Skip to main content

Students protest Quebec's tuition hikes in downtown Montreal


More than 1,000 university students ditched class Monday to protest Quebec's tuition hike, marching through the streets of downtown Montreal to spread their message.

"Cries of "Hey hey, ho ho, tuition hikes have got to go!" and "Sol-sol-sol, solidarité!" filled the air as students marched from Dorchester Square to McGill's Roddick Gates, passing Concordia University on the way.

In the fall of 2024, tuition in Quebec will nearly double for out-of-province undergraduate students, and fees are expected to increase for international students as well.

While tuition won't go up for those already enrolled, protesters said they want to show solidarity with would-be students whose dreams of studying in Quebec have become unattainable.

"We want to send the message loud and clear to the CAQ [Coalition Avenir Québec] that we simply won't stand for this on an access to education level, which unites us all for this cause," said one of the protest organizers, McGill University student Alex O'Neill. "The fact that we've been able to mobilize this number of students, faculty members and members of the general public on this cause points to a larger issue and I think in that respect, François Legault has opened Pandora's Box."

Monday's protest was dubbed "Blue Fall" by its organizers, a nod to the Maple Spring tuition protests of 2012 and in reference to the CAQ's colours.

Monday's protest is dubbed 'Blue Fall' by its organizers, a nod to the Maple Spring tuition protests of 2012 (Lilly Roy / CTV News)

"The plan to double tuition for out-of-province students is politicizing access to education. We cannot let this happen," the event's Facebook page reads. "Montreal's diverse student presence should be celebrated–it is a key characteristic and contributor to the city's culture. And that is something to be proud of. This senseless raise in tuition will dwindle this, a striking quality that makes the city so notable."

Marwah Rizqy, the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ) official opposition critic for education and higher education, was there. Speaking to CTV News, she argued the government should put its money into ensuring that Quebec universities are the "best in the world."

"How come the government is not putting a dime to help the universities? How come they're attacking McGill, Concordia and Bishop's instead of actually helping every other university?" asked Rizqy at the protest. "They are actually attacking the student that we need... We need to attract more anglophone students, and we need to keep the anglophone students."

One student in attendance, Amber Harrop said it was her teachers back home in Cornell, Ont. who recommended she continue her studies at Bishop's University.

"I love my school," said Harrop, who is in her third year studying education. "I really wanted to go here, and I'm happy that I can afford to go here."

Student protesters gather in Montreal for a protest against out-of-province tuition hikes (Lillian Roy / CTV News)

Tuition for out-of-province students in Quebec will rise to about $17,000 a year in the fall of 2024.

Meanwhile, tuition is also expected to increase for international students, as Quebec will charge universities $20,000 per international enrolment, the proceeds of which will be invested into French-language institutions.

The CAQ government argues that the hikes, announced earlier this month, will help correct an imbalance between French and English university networks.

It also says the measures will protect the health of the French language in Quebec, claiming that too many anglophone students come to the province to study in English only to leave after graduation.

The move was met with fierce backlash from both English and French universities in Quebec, who say the hikes will devastate their finances and damage Montreal's reputation as an academic destination.

Francophone student leaders also took part in Monday's protest, showing their support for English students.

"We are here to support Bishop’s University in this movement because for us, it’s unreasonable the announcement made by (Higher Education Minister) Pascale Dery a few weeks ago," said Catherine Bibeau-Laurin, president of the Quebec Student Union. "So we’re here to support the movement because we want to minister to back up on her decision, because Bishop’s will not survive after this."

Bibeau-Laurin said many French-speaking student leaders do not support the CAQ government’s decision.

"A lot of the francophone associations are against this announcement also because the anglophone population in Bishop's University – a lot of them want to stay in Quebec, want to learn French, want to contribute to Quebec society after their studies."

Matthieu Charbonneau, a Concordia student from Quebec, came out to support the movement, saying a tuition hike for some will affect everyone.

"I'm all for free education, actually. I think a tuition hike in one way can bring about a tuition hike in general as well, it can increase everywhere else, because that’s just a general trend that’s happening," he said.

Students gather for tuition fee protest (Lillian Roy / CTV News) Top Stories

Stay Connected