ASSÉ Restarts English-Language Newspaper

Photo Corey Pool

One of Quebec’s largest and more militant student federations is reaching out to anglophones by publishing an English-language edition of its quarterly newspaper for the first time since fall 2010.

The Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante is releasing the English-language version of its newspaper, Ultimatum, in the next two weeks, said co-spokesperson Benjamin Gingras.

“There is a massive number of anglophone students who are as affected by questions of austerity, tuition fees and basically the whole student condition. The idea is to be inclusive and reach out to all students regardless of language,” he said.

“These are issues that go beyond the language barrier.”

With a circulation of 2,000 copies, the English-language edition of Ultimatum will be distributed at Concordia and McGill University, as well as Dawson College and Marianopolis College, two English CEGEPs in Montreal.

ASSÉ represents about 70,000 students in 40 universities and CEGEP student associations across the province. However, only two of these associations are anglophone, Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association and McGill’s Art History and Communication Studies Graduate Students Association.

Gingras says there is a lack of English student associations because of cultural differences.

“ASSÉ has been part of a union-inspired movement. Unionism isn’t a concept that’s as developed in the U.S. or English Canada,” he said.

Being part of the small anglophone minority in ASSÉ has its benefits, says SCPASA executive secretary Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis.

“It’s given us some visibility with other student groups,” she said. “It’s actually positive to show that there are progressive anglophone student voices that can interact and bridge those individual cleavages between language divisions in the province.”

She added that membership has also given the SCPASA the opportunity to help shape provincial policy on student issues. The association voted in favour of joining ASSÉ in March 2013.

Concordia’s Fine Arts Student Alliance is thinking about following suit. The question of membership will be put to fine arts students in a vote this spring. Already, there are “buds of enthusiasm” for joining ASSÉ, said FASA general coordinator Aditi Ohri, “but it’s going slowly,” she continued. “We don’t think we’ll make a decision until the referendum this March.”

The decision to publish ASSÉ’s newspaper in English is a positive step toward “connecting with other anglophone schools,” she said, adding that the English version of ASSÉ’s website isn’t up to par with the French one.

Founded in 2001, the same year as ASSÉ, Ultimatum is intended to present an alternative to the mainstream media. ASSÉ hasn’t published the newspaper in English since the student strike in 2012, when it printed a two-page “express” edition.

“It has a perspective that’s not often heard in a lot of anglophone student political spaces,” said Marshall-Kiparissis. “To add that other voice can only be valuable.”