In support of striking students in Quebec against the Charest government and Law 78, Occupy Toronto is answering the call from Quebec to bring the spirit of the student strike to Ontario.
Both Quebec and Ontario students have the same demands, accessible education.
In Quebec, the student strike - which sparked the Maple Spring - has been going on for months. 160,000 students are on strike, approximately 35% of the post-secondary student population in the province. Of those, 65,000 are CEGEP students, all in Montreal and surrounding regions.
The call to spread the spirit of the student strike is echoed in an open letter drafted to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
"We write this letter asking that the CFS engage in a consistent and serious mobilizing effort to bring the Quebec student movement to the rest of Canada.
We believe that this is the best solidarity we can give our sisters and brothers in Quebec. We believe it is the obligation of the elected student leaders to build this movement, and we commit, as rank-and-file students, to support you."
The letter further reads, "Quebec has shown, again and again, that the only way to force concession from governments is to mobilize on a mass basis through a strike campaign and confront the government, not with postcards, but with action! Students and youth, as well as the working population in general, have been inspired by the Quebec movement."
We are therefore asking that our representatives at the CFS and affiliated locals immediately begin a campaign for free post-secondary education, and make preparations to carry out a strike ballot in the Fall of 2012.
A massive student movement in Ontario would show the Quebec students that they are not alone. It would strengthen the movement for free post-secondary education across Canada, and it would cut across the divisions created by the pro-business politicians and corporate press to weaken the student movement."
When questioned about the open letter, Sandy Hudson, Chairperson of the Ontario CFS said her organization is "absolutely 100 per cent" behind striking Quebec students.
In was in this spirit that student activists in Toronto first began organizing a way to show solidarity with Quebec students beyond simply wearing their little red squares and demand accessible education for all.
Occupy Toronto was approached at their last General Assembly to endorse the call out and provide support for the demonstration.
Spread the Quebec Strike. Demand Free Education.
Tuesday May 22, 2012
Hart House (U of T)
7 Hart House Circle
While there are circumstances unique to Quebec regarding post secondary education, the province of Ontario has its fair share of education woes.
A poll in early January 2012 by Ontario Confederation of University and Faculty Associations and the Canadian Federation of Students, "of 1,800 adults found that nearly half of respondents believed the quality of post-secondary education has stayed the same since Premier Dalton McGuinty's administration took power. But almost a third of respondents said quality of education had declined in that period, and only 8 per cent said it had improve."
Ontario universities and colleges tuition fees are steadily increasing while at the same time class sizes are also growing, programs are being cut and aging infrastructure is being neglected.
McGuinty also announced a 30 per cent tuition rebate for students. The $430 million rebate refunds $1,600 back to university students' pockets and $730 back to community college students whose annual family income is below $160,000.
But this rebate does not apply equally to all students in Ontario. It was meant for high school students, not those students applying for university or college who have been out of school for more than four years. So for example, two thirds of George Brown students do not qualify for the rebate since they are mature students.
Also excluded from the rebate are part-time students, graduate students and Ontario students enrolled outside the province.
The Canadian Federation of Students' Ontario office has had more complaints from people excluded from this rebate than they have on any other issue in recent years, said Communication and Government Relations Coordinator Nora Loreto.
Students in Ontario are also concerned about the implications of Law 78 - passed by the Quebec National Assembly on Friday and enforceable beginning Saturday - which seriously infringes on people's right to demonstration.
Openfile.ca has published this list explaining the new rules:
-Semesters at campuses impacted by the student strike are immediately suspended, due to start again in August.
- Demonstrations with more than 50 people must provide the police with a time, location and duration at least eight hours in advance. The police may modify any of these parameters at any time.
- All gatherings are banned within 50 metres of a campus.
- Student associations not "employing appropriate means to induce" their members to comply with the law are guilty of violating the law. Individuals also fall under this and can be guilty by omission or for providing advice.
- Fines range from $1,000 for individuals to $125,000 for student associations. Fines double for repeat offences.
Despite the law, thousands of students in Montreal took to the street Saturday night.