Students say government wants to “divide and conquer”

CLASSE ready to negotiate over university spending

The Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (CLASSE) said today that it was prepared to negotiate with the government over the management of university finances.

The announcement came a day after Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp’s decision to form a committee with members of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Quebec (FECQ) to look into university spending.

Vandalism by students

The minister, however, said in a press conference yesterday that she was not ready to talk with CLASSE because of its “refusal to condemn acts of vandalism.”

Beauchamp’s decision was proof that the minister was trying to “divide and conquer the student movement,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for CLASSE, in French at a press conference this morning.

“There are enough courts in Quebec to condemn the violence. We don’t understand why the student movement should do the same,” he continued.

Nadeau-Dubois added that it was up to individual student associations on strike to denounce the violence, not CLASSE.

“Our role is to be spokespersons. Our role is to respect the mandate that was given to us,” he said.

Seven people were arrested last Friday after Beauchamp’s Montreal office was trashed, according to police.

“CLASSE distances itself from acts of violence,” Nadeau-Dubois said. “Those aren’t part of the methods we use, and we will never use them.”

Negotiating with the government would “reduce the tensions that have been accumulated over nine weeks of strike,” he continued.

The minister has not said if the government would reconsider its decision to exclude CLASSE. A spokeperson for FECQ, however, told Radio-Canada this morning that the federation was ready to sit down with Beauchamp even without CLASSE.

FEUQ said yesterday that it would “strongly recommend” the presence of members of CLASSE at the negotiation table.

This is the second overture Beauchamp has made to student federations since the strike began. The first, a proposal two weeks ago to reconfigure the Quebec student loans and bursaries program, was unanimously rejected by the federations since it didn’t address the government’s planned five-year, $1,625 tuition fee increase.

Student Solidarity

At the press conference, Jeanne Reynolds, another spokesperson for CLASSE, reiterated the organization’s calls for student solidarity.

“It’s important when we want to negotiate that every student organization is present, to maximize our chances of success,” said Reynolds in French.

Nadeau-Dubois pointed out that CLASSE represented half of the almost 170,000 students on strike across Quebec.

“The minister cannot ignore half of the strikes. If she wants to find a solution, then CLASSE must be part of it,” he said.

Nadeau-Dubois added that “2005 must not happen again.”

A 2005 student strike in protest of cuts to student loans and bursaries ended when a compromise was negotiated between FEUQ, FEUQ, and the government. The association equivalent to CLASSE in 2005, known as CASSÉÉ, was excluded because of its perceived radicalism.

More actions

CLASSE also announced protests for the upcoming week. The group plans to demonstrate next to the “Salon Plan Nord”, an exhibit organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal to showcase the government’s policy.

Actions are also planned to gather at Place Émilie-Gamelin for the “Jour de la terre et le bien common.”