2012 Quebec student protests
|2012 Quebec student protests|
July 22 (left), May 22 (up) and April 15 (center) demonstrations and Victoriaville riots (down).
|Date||February 13, 2012 – September 7, 2012|
|Goals||Tuition freeze, Free education|
The 2012 Quebec student protests were a series of student demonstrations led by student unions such as the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec against a proposal by the Quebec Cabinet, headed by Liberal Premier Jean Charest, to raise university tuition from $2,168 to $3,793 between 2012 and 2018. As part of the protest movement, a series of widespread student strikes were organized, involving half of Quebec's student population by April 2012. A third of Quebec students continued to participate in the strike by its 100th day, while a quarter million had participated during its peak. Other students continued to attend their courses.
Left-wing groups endorsed the student protests, which evolved into generalized demonstrations against the provincial government. Opposition parties (Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire, Option nationale), workers unions (Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Canadian Union of Public Employees) and many groups demonstrated alongside the students in April and May 2012.
On May 18, the Government passed Bill 78, an emergency law forbidding picketing or protest near university grounds, and requiring police approval for large public protests anywhere in Quebec. The law was mainly repealed by the Marois government in September 2012 and expired in 2013.
In the Fall of 2012, with a new school term beginning, student participation in the strikes and demonstrations dwindled. The Quebec nationalist Parti Québécois was later elected as minority government and halted any tuition increases in line with its campaign promises.
Until the 1960s, post-secondary education in Quebec was not broadly pursued, partly due to costs. Following the Quiet Revolution, the government took over responsibility for higher education. Changes included the creation of a separate pre-university college level, a publicly funded college system, and providing universities enough funding so that it would be affordable to anyone who wanted to attend.
University tuition fees in Quebec were frozen at $540 per year from 1968 to 1990. In 1994, annual tuition rose to $1668, after which it was frozen until 2007, when it grew by $100 per year until 2012, making it $2168. Overall, tuition increased an average of $37 per year or 300% between 1968 and 2012, not including other fees that are paid to universities (e.g. administration fees, student service fees, etc.). The overall cost living inflation as measured by an aggregate inflation index commonly used by economists rose 557% from 1968 to 1990, while Quebec maintained the lowest tuition fees in Canada. Quebec students pay 10% of the cost and benefit from transfer payments from other provinces whose students pay up to three times more tuition.
Quebec was a net recipient of transfer payments from the federal government, using these to fund social programs including education. The transfer payments were politically charged in provinces that giving more than they received from the federal government.
In December 2010, Quebec university officials urged a five-year, $1500 tuition increase that would raise student costs by 80%.
In March 2011, Quebec decided to pursue planned five year tuition increases, prompting protests from student groups, and the occupation of the office of the Finance minister. In July, student leaders accused police of brutality and repression against protesters, whose numbers swelled to 30,000 by November, leading to the occupation of McGill University's administrative building. Beginning late February 2012, nine per cent of Quebec students, or 36,000 students, went on strike, using a square red flag for protest.
On March 7, 2012, during a sit-in demonstration blocking front of the Loto-Québec (lottery) head office, police deployed tear gas and flash-bang grenades against over 1,000 protesters. One demonstrator's eye was seriously wounded by what he and other demonstrators stated was a flash-bang grenade launched by police. According to the student's father, police investigators sought to demonstrate the wound was caused by a snowball.
During the morning rush hour on March 20, 150 student demonstrators blocked the Montreal-bound entrance ramp to the Champlain Bridge in Brossard using concrete blocks. Upon the arrival of Sûreté du Québec police officers, the protestors fled through the streets of Brossard to coaches waiting for them at Terminus Panama. When officers arrived at the Terminus, they surrounded the buses and arrested around 100 demonstrators. Each was identified and fined C$494.
On March 22 an estimated 200,000 people protested in downtown Montreal. At its peak, the parade stretched up to 50 blocks. While there was no violence, the police confiscated sticks carried by some participants.
In April and early May, 185,000 Quebec students went on strike, with an additional 90,000 students threatening to strike. Quebec education minister Line Beauchamp called on students to negotiate while refusing to negotiate with CLASSE, which she accused of instigating violence. Students demanded that university administrative costs be reduced by $189 million, to pay for teaching and research.
On May 6, 2012, a demonstration took place in Victoriaville, which eventually turned into a riot when vandals started throwing projectiles at the crowd. At least ten people were injured, including some police officers who were attacked by protesters. Two protesters were very seriously injured. The first one lost an eye. The second one sustained head trauma and a skull fracture.
On May 14, 2012 Line Beauchamp announced that she would resign from her position as Quebec Education Minister and Deputy Premier. Beauchamp stated that she “lost confidence in the student leaders’ will to end this conflict.” Later that same day, Premier Charest announced that Michelle Courchesne would replace Beauchamp as Education Minister and Deputy Premier.
On May 18, 2012, Bill 78 passed in the National Assembly of Quebec during the early hours of the morning and the municipality of Montreal passed a law prohibiting mask-wearing during any organization or demonstration. The nightly protest being held in downtown Montreal ended in violence and 69 arrests. There were reports of projectiles being launched by protesters, as well as molotov cocktails, and police responded by firing rubber bullets and using tear gas and noise bombs against the protesters. Police declared the protest to be illegal.
On May 20, 2012, during an evening protest that turned violent, a protester was seriously injured by police officers in riot gear. Upon attacking an officer, the victim was beaten by five officers with their clubs and forcibly neutralized.
On May 22, 2012, in response to the passage of Bill 78 and in commemoration of 100 days since the beginning of the student strike, another march took place, with tens of thousands of marchers and approximately 1,000 arrests Organizers spun this event as "The single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history."
By May 24, 2012, the "Casseroles" series of nightly protests had rapidly expanded to most Montreal residential neighborhoods outside of the usual protest routes. These protests, in which people stood on their own balconies banging pots and pans, emerged as a way of subverting the ban on unannounced street protests. Inspired by the cacerolazos of Chile in 1971, these involved residents banging on pots and pans from their windows or taking to the streets with their kitchenware at 8 o'clock. A viral amateur video of one such protest in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood further fueled this phenomenon.
On May 31, the Quebec government stated that it was pulling out of talks meant to end the protest after four days of negotiations with student leaders, without having reached a stable consensus. By that day, more than 150,000 students were estimated to be on strike.
After the announcement by ministerial decree of tuition freeze on September 5, 2012, the remaining student associations on strike voted to return to class.
On May 16, soon after the appointment of Michelle Courchesne, she and Premier Charest announced their plan to introduce Bill 78. The bill is titled "An Act to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend," and restricts freedom of assembly, protest, or picketing on or near university grounds, and anywhere in Quebec without prior police approval. The bill also places restrictions upon the right of education employees to strike.
While some students and law professors have been critical of the impact of Bill 78 on fundamental rights, Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier stated that there has been no equivalent respect given to non-striking students' rights to their education, and that the intent of the law is to return calm to Quebec society. Some business leaders in downtown Montreal, the epicenter of the protests, supported Bill due to vandalism and disruption of local establishments.
After the red square became a well-known symbol in Quebec, other groups decided to use squares of varying colours to promote their own viewpoints.
The white square was originally worn by students at McGill organizing to oppose strikes, called the Moderate Political Action Committee (ModPAC). While red squares protested the hikes and green squares supported them, the white square represented a neutral position on the hikes, but opposed a strike. This was undertaken to broaden support for staying in classes.
On April 18, 2012, a group of 300 protesters broke windows and ransacked rooms at the University of Montreal and injured a security guard. Among the six that were arrested, Yalda Machouf-Khadir, the daughter of Quebec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, was sued by the University of Montreal for CAD$100,000 in damages. Students were later sentenced to probation and community service.
On June 12, 2012, some protesters were referring to local police authorities as SS and anti-police pamphlets using the swastikas were distributed. The use of the Nazi symbolism was quickly decried by several Jewish organizations in the Montreal Gazette. Although it is said that protesters were using these symbols to condemn the recent tactics use by the local police, the CLASSE has implored its members to stop using these symbols.
The protests inspired directors Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie to make the 2016 film Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves. Denis and Lavoie said they often wondered what happened to these students in later years. Lavoie was particularly influenced by mug shots of four young people who placed smoke bombs on the Montreal Metro during the protests.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 2012 Quebec student protests.|
- 1996 Quebec student protests
- 2005 Quebec student protests
- Students' union
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- Bill 78
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