Editorial: The CAQ’s latest allophone tax

Graphic Carl Bindman

François Legault’s gem of a higher education ministry decided to once again defecate all over out-of-province and international students’ rights to an affordable education.

Minister Pascale Déry and French Language Minister Jean-François Roberge announced on Oct. 13 that, starting in September 2024, all new students attending English-language universities from outside the province will have their tuition rates skyrocket.

Canadian students from outside of the province currently pay a minimum of around $9,000 annually. Under the new policy, that rate will jump to about $17,000. Déry said international students could see their tuition jump by $20,000, on top of the already exorbitant rates they pay to study in Quebec.

The Coalition Avenir Québec’s (CAQ) game plan is to make English universities even less accessible to non-Quebecers. The government is effectively building walls around Concordia, McGill and Bishop’s in the hopes of reenergizing the anti-anglophone and anti-allophone base fueling the party.

Enrollment numbers are expected to plummet because of this policy change. At Concordia alone, at least 31 per cent of students come from outside Quebec. At McGill, that number reaches 50 per cent. 

The CAQ’s obsession with paralyzing English schools and pampering French education was a common theme throughout its first term in office. And within the first year of its second, we’ve felt even more of this squeeze: Bill 96 added a host of barriers to English CEGEPs in the province. 

The CAQ garners zero shame when they blatantly punish those who chose English education over French. It is obvious when they prioritize the francophone community given that the remaining excess tuition gathered from the new fee will be used in part to invest in Quebec's French Universities. That’s about $110 million allocated to supporting those who chose French education at the expense of anglo-phone students. 

With this new tuition policy change, the party is even more intent on blockading its most prominent universities because of the language their student bodies speaks.

If allophone immigrant students are being impeded at the CEGEP level, and allophone immigrant students are being bombarded with higher university tuition costs, the CAQ’s motives are clear. The assault on non-French-speaking communities in the province is only heightened by these new economic restrictions.

Beyond the issues international students face when attempting to access quality education in Quebec, the province has just given up one of the biggest incentives Canadian students had for studying here. $9,000 annually might seem outrageous to Quebec students, but this rate is not uncommon for in-province university education in other provinces.

Combined with Bill 31—the new housing bill that would impact lease transfers and subletting—Quebec is making itself an anti-international student hub. This will have massive impacts on student life on campus, especially if vibrant communities of students cease to exist in the next few years.

The higher education and French language ministries are trying to lessen the flourishing of Montreal’s diverse communities. This tuition increase will undoubtedly hurt Quebec in its entirety.

Out-of-province students deserve so much better, and for Legault to insist on making their time in Quebec as miserable and expensive as possible shows where his priorities are. His petty attempt to whip up nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment will cause a chasm in Montreal.

We call on the government to immediately reverse its policy and make education as affordable as possible for students of all backgrounds.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 4, published October 17, 2023.