Student group feels 'betrayed' by PQ government
Published Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:14AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 14, 2013 7:44PM EST
MONTREAL -- The student group that sparked months of protests across Quebec last year will not be attending this month's government summit on university and CEGEP education.
ASSE spokesperson Jeremie Bedard-Wien instead reiterated his call for a massive protest on Feb. 26, the second day of the summit, saying 15,000 students have already voted to walk out of class.
His group is pushing for free university tuition and Bedard-Wien said he feels 'betrayed' this won't be discussed at the summit.
Bedard-Wien said it seems clear the PQ government is fixated on indexing price hikes in tuition fees to the rate of inflation, something ASSE stridently opposes.
"We do not want to be attached to that decision," said Bedard-Wien.
"We do not want to have anything to do with it because it was not a decision taken by people around the table at the higher education summit. It's a decision taken behind closed door by a government that doesn't listen to its students or progressive forces anymore."
With two other student groups, FEUQ and FECQ, still taking part, Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne said it was too bad that ASSE was refusing to take part, but he could not force them to attend a discussion on the future of universities.
"They said they wanted to be in the process, to be present. Well this year they choose the empty chair policy," said Duchesne.
In recent weeks the provincial government has issued mixed messages about whether free tuition is on the table. Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne said that because the province's finances are in such poor shape it's not an option, while Premier Pauline Marois said this week it still is possible.
In an opinion column this week former PQ premier Jacques Parizeau said much of Quebec's university network was formed in the 1960s with the goal of eventually having free tuition, but that the only reason he did not implement such a measure during his term in office was that the province could not afford it.
Meanwhile the directors of many universities in Quebec say they still have not received any indication as to what will be discussed.
Thursday morning McGill University provost Anthony Masi said his school still has not received an invitation to the summit, which is scheduled to begin on Feb. 25.
In this June 22, 2012 file photo, a demonstrator gives a peace sign in front of the Quebec flag with the symbolic red square in the middle during a march in the streets of Montreal. (Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press)