitely fewer students on campus but the turnout has been excellent at the other stops we’ve made so far.”
The Student Solidarity Tour will also stop in London, Guelph and Toronto before wrapping up in Peterborough on July 20.
In addition to the Ontario dates, CLASSE plans to visit 20 regions in Quebec including Sherbrooke, Rimouski and c. They are also considering a September tour to other provinces.