Since last spring, when the Quebec government announced a $1,625 increase in tuition fees over the next five years, debate has sparked among students about how best to protest the hikes.
A group of McGill students have been organizing with students and organizations across the province to organize a general student strike this spring.
At the winter AUS General Assembly (GA), Jaime Maclean, a member of the AUS Mobilization Committee, supported a motion to create an AUS Strike Committee. The motion did not pass due to loss of quorum. According to Maclean, the committee would inform students about what a strike would look like, and rally support through “grassroots mobilization.”
Maclean said that in order to vote on a general student strike, AUS would need to become a member of the pro-strike organization Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE). In order for AUS to become a member, its constitution must be amended to make the GA the highest governing body of the society.
The question will be voted on in a special referendum already underway.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for CLASSE, said that the coalition has already begun discussing a possible start date for the strike. He told The Daily he hopes that McGill’s student associations “will join the strike as soon as possible.”
Nadeau-Dubois added that CLASSE plans to stay on strike until the government repeals the hikes.
Maclean said that joining a coalition of Quebec student associations is necessary because it will play an important role in government negotiations. “If we don’t join a larger coalition like [CLASSE], or if we don’t go on strike, then our voices will be lost,” she said.
If the AUS joins CLASSE, students will be able to vote in a GA on the question of a general student strike this March. Should the vote pass, it will have to be renewed on a weekly basis.
“The point is to keep it democratic and make sure that students are still committed to the cause,” Maclean said.
SSMU VP External Joël Pedneault explained that in the case of a general strike, students would have to partake in picket lines and encourage others not to go to class in order for it to be effective.
Pedneault also noted the possibility of forming a “strike council.” This council, made up of anyone from the student body who chooses to be involved, would meet on a daily basis to brainstorm ideas and decide what actions students should take. He stressed the potential for this process to be “as open as possible.”
“People can decide to use the energy that was created this year to make the University more democratic, and oppose specific government policies,” Pedneault said.
Both Pedneault and Maclean also stressed that, based on the history of student activism in Quebec, a student strike could be successful in putting economic pressure on the provincial government.
“A student strike isn’t about striking from education, it’s about putting economic pressure on the government because [universities] can’t sustain a cancelled semester,” Maclean said.