Central Student Association calls on Jean Charest to negotiate in good faith

Friday, May 4, 2012


On Friday, May 4th, the CSA sent a letter to the Jean Charest government in Québec to encourage meaningful negotiation with students and end the police repression of student demonstrators. 

The Central Student Association is the undergraduate student union at the University of Guelph, representing over twenty thousand undergraduate students. 

The following letter was sent to Jean Charest and copied to MPP Liz Sandals and MP Frank Valeriote.  A short message of solidarity and a copy of the letter was also sent to the three student federations in Québec; the FEUQ, the FECQ and the CLASSE.


To the Honourable Jean Charest,

The University of Guelph’s Central Student Association proudly expresses its solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of University students currently exercising their democratic rights to protect and expand accessible education in Québec, through striking and demonstrating. 

The proposed increase by your government of $1625 over the next 5 years threatens Québec students’ access to education and will contribute to the increase of tuition fees across the country, including here in Ontario.  A recent study done by a Québec student federation (the FEUQ) has shown that the median income of Québec students is $12 200 per year.  Your hike in fees means that students will have to work an extra 162 hours per year at a salary of $10/hr to make ends meet.

The Central Student Association, in accordance with its policies, is committed to the removal of economic barriers to universal accessibility.  We now feel we must add our voices to the growing chorus across Canada which condemns the intensifying privatization and commodification of our education system.  

Students in Ontario suffer from some of the highest tuition fees, the largest class sizes and some of the highest debt levels in the country.  We have learned from experience that increased student debt does not increase the quality of education.  We as Ontarian students need Québec to continue to lead by example and provide a more socially just funding framework to post-secondary education.  Québec students themselves continue to inspire us with mass mobilizations against the increase, rallying some of the largest protests in Canadian history over the past weeks.  The rally of 250 000 people on March 22nd and a rally of almost 300 000 on April 22nd is evidence of the broad support they are receiving from the public. 

We are also very concerned with the repression and contempt the students have faced from police and government.  Québec students have democratically voted on and organized the ongoing strike through the democratic structure of mass meetings.  Despite this, your government has refused to negotiate the tuition increase in good faith.  There has been considerable police violence, including gassing protestors, mass arrests, and even blinding one student in the eye with a sound bomb.  You need to condemn this repression and respect the democratic rights of students in Québec. 

It is not too late to come to a political solution to this manufactured crisis.  Sit down with all student federations now and negotiate in good faith.  Listen to the students and the public and make Québec an example of accessible, quality post-secondary education in Canada. 


Drew Garvie

Communications and Corporate Affairs

On behalf of the Central Student Association Executive Committee


Students are also encouraged to pick up a red square from the CSA office starting May 7. The square of fabric comes from the expression, "squarely in the red" when referring to student debt and have become the symbol of the student movement in Quebec.

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  1. Posted by: GavinA on May 4, 2012 @ 5:40pm

    Just to point 2 things out:

    Quebec has the lowest tuition fee in the country. They also have the lowest enrolment rate to university. Their government has the highest burden to offset inflation and other increasing costs more than any other province.

    Secondly, the proposed increased in Quebec averages to be $140 per student over a 3 year period. Students in Ontario pay about a $140 increase per year. Im not justifying our tuition rates but I cant believe such a large uproar is being staged over a minimal issue compared to what else is going on

  2. Posted by: Dubh on May 5, 2012 @ 1:20pm

    Sad to hear that you think affordable education is a minimal issue. I prefer to admire the striking students for their incredible passion, determination, organization, ability to work together and commitment to the principle of keeping education affordable in Quebec for future generations.

  3. Posted by: PaddyO on May 6, 2012 @ 10:06pm

    Yes Gavin, Québec has the lowest fees - in Canada. Fortunately for us, we don't limit ourselves to the rest of Canada to make comparisons... Many countries in Europe and Latin America have free tuition, and it's working pretty well for them. They usually finance it through the same means proposed by the student unions: more tax brackets.
    And about the enrollment rate, that's only if you look at university enrollment, and because in much of English Canada, programs such as nursing and computer science are counted as university majors (because colleges are allowed to pass themselves off as universities just so they can attract more students). In Québec, these types of programs are offered in the cegep (college) network. If you look at overall post-secondary enrollment, Québec's rate is the highest in Canada (nearly 50%, compared to around 40% for the rest). And that's an impressive achievment if you consider the fact that it used to be the poorest province, and there is a large proportion of first generation university students (i.e. students whose parents don't have a university diploma).

