On November 10, more than 15,000 students went on strike to fight for the remuneration of all internships. Shortly after the successful student strike, Campagne de revendication et d’actions interuniversitaires pour les étudiants et étudiantes d’éducation en stage (campaign for interuniversity advocating and action for students and education students in internships, or CRAIES) and the Quebec Student Union (QSU) participated in a press conference discussing the possibility of financial compensation for education-student internships. During the press conference, QSU President Simon Telles referenced the November 10 strike to stress the importance of the issue, stating that the QSU “expressed [their] solidarity to all that are mobilizing to get a just financial compensation for the work done through internships [and] CRAIES’s work.”
That same day, Quebec’s National Assembly unanimously passed a motion calling on the government to consider a financial compensation policy for internships for education students in their final year. In response, Minister of Higher Education Hélène David publicly recognized the importance of further discussion. The high profile of this issue is largely due to the mobilization on November 10, which pressured the provincial government to address the issue of unpaid internships. While the policy for education internships is a step in the right direction, we must recognize that this is mainly the result of longstanding grassroots initiatives spearheaded by the Comités unitaires sur le travail étudiant (committee on student work, or CUTE), alongside other coalitions.
It is important that graduating education students receive stipends, but organizations must recognize and respect the labour of the grassroots initiatives from which they benefit. The work of CUTE and other organizations benefits all interns, including advocacy groups like CRAIES, who gain a higher profile and increased momentum for their public awareness work. In advocating for stipends for education students, CRAIES must be mindful not to misconstrue the longstanding efforts of CUTE and other coalitions in their endeavors. The November 10 demands, backed by 15,000 students, concern not only monetary compensation, but also inclusion in the labour code. This entails full compensation, at minimum wage or above, including benefits and job security. This applies to programs where mandatory internships are often unpaid, as well as internships that fall outside the scope of mandatory training. Reducing the conversation to a specific demand for stipends risks co-opting the work of grassroots movements. This was iterated in a statement released by the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec (AVEQ). Efforts on behalf of certain interest groups should work in tandem with the larger movement of which they are a part.
It is important that students recognize the value of their own labour. Like CUTE, AVEQ works to secure fair wages and benefits for this labour, to the advantage of all McGill students. Yet despite McGill’s observer status at AVEQ, SSMU has delayed having political affiliation with the student union. In doing so, we risk co-opting their efforts, benefiting from their advocacy without advancing the cause of Quebecois students as a whole. Thus, we as students must ensure that SSMU supports AVEQ and CUTE, and stand up for all students’ rights.