Ludwic Moquinbeaudry from the Quebec students’ movement ASSE spoke to Solidarity.
We are now focusing on the next big demonstrations. On the 22nd of every month we have had a big demonstration, and the next big demonstration will be June 22.
We don’t know if we will break the records of the past demonstrations.
We started the student strike [against tuition fee rises] on February 13 and for nine weeks the Government thought the movement would die by itself.
Seeing that that strategy was not working, they started negotiations, and they tried to split the students. They expelled CLASSE from the negotiations, but the other student unions walked out in solidarity with us.
The Government declared they would increase subsidies to bursaries and loans. But we are fighting against the fee increase, not for more bursaries and loans, although we welcome them.
Then the night demonstrations started, every night at 8:30pm — this has been going on for the past 50 days. Some of these demonstrations have been huge.
Then the education minister, Beauchamp, stepped down on May 14 and he was replaced by Michelle Courchesne. They passed Bill 78, which restricts our right to demonstrate and shuts campuses down until mid-August. The movement entered a new phase. It was no longer about the tuition fee hike, it became about our right to assemble and demonstrate, and freedom of speech.
We started the “Casseroles Movement” — every night people would bring out pots and pans and bang on them.
The government has not indicated that it wants to negotiate, and it is summer so a lot of students go home and get jobs to pay for their tuition… But with the Casseroles movement the movement has gone out of the big cities and spread to smaller towns as well.
ASSE is a bottom-up union. Our members vote mandates in general assemblies, and these mandates are passed up to national Quebec congresses.
We are combative. We do not use lobbying tactics like the mainstream student unions, FECQ and FEUQ, founded at the beginning of the 1990s around the slogan “no more strikes”.
We have been surprised by the show of solidarity through the world towards the movement. It has been very good for the spirit.