    The proposed increase is $254 a year, over a 7 year period... reaching $1,778 in 2019, a 75% increase, not what I would call "minimal".

    Maybe you would understand Gavin why such a large uproar is being made, if you saw that it is also about "what else is going on". This tuition hike is part of the set of austerity measures being imposed by the Québec government and others across the world, and students see that and they understand it's the most dangerous thing going on right now. This fight will go on beyond the tuition issue.

    I would also like to stress, with Dubh, the lesson taught by those students, on strike for more than two months now, who are struggling for the future generations. The university students leading the movement have little to gain from it, since they will have graduated before most of the hike is implemented. High school and elementary school students will bear the brunt of this policy. That's why, everytime we marched past a school, we were chanting: "On fait ça pour vous" (We're doing it for you).

    So here's hoping this movement spreads to the rest of Canada. It's much needed, especially with all the conservative nonsense going on right now. I invite everyone to actively join us in building this movement in Guelph. You'll hear about it.

  4. Posted by: Véro on May 8, 2012 @ 10:51am

    I have a couple things to point out:

    “Québec students themselves continue to inspire us with mass mobilizations against the increase, rallying some of the largest protests...” I ask this to anyone who is inspired: do you actually know anyone who is in the midst of what is going on, or do only know what the news/internet tells you? My sister is presently in the midst of it all, and really, there is nothing that is really inspiring. The only thing I could think of is that they are standing for what they believe in. That’s it. Period. The way they do it is horrible. Rallying in the streets, throwing rocks. Really? And you want us to support that?

    “Québec students have democratically voted on and organized the ongoing strike through democratic structure of mass meetings”. Did you know that some votes during meetings “Assemblée générales” are made in public, by putting your hand up? Those who are against the strike are probably just too scared to go against masses. Also, 2/3 of the students are not striking and most CEGEPs have started classes again.

    “We are also very concerned with the repression from the police and the government”
    My sister and some other people from her CEGEP organized themselves to get an injunction to get classes. Most of the people she was with were about to finish and needed to finish their classes to be still accepted in university. They were only able to get to class on the third or fourth day after their classes were supposed to start because the strikers were blocking their path. These people were wearing all black and had scarves and ski masks to cover their faces. Some were wearing intimidation messages. The police said it wouldn’t have been safe to get to class. That is why I am not concerned at all by the repression of the police.

    “You need to condemn this repression and respect the democratic rights of students in Québec” - yes because students in Québec are very respectful when striking: blocking a big bridge in rush hour, throwing rocks to a building in Victoriaville, destroying police cars, blocking the entrance to CEGEPs to people with injunctions....

    “Make Québec an example of accessible [..] post-secondary education in Canada.”
    Wasn’t there a suggestion from the government a couple weeks ago that suggested that the less fortunate families pay less for the education, and have families with more money pay more for the education?

    I’ll just finish up by saying that if you encourage students to pick up red squares, you better have green squares too... or else it’s not really democratic isn’t it?

  5. Posted by: PaddyO on May 8, 2012 @ 5:29pm

    Well, Véro, i've been in the midst of this movement in Hull for almost a month now, and I can tell you, yes, this is the most inspiring thing to happen in Québec for a long, long time! Unless you really don't care about where society is going and popular participation, you should be encouraged that so many young people, who were given off as the most apathetic generation by pundits, are organizing and willing to sacrifice so much for what they believe in. This struggle is about defending principles and social institutions that make our society stronger, such as access to education. I know people who used to not get involved in politics who are taking an active role in this movement; people are willing to risk their semester, even their liberty and health in some cases, for the sake of future generations. I can't think of anything more inspiring than that. Just throwing rocks, huh? You're just revealing you had a dishonest perspective on this whole issue from the start (and for a start, Martineau has been the least credible source in the whole province. I'm pointing that out cause you sound a lot like him).

