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COMMENT: More than tuition at stake as Vancouver rallies in support of Quebec students

On a rainy Tuesday, Vancouverites rallied and marched in solidarity with the Quebec student movement.  Today’s demonstration took place exactly 100 days since the monumental student strike began.  Many speakers, including Margaret Orlowski, lucidly articulated how this movement out of Quebec is relevant across the whole country.

“It started with tuition, but it’s about a lot more.  Obviously we’ve heard about the [police] violence and repression and all of that...there is really a strong sense of the movement being anti-capitalist.

As we’ve heard, the average student debt when someone graduates is $27,000 in this land we are calling Canada.  Amalgamated, all together, there is over 20 billion dollars of student debt.  That’s a huge market...that’s very attractive for investors.  

It’s not just about having low tuition, it’s about refusing these austerity measures and refusing to transfer public money -- through students, through debt -- into the hands of the One Per Cent who are going to make interest off of that debt.”

It would appear, measured by the loud cheering and cries of “shame” from the crowd, that many unfortunately acutely resonated with the bleak picture for many Canadian students Orlowski was painting.

Meanwhile over in Quebec, the Liberal government of Jean Charest recently attempted to bully the movement into submission with it’s passing of the unbelievable Bill 78.  While Bill 78 did stop short of initiating a curfew and tanks in the streets; it did however, effectively criminalize protest.  

Nevertheless, it would appear as though Bill 78 has not had it’s intended effect: it was signed into law on Friday, while the weekend saw some of the most spirited protest of this movement to date.  Moreover, reports out of Quebec are stating that hundreds of thousands -- and potentially up to half a million people -- took to the streets today on a work day. 

While it is unclear if Charest’s new law stipulates how to deal with an assembly of over 400,000 people, the bigger question is what will this mean for the future of social justice movements, not just in Quebec, but all across Canada?  The analysis coming out of the Quebec student movement is relevant to 99% of the entire Canadian population.

"Whatever the name given to it by governments, it clearly and definitively involves the dismantling of public services aimed at privatizing what remains of the commons. The student movement has focused on the issue of tuition fees and the commoditization of the universities. However, it is not unaware that this measure is integrally linked to a larger project affecting elementary and secondary education, the healthcare sector and the unfettered development of natural resources. Our resistance to the Quebec government's neoliberal measures has to take into account all of these sectors, establishing a social link that enables us to speak of a community."  - CLASSE (The CLASSE is the largest of the student coalitions or federations leading the strike movement across Quebec).