Keep To the Streets

graphic Eric Bent

For those of us invested in the fight against tuition hikes, Nov. 10 was an amazing day. Tens of thousands of students and allies marched, despite abysmal weather, to show Premier Jean Charest and the Liberals that we’re not going to take this without a fight.

But now it feels like we’re in a weird sort of post-Day of Action limbo.

While Nov. 10 posters still cover the school, students who were persuaded to care and take to the streets are no longer sure of how to contribute to the cause.

The Concordia Student Union has promised to continue educating students about the increase through tabling and classroom visits. They even hinted at a few more stunts like the helium balloons released in the Hall Building Sept. 28.

And while that’s great, it’s sort of a letdown if that’s all we’ve got planned for this semester.

Thursday—hopefully—served as a real wake-up call for the Liberal government in this province. Charest was forced to look out of his ivory tower at anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 voters calling for his head.

As someone who was only elected with 46 per cent of the popular vote, and whose approval ratings hit the 33 per cent mark in October, that number should scare him. A lot.

But if students back off now and wait until the winter to try again, we’re going to have to start from scratch.

Phase one, the Day of Action, is over and it was, in many ways, a huge success. Now we have the numbers, and people are aware of the cause, so I hope the CSU doesn’t retain their focus on handing out pamphlets and putting up signs pointing to just one specific date.

Instead, we should start seeing different information that pertains to this new phase. Things like their tear sheet listing a student’s rights should they get arrested during a protest, and a clearly outlined plan of how we will force this hike off the table.

It’s time for everyone’s reps to meet again, and organize a way to capitalize on the power we have here.

If that happens, there’s no way we can lose. After all, it’s not just students that want to fundamentally change the way this province is run. Several unions, such as the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association, walked alongside us on Nov 10.

This march helped all of us get our voices heard.

But without regularly blocking the streets and costing the province money, time and public appeal, nothing is going to change.

Only through frequent and continued demonstrations—coordinated with groups like the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, the Students’ Society of McGill University and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec—will force lawmakers to change this legislation. And while that sounds like a totally impossible goal, it doesn’t have to be.

Think about it this way. By some estimates, there were over 30,000 people at Thursday’s protest. If you could get every one of those people to march just one day a month, we’d have a thousand people on the streets every day.

How long could the Liberals withstand that volume of discontent?

That might be a little optimistic, but it’s not so unreasonable to think we’re capable of elevated levels of protest. Our Day of Action proved that.

So if such manifestation does happen, and the CSU starts coming around to your classrooms with a protest sign-up sheet, make sure your name gets on there. Don’t forget that, despite the incredible events of Thursday, we’ve only just begun.

If Nov. 10 was strike one, I can only imagine strike two.
—Julia Wolfe
Managing Editor