Work was cancelled last Friday for the employees of 600 Fullum, the site of the Montreal offices of the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport. University and CEGEP students blockaded all entrances to the building for about three hours in protest of the Quebec government’s tuition increases. Beginning this year, tuition in Quebec will increase by $325 each year for the next five years, for a total hike of $1,625.
The blockade was organized by the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE), a branch of the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ), which organized the 30,000-strong November 10 march against tuition hikes.
CLASSE is a temporary coalition of Quebec student associations formed to protest tuition hikes through a general student strike, scheduled to begin next month.
“It was the first action of our coalition, so it was a really a way for us to launch the campaign,” said ASSÉ spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. “[These] kinds of actions are going to be more and more numerous in the next month until the strike begins in the end of February.”
SSMU VP External Joël Pedneault took part in the blockade along with other McGill students. Pedneault explained the logistics of the general strike, which will begin with a demonstration after seven student associations representing at least 20,000 students on at least three university or CEGEP campuses vote for a strike mandate.
“Today’s action was to keep up visibility and to keep up pressure,” he said. “It also had the very tangible effect of cancelling a day’s work for the Ministry of Education, and that fits within the perspective of making it very costly for the Quebec government to go ahead with the decision to [raise] tuition fees.”
McGill Arts students have brought forward motions to have the Arts Undergraduate Society give the society a mandate to join CLASSE for the general strike.
According to Nadeau-Dubois, the blockade started at 8 a.m. with about 200 people positioned at the building’s entrances and holding banners. The blockade ended once participants learned of the workday’s cancellation.
“This kind of disruption or work stoppage will keep happening as long as [the Quebec government] decides to continue raising fees,” said Pedneault.
— with files from Queen Arsem-O’Malley