Democracy How?

Graphic Paku Daoust-Cloutier

We had planned to write this editorial about Thursday’s Day of Action, where a historic number of students marched in the streets to voice their anger over the impending 75 per cent increase in tuition fees for Quebec undergrads.

When the government ignores such public outcry against one of its decisions, there’s clearly something wrong. One would be compelled to ask if this ongoing refusal to discuss is because we’re ‘just students’ who will have radically different priorities after a few years in the workforce, when new, fresh faces have replaced ours in the classrooms.

All of this systemic sediment reeking of government action needs to be addressed—but all that’s only legitimate if we stay committed to the issue.

This isn’t about whether or not you support a strike; it’s about participation. And while avoiding quorum may seem like an easy option for anti-strikers, it places a giant question mark as to what’s the best next step to take. If nothing else, Monday proved just how toothless our union is without us.

In case you didn’t know, the Concordia Student Union held a Special General Meeting on Monday to vote whether to continue its general strike, and while the last strike vote had well over 1,500 in attendance, we couldn’t even make quorum this time around.

With only 348 of the 450 needed in attendance, the meeting was adjourned without a vote, after just over an hour of waiting.

In a recent interview on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde on parle, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand argued that the tuition decision has already been made.

However, as long as students stay vocal and united against the hikes the way we’ve been so far, it becomes irresponsible for the government to hold onto this position. Two-hundred-thousand people is approximately one out of every 40 Quebecers; it shouldn’t matter how old they are.

But the movement will only succeed if it earns public support; the theme of participation needs to span beyond student activism. Tuition needs to be framed as a social cause, rooted in Quebec’s values.

Thursday did just this—seeing teachers, parents, grandparents and an impressive amount of union workers march together, in a completely non-violent show of support for accessible education.

Bachand also asked where all these students were at the last election, and unless the youth vote gets out at the next one, the Liberals could very well stay where they are. But the real question is how can we remain loud without annoying the very people we need on our side.

We need to focus our action on what will please the population, and displease the government. Because just like our student union, Quebec’s government is powerless without public support.

Maybe that means a less radical stance. An argument for free tuition, in the face of a government so far unmoving on a sharp hike is a strong rallying point for undergrads, but it may lack the realism to earn the trust of older Quebecers. We’ll find a greater number flocking to our side if we consider compromise.

Has all our momentum fizzled out after Thursday? Definitely not on the provincial level, and as far as Concordia goes there is certainly still reason to be hopeful.

This CSU SGM bust calls for more action on a departmental level, where there has been mobilization among students with the same needs and concerns. It’s why the CSU has made a $9,000 fund available to striking departments.

This strike isn’t easy, no matter what side you’re on, but not showing up to vote on the issue gives reason for the government not to take us seriously.

We have non-students becoming more and more vocal against these hikes; now is the worst time for students to give up taking part in their own struggle.