Thousands of students march in new protests calling for free education
MONTREAL—After winning their battle to have planned tuition hikes cancelled by the new Parti Quebecois government, several thousand students took to the streets on Thursday to demand free education.
“We want all public services to be free,” said Jeremie Bedard-Wien, speaking for the student group ASSE. “Education is not being treated like a public service; it’s been treated like an investment that students make to have a better job.”
Marching under a number of different banners, the students and their supporters took part in latest of a string of protests held on the 22nd day of every month. Aided by warm weather, Thursday’s protest was the largest since the summer.
While student leaders said that free tuition is the ultimate goal of their new movement, they also plan to fight for a more equal future. Thursday’s protest was the first held after the dissolution of CLASSE, a coalition of student groups that led the fight against the Liberal government of Jean Charest.
“It’s a dream that we have and it is something that is worth fighting for,” said Laurence Paquette, a student who said she missed the student protests that rocked Quebec last spring. “Maybe we won’t have the society that we really want, but we can have something better than we have now.”
The protests began early Thursday morning, when students hung a banner with the logo of the student group ASSE off the Monkland Ave. overpass over the Decarie Expressway.
Gathering at Victoria Square at 1:30 p.m., student s marched through downtown Montreal for several hours. Many said that they were not pleased with the PQ’s latest budget and planned to continue protesting.
ASSE claims to represent 60,000 CEGEP and university students in Quebec united in demanding free university tuition. The notion is far from universally accepted.
The student group FECQ, which represents CEGEP students, will not be taking part. Only one of its member schools voted to take part in Thursday's rally.
Earlier this week students at CEGEP du Vieux Montreal and at Vanier College voted to go on strike this week, to coincide with a worldwide push by the International Student Movement to call for free education.
Another group which represents university students, FEUQ, says it has no wish to push for free tuition, but will be content with a freeze in prices.
FEUQ leader Martine Desjardins said her organization is pinning its hopes on an upcoming educational summit planned by the PQ.