    What's wrong with voting by putting your hand up? I don't get it, with what you say right after that it sounds like it didn't have such a negative effect on students against the strike, since you point out that most schools didn't join it... which they actually did, at some point in March. So the poor little green square students are scared? Like little privileged kids, scared of the mass of savage poor kids ready to cut their throats? Pardon me if I'm not moved. I also haven't heard of a single violent incident against a green student. There was this pursuit in the Montreal subway but that's just funny.

    I'm proud to way I stood with my fellow brothers and sisters from the university and cegep in my hometown fighting against the undemocratic injunctions imposed by so-called judges, actual liberal cronies in the judical system. I have no pity for people your poor little sister who can't see past their own self-interest, and actually add fuel to the fire by calling on the judiciary system to fight a decision taken democratically by student associations. These people are nothing but scabs, and they deserve the same respect scabs have always had from their peers. The fight against injunctions is a struggle for democracy and the right to strike; and if police stood in the way, it was justified to resist them.

    So you're not concerned with the repression of the police, huh? Not concerned about the fate of Alexandre Allard, whose life is still at risk after suffering from cranial trauma as a result of the savage police repression in Victoriaville? Not concerned about the fate of Francis Grenier and Maxence Valade, who lost the use of one eye for the rest of their lives? Or how about how those cops laugh out loud as they shoot rubber bullets at close range? Are you human?

  6. Posted by: PaddyO on May 8, 2012 @ 5:50pm

    And one more thing, about the government suggestion to help students from less fortunate families at the expense of rich students: instead of making a complicated system to ensure like they're trying to do, why not listen to the suggestion put forward by the student unions to fund the elimination of tuition fees by introducing more tax brackets, and/or re-introducing the capital tax? Serves the same purpose, which you seem to be supporting, of taxing the rich for the greater good and social justice. Oh but I guess it's hard to do when you have a party in power that's bank-rolled by the rich and the mafia...

  7. Posted by: dgarvie on May 9, 2012 @ 3:26pm

    Hi Véro,
    I do have a lot of friends studying in Montreal. They are all firmly supporting the strike and asking for solidarity messages like the one the CSA agreed to put forward. Of course there are different voices within the student movement in Quebec, and that’s to be expected. But the student strike has been democratically organized with the majority of students going on strike for at least some time this spring. In fact, it was found that small organized groups of students that had vocally opposed the strike had leaders that were leading members of Charest’s Young Liberals. The “Green Square” crowd is small. Democracy does not mean representing all opinions ever expressed by students, but representing the majority of students interests. The deep level of democracy within the student movement is incredibly inspiring with mass General Assemblies that discuss how the movement should proceed. This week they voted overwhelmingly to reject the government the most recent government offer which only delays the increases for one semester. This puts the students who continue to strike at great risk of loosing their semester. That personal sacrifice requires a look at the big picture and an inspiring understanding of what is at stake.

    300 000 people on the streets of Montréal is the largest demonstration in Canadian history which happened a couple weeks ago. This proves that there is a real movement (beyond only the students) who are looking for policies that put people first and oppose privatization and austerity which put the burden of the economic crisis on the backs of youth, students and the people. This is inspiring because we are facing the same damaging policies towards post-secondary education in this province through the most recent Liberal budget (cutting social assistance, attacking collective bargaining and freezing wages) and the Drummond Commission. I encourage people to watch this video and not feel inspired ;) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CgD442YFRQ

  8. Posted by: dgarvie on May 9, 2012 @ 3:30pm

    Here's an excellent look at student debt and how society looses when tuition goes up. It defeats most of the common arguments made against the students in Quebec (most of which come from Jean Charest).

  9. Posted by: on Jun 17, 2012 @ 9:34am

    Hey Gavin, I'd just like to point out the disparity between tax rates. The lowest provincial tax bracket in Québec pays 16%, versus our 5.05%. In the end, we both pay roughly the same.

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