Students picket Legault’s office against tuition hikes

McGill and Concordia students are continuing their efforts to protest the tuition hikes

Speakers give their speeches and chants to the crowd on Feb. 22. Photo Andraé Lerone Lewis

On Feb. 22, a coalition of students, led by the organization Students Against Tuition Hikes, gathered in front of Premier François Legault's office to protest the impending tuition increases for international and out-of-province students as of fall 2024.

Behind banners declaring "Students Unite on Strike," the sound of bells and chants echoed as students and onlookers stood together in solidarity.

“We implore that you join us on the picket line,” shouted advocate Angelica Antonakopoulos, the academic coordinator for Concordia’s Arts & Science Federation of Associations.

Students Against Tuition Hikes comprises student unions and organizations from Concordia and McGill, along with participants who actively oppose and speak out against the government’s actions. 

“We reject the commercialization and privatization of education, and are fighting for a world in which education is a social good, accessible to us all,” said a spokesperson for the Students Against Tuition Hikes group. 

“This protest is a means of building up our power as a student body and ensuring that the [Coalition Avenir Québec] CAQ knows that we aren’t backing down until tuition hikes are scrapped.” 

The Quebec government plans to increase tuition for English universities by 30 per cent next academic year. As of Feb. 23, both McGill and Concordia have opted to file lawsuits against the Quebec government to suspend these policies.

A statement by Concordia President Graham Carr was sent out to students to explain this decision. It highlighted Concordia’s commitment to protecting and promoting the French language while emphasizing that the overall choice is rooted in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ensuring equality for both Francophone and Anglophone linguistic groups and the protection of Quebec’s minority. 

Over 11,000 students went on strike this past month, with an even larger week-long strike planned from March 11 to 15, 2024. 

At the time of publication, Concordia departments are mobilizing with over 6,000 students set to strike in the upcoming dates. 

“The government subsidizes education, which means it has a vested economic interest in our progress through the academic system. That means our threat of strikes is a genuine threat to the CAQ,” said the spokesperson.

Emma Reddy and Jackie Lee, both students from McGill's geography department, aim to show through their participation that there is still significant momentum and frustration. They underscore the importance of continued action against the CAQ’s decision and hope for more activism from peers, noting that only three departments joined the recent movement. 

People wore red patches to symbolize unity while continuously making noise to amplify their voices: "Students, united, will never be defeated." 

As the protest continued, the crowd gathered their belongings and collectively joined another protest, centred on the liberation of Palestine, happening on McTavish Street.

“We are not just fighting against this one hike, we are fighting for free education and an end to the gutting of our public institutions, an end to the austerity regime and an end to the affordability crisis,” added the spokesperson.

At time of publication, The Link was unable to obtain the name of the spokesperson, or a valid reason for their anonimity. The Link will continue to seek out proper attribution over the coming days.