Quebec student march draws larger crowd than expected
Published Sunday, July 22, 2012 1:33PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 22, 2012 10:15PM EDT
Organizers of Quebec’s student protest saw a larger-than-expected turnout during Sunday’s march against tuition hikes.
Thousands of students and supporters took to the streets of Montreal, Quebec City and Trois-Rivières Sunday afternoon to show the province’s Liberal government that the student movement is still alive and strong.
Students have been holding major marches on the 22nd of every month since March.
“We really want to think about what we want for the Quebec of tomorrow and I think that people should be happy to see the youth is taking a position in the public debate,” Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for student group CLASSE, told CTV Montreal Sunday.
Nadeau-Dubois said the demands of Quebec students extend beyond opposing tuition rate hikes in the province.
“We are also for something,” he told CTV News Channel earlier on Sunday. “We are for more social justice, for more ecology, for accessibility to education. It’s those types of values and ideas that we’re trying to transmit in our mobilization today.”
Nadeau-Dubois recently introduced CLASSE’s new manifesto, which focused on four core themes: democracy, ecology, social justice and feminism.
“As students, as the youth of Quebec, we think it is our responsibility not only to take a position on the issue of our tuition fees, but on the general direction that Quebec has taken,” Nadeau-Dubois said.
He described the manifesto as “what we want for the future of our province,” and said that while the protests were sparked by the proposed tuition increase, demonstrators quickly saw support from many other groups, including trade unions.
Speaking before the marches, Nadeau-Dubois said he expected the turnoutto be smaller thanfor previous protests, as many students are away for the summer. Also, provincial emergency legislation introduced by the Liberal government to suspend classes at Quebec universities also established strict guidelines on where and when protests could be held.
Protests against the Liberal government have eased during the summer months, but students said a strong turnout during the height of the summer holidays is proof the movement hasn't died out.
Earlier in July Quebec protestors made nine stops in Ontario for the “Student Solidarity Tour” to speak to Ontarians about protesting tuition increases, where post-secondary students pay the highest tuition fees in the country.
Asked about the level of public support for the student protests in the Quebec, Nadeau-Dubois said the issue of tuition increases has become very polarizing.
“The conflict is now on for so long that the population is very divided,” he said. “There is a big part of the population that supports us totally and another part that is really angry with us.”
Meanwhile with a provincial election expected to be called August 1, student protestors have said they will work to ensure the Liberals do not return to power.
"We want to make sure everybody understands what we did during the spring time, what we continue to do, and why we are doing it," said Yannick Gregoire, vice-president of an association of junior college students.
"We also want to make sure everybody knows what the Liberals did during their mandate."
The head of another student group, Eliane Laberge, said getting out the vote will be a priority if an election is called. Voter turnout among Quebecers between ages 18 and 25 was below 50 per cent in the 2008 election.
"We want a party that is representing the youth of Quebec," she said. "And we thought if the majority of them go vote, then maybe we can (make) a big difference."
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Camille Ross and files from The Canadian Press