You gotta love student politics in Quebec. We have the lowest tuition fees in Canada, the highest taxes, and Montreal has the highest number of students per capita.
Yet this province seems to be the largest battleground for student protests in North America. They protest tuition fees, which are too high because they’re above zero (some protests involve CEGEP students, whose tuition fees actually are zero). They protest government cuts to loans and bursaries. They protest the colonial capitalist imperialistic racist empire bent on … evil of some sort.
And, of course, they protest each other.
Five student associations from Concordia, McGill and Dawson are suing each other over control of the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students. Concordia’s graduate association is planning to pull out of the organization over this dispute which has seen two competing executives appointed. (UPDATE Sept. 13: The Concordian — yeah, I know — has a detailed story on what’s going on)
“Regional” (read: not Montreal or Quebec City) groups at UQTR, UQO and UQAR are threatening to leave the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) over their concerns the group is too Montreal-centric, and create their own lobby group to represent just their interests.
Currently there are three post-secondary lobby groups in Quebec. In addition to FEUQ (considerd the grown-up group because they sit down and negotiate with the government) and CFS-Q (considered almost renegade by its parent national organization and with little weight in Quebec because it only represents the two anglophone universities and an anglophone CEGEP), there’s ASSÉ, the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, which is a newer, more militant group that accepts nothing short of free education for all.
To give an example, the Concordia Student Union has been a member of all three organizations over the past few years, paying student money to three redundant organizations. They recently dropped ASSÉ (which was the cheapest of the three but also the most ineffective), and now pay money only to two.
And yet despite this, Jean Charest was returned to power with the clear intention of raising tuition, and fees are going up. FEUQ is threatening strikes, but they’ve already lost the battle. The public voted for tuition increases, and a few hundred students choosing to waste their money by not going to class isn’t going to get anyone to change their mind.
All three groups need to take a moment to figure out why they’re losing (even many students don’t support their positions — though I don’t see too many of them lining up to donate money to the universities), and change their strategy before they become even more irrelevant than they already are. Once that happens, student unions will start pulling their funding and the Quebec student activist movement will implode.
UPDATE (Sept. 25): A judge decides to keep the offices off-limits to both groups until the issue can be reviewed further. The SSMU is happy, while the CSU is not.