We all need to take a lesson from Quebec Students

Students have been protesting planned increases to tuition for 3 months. It does not seem to matter what the Charest government does the protests come back stronger than before. This is not a surprise to those of us who are familiar with Quebec history. Whether it was the October Crisis, the confrontation at Oka or the power of the sovereignty movement, Quebecers have a long history of effective protest. What makes Quebec stand apart from other provinces is their absolute commitment to social justice and access to education. Quebec has the lowest tuition in the country. If the proposed tuition increases go through, Quebec will still have the lowest tuition in the country. Quebecer students don’t seem to care about the government’s claims – to them, this increase will reduce access to education.

Canada has never been a country to sustain any kind of long-term protests seen in other countries. We seem to just take what the government dishes out and retreat to our indebted homes to lick our wounds. Very rarely is public outrage translated into political action. One recent exception was the HST petition that succeeded in causing a referendum. I doubt it would have been so successful if it were not for the polarizing influence of Bill Vander Zalm.

Our current political climate is cruel and very negative. The Harper Conservatives keep lobbing cut after cut after cut at us and like good little Canadians we take it and hope that someone, somewhere will fix it. It started with extending the age of eligibility of OAS.[1] Since then we have seen medical insurance for refugees being cut[2] and now being told that we have to be prepared to take any job if we happen to need EI. The Conservatives are eroding, even further, what differentiates Canada from other countries.

I am sure that no one who voted for Harper saw all this shit coming. But it is so predictable. He is a social conservative. He believes that everyone just needs to work harder and they will have everything they need. We know this is not true. People do not languish on EI or welfare because they want to. No one wants the state to pay their way if they have an option. I am afraid that the Canada we get back when he is done is going to look nothing like the Canada of today. This makes me very sad and not very hopeful for the future. I only hope that our youth take a page from the Quebec students who will not back down. We need that kind of commitment to save Canada now.


[1] Which will not be felt immediately. Instead, it will hit my generation.

[2] Refugees will only receive treatment for conditions that are a threat to public safety (i.e. TB) or if they are not treated the person may be a danger to the public (i.e. severe mental health issues). Need a cane, forget it! A life-saving medication like insulin – not going to happen in Harper/Kenney’s Canada!

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