April 14 Family Demonstration Gathers up to 25,000 People to the Streets of Montréal

For everyone who missed yesterday’s family march against tuition increases and in support of a larger social movement against privatization of public services, here is a photo of seniors against tuition increases.

(2012 © Jacques Fournier)

Below are 2 videos from Occupy Montréal media.

The first is from yesterday’s march that gathered up to 25,000 people on the streets of Montréal.

This video includes images taken from a variety of recent protests from the student movement. The audio is from a passionate speech given by Julien Lavoie. The entire speech can be read on page 9 of Fermaille, the student publication from the Association Étudiante du module d’études littéraires (AEMEL-UQAM).

Kinetic Typography: We Must Stop Being Afraid of Words

This animation was made to help create solidarity between anglophone and francophone students across Québec in light of the contrasting scale and strength of our respective strikes. This contrast also seems to exist with regards to our respective “cultures of resistance”. In a province that has seen much mobilization surrounding language issues and sovereignty, the apparent omission of this debate from the larger contestation articulated during this student movement speaks to the possibility of a desire for unity along different lines. As Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois illustrates, these lines are class, race, ethnicity and gender; or a total view of class that includes these subject-positions in order to make the axes of power transparent in all systems of oppression. While there is room for the question of nationalism to become more visible in the broad, collective reflection we are hoping for, and naming “Printemps Québécois” (or “Printemps Érable,” or “Occupy Montreal”), the power of our uprising is to be found in its scope.

Yet the contrast between, say, UQAM’s strike and our strike still remains. So while we are definitely reshaping the political culture of Concordia, we need to find ways to excite, provoke and awaken the anglophone student body that has much catching up to do to match the fervour, courage, activism and solidarity found in many French-speaking universities. Along with collective and physical mobilization, picketing, marching and occupying, we should make sure the range of the conversation being had across the province does not get lost in translation (or in mainstream anglophone media.)

Nadeau-Dubois is relied upon much less frequently in the Gazette, CBC, or CTV than in francophone media. While the tuition increase will be fought by the students collectively, he is a very eloquent spokesperson to have represent our interests in media settings that are typically hostile (and hostile to dissent that is not voiced by elected representatives, officials, heads of institutions.) He is also a skilled orator who speaks with passion and conviction. This video uses kinetic typography to amplify this energetic quality.

by Tim Powell, Graduate Diploma Student, Communication Studies, Concordia University.

Why Québec Student Strike Should Continue Within a Larger Social Movement

It was a Monday morning just before 9:00 am. As I walked to the Charlevoix Metro, historically working class neighbourhood of Pointe St-Charles, the context within which the student strike was situated became blatantly clear. I was on my way to the Concordia University Graduate Students Association general assembly to update a commitment to an unlimited general strike.

Signage from the Société des alcool du Québec (SAQ) store in Pointe St-Charles is removed as the local outlet is closed, forcing the residents to go outside of their community to buy alcohol. Closing down local outlets of public services is one example of the commercialization of government institutions that prioritize fiscal good governance and profit margins over providing accessible services to Québec's communities. April 2, 2012

Across the street from the metro were the last vestiges the neighbourhood Société des alcool du Québec (SAQ) liquor store being dismantled. The local outlet closed its doors on March 31. For months, local residents have been campaigning for the store to remain open with public information strategies, posters in livingroom windows, protest demonstrations and a banner that spanned Charlevoix Street in view from the SAQ’s front door.

"Don't Leave the Pointe: services in the heart of the neighbourhood" banner still spans Charlevoix street as a reminder that public institutions do not necessarily have community well-being as a priority concern. April 4, 2012.

Like Premier Jean Charest, who maintains a deaf ear to student concerns that tuition increases will decrease accessibility to higher education and privatize public institutions of higher learning, the SAQ management couldn’t care less about community concerns. For them, the bottom line is king, but not the benevolent type who looks out for his subjects but rather type of king who wants more for less at his subjects’ expense.

According to a March 9, 2012 press release, the SAQ proudly announces that its 2011-2012 third quarter had net sales grow 5.9% with profit increases of 6.4%. In real terms this means that the SAQ increased its profit in the last three months of 2011 by $56.8 million to a total three-month profit of $1.023 billion! Exactly 22 days after revealing staggering profits, the SAQ closed at least three local outlets in (Pointe St-Charles, Ville-Emard, and according to the sign in the truck, “Côte-des-Neiges”) all of which are lower income communities. Apparently, lower income communities don’t deserve equal access. This reminds me of a billboard image I recently came across that reads a slight variation of the following: “We do not have a [social] problem, we have a capitalism problem.”

Banks closed their local branches in Pointe St-Charles decades ago in a mass restructuring bid to increase profits. Now, four times a year, Canadian banks proudly flaunt record quarterly earnings without flinching at the long-term side effects of their greed. In fact, governments praise them for their resilience and competitiveness. Only the cooperative Caisse populaire Desjardins remains to provide financial services to The Pointe’s residents. In 2007, Canada Post announced that it was to close the neighbourhood’s only post office. Community members decided this was unacceptable and protested the announced closure. Their efforts did not save the post office but it did keep postal services in the neighbourhood, with a postal outlet installed inside a local grocery store chain. Some battles for services are won and some are lost, but each battle needs to be fought to avoid losing everything.

"Education is not for sale. Yes to the general strike." Photo March 22, 2012 by David Widgington.

Every encroachment of capitalism into public institutions takes away resources from the public and transfers it over to the private, in a capitalist imperative for perpetual growth. Not the type of long-term growth that builds communities to improve society but the type of growth that bolsters private enterprise by increasing investment portfolios of a minority of individuals. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that governments now vigorously advocate allow further encroachments of private interest over public good. PPPs provide public “investment” in infrastructure projects from which private corporations secure the profits. The extension of route 167 is one glaring example within the Charest government’s PPP approach to its Plan Nord.

In closing, I reproduce, below, a portion of the conclusion from a recent report by the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques (IRIS) that states:

     “A sharp increase in tuition fees is presented as the inevitable solution to an alleged problem of university underfunding. The facts analyzed [in the report] indicate that such an increase is actually a political choice aimed at privatizing the funding and role of universities.

We are currently experiencing a number of crises (environmental, economic, cultural). Given these circumstances, we should be using our intellectual efforts to reinvent the way we live and inhabit the world. Yet the transformations we see being imposed on universities actually undermine their independence and make them simple accessories to the unrestrained and irrational economic growth. Learning institutions are reduced to intellectual entrepreneurship centers that orchestrate the shift to a system ruled purely by economic considerations.

We must therefore not only oppose tuition fee hikes, but also reaffirm the importance of the public — not commercial — nature of universities so that knowledge may serve to foster individual and collective autonomy, critical thinking, and the transmission of intellectual heritage rather than simple market value.”

CUTV Program Director Arrested While Covering Student Protest

During live broadcast coverage of a student demonstration on April 4th, Laith Marouf, Concordia University Television (CUTV) Program Director and cameraman was arrested by riot police while reporting live during the demonstrations.

CUTV Program Director, Laith Marouf arrested while reporting live from student demonstration. 2012 © CUTV

Simone de Beauvoir Institute’s position statement regarding higher administration’s most recent approach to the student strike

Dear colