The Quebec Student “Maple Spring Movement” has shown formidable success in putting the international spotlight upon the demand for affordable and accessible education in Canada; after four months of continuous strikes, observers have remarked that the strikes could be reaching numbers of people on the streets as high as half a million, rivalling the American Anti-War movement of the 60s and 70s. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) Ontario, officially endorsed the movement in an open letter, signed by a growing signatory of students and professionals who have recognized Montrealers for setting a “heroic example.”
CommonDreams.org, a long time progressive alternative US news agency, recently commended the movement for engaging in the “biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history,” and emphasized the importance of the strikes, calling the struggle now a “constitutional challenge,” in defiance of the anti-protest 78 law. Labour unions and public interest groups have now been called upon, internationally to show their support, with a sense of urgency, as a solidarity response in wake of sweeping mass arrests, reported to be approaching of as many as 3,000 Montrealers.
Last week, Occupy Toronto led a demonstration and march of 500 in sympathy and solidarity with the Quebec Student protesters. They aimed, also, to send a message that Ontarians call on the repeal of bill 78 and stated that they would accept the challenge of pressuring the provincial government to make post secondary education in Quebec and all of Canada affordable and accessible for everyone.
In Toronto a small but building mobilization and outreach effort is currently under way through a series of nightly “pots and pans protests” that could continue throughout the summer and culminating in a general strike in the fall. Analogous to the strike, Quebec student groups have asked for supporters to boycott Quebecor Sun Media and other unsympathetic news organizations including the National Post, for what can only be seen as a politically motivated media blackout intended to weaken and isolate the strikers even in the face of violent police action and the government’s unreasonable and undemocratic legislation.
Statement by the Ontario Student Mobilization Committee (OSMC):
“Post-secondary education in Canada is in crisis. Students in Canada collectively owe the federal government more than $14.5 billion. Ontario’s tuition fees are 23% higher than the national average. Decades of cuts by both the provincial and federal governments have resulted in tuition fees increasing at more than twice the rate of inflation. High fees and debts impose a heavy burden on students and their families. Communities impoverished by social oppressions are unable to access education. Indigenous and undocumented people are completely shut out.
As curriculum are standardized and specialized to fit the corporate agenda, class sizes continue to rise with debt. Our system is increasingly corporate-minded, placing profit ahead of education; ironically, however, most of us now graduate to a jobless future.
This is not just the plight of students, but symptoms of a broken economic system. It is through well-funded higher education that our society grows and improves. Education is not a luxury, or an expense: it is an investment in the future.
For the past few months, as Quebec students have been turning a simple issue of fees into a wider criticism of the neoliberal agenda, in Ontario we have seen our media rejoice at every opportunity to ridicule and discredit a generation saying they want a better world for tomorrow.
On June 5th, we will march together in solidarity with the inspiring struggle of the students of Quebec, and to demand accessible education for the people of Ontario! Bring your friends, your voice, your instruments, your flags, your banners, your red squares, and most importantly, your spirit. The time for us to stand up and be heard is now. We must ride the momentum of this historic moment. This is more than a hike, more than a strike, more than Quebec; this is the beginning of a new way of seeing education, not just for now but for generations to follow.”
This article was originally published by wearechangetoronto.org