Marc Bousquet, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, is belatedly covering the ‘biggest student uprising you’ve never heard of’; the student protests in Quebec over plans to have higher education fees raised 75% over a five year period, which Education News first covered in late March.
The March 22nd Manifestation nationale was not the culmination but the midpoint of a 10-week-long student uprising that has seen, at its height, over 300,000 college and university students join an unlimited and superbly coordinated general strike. As of today, almost 180,000 students remain on picket lines in departments and faculties that have been shuttered since February, not only in university-dense Montreal but also in smaller communities throughout Quebec.
Mr Bousquet wonders why the ongoing demonstrations, which are arguably the largest in Canadian history, have received so little coverage outside of French-speaking Canada, or in America’s mainstream media. He asks how this can happen, especially when the peaceful student demonstrations have been met with police violence. He posits that the student strike should be serving as an inspiration and to social movements beyond Quebec and a call to solidarity.
He correctly identifies one cause of the disinterest outside of Quebec — that French Quebec and English-speaking North America are essentially culturally isolated, even within the same nation. Quebec has its own separate media infrastructure and there is perhaps also the stereotype at work; French people striking just doesn’t sound like news to most external audiences anymore.
There is also the problem of American and English students getting excited about helping Quebecois defeat a motion that will see them still paying less than $4,000 a year for tuition even after the full planned raise every year for the next five years take effect. There is likely to be a reaction from outside Quebec that students would love to be paying these prices, and would also love to be getting the generous phasing in deal that Quebecois will receive: $325 increases in yearly tuition for five years. Both of the recent hikes in UK tuition were announced without phasing in periods.
Also as the Government points out, not everyone is opposed to what they consider necessary increase:
“We also need to listen to the silent majority — those who can’t be in the streets because they’re too busy working,” Education Minister Line Beauchamp told The Canadian Press. “(They’re) biting the hand that feeds. The money (for universities) has to come from somewhere…. If they hurt economic activity, if they keep people from going to work, it’s frankly biting the hand of those who pay the bills.”