1,000 march in downtown Montreal against fee hikes

Students on strike participate in the Coalition against hikes in fees and privatizations of Quebec services’ demonstration

By Brian Lapuz

As a symbolic gesture, participants of the “Non aux hausses” coalition’s march blocked the entry to the Hydro-Quebec head office for more than an hour in downtown Montreal on Tuesday afternoon, in opposition to hikes in fees and privatizations of public services in Quebec.

“We are blocking the access to the building as a reminder that these resources are for the good of all people,” Marie- Ève Rancourt, a spokesperson for the coalition, said to the crowd. “But now, [Prime Minister] Charest is trying to manage it like a private company.”

At least 1,000 people were present; among them were students from Cégep du Vieux Montréal, Cégep Saint-Laurent, Collège Marie-Victorin, Université de Montréal, and UQAM, who were on strike for that day, and students from Cégep Maisonneuve.

Quebec’s historical tuition fees freeze was lifted in 2006, and would increase $50 per semester, totaling up to $500 when it ends in winter 2012. Raymond Bachand, Quebec’s Minister of Finances and Revenue, proposed in the spring that the tuition fees continue to increase after 2012.

“I’m here because I’m against the hikes [in fees for public services],”Marc-André Viau, an Architecture student from Cégep Saint-Laurent said. “I also believe that education should be accessible to all people.”

In a study published last week, the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) were 12,619 students were surveyed, shedding light on the reality of many students.

“Fifty per cent of students enrolled full-time live with less than $12,200 per year, 25% with less than $7,400,” Louis-Philippe Savoie, President of the FEUQ, quoted on their website. “And these data include the amounts received in loans from Student Financial Assistance. Imagine the disastrous effects that the Charest government’s hike in tuition fees would have on them.”

Unable to mobilize for the demonstration, the Dawson Student Union (DSU) executives were busy mobilizing for the Dec. 6 annual Partners in Education meeting in Quebec City. The FEUQ and the Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante have invited students to protest in the city on that day.

“We found out about the demonstration at the last minute,” Amanda Arella, DSU Deputy Chairperson said. “We are busy mobilizing for Dec. 6 for a rally against tuition increase.”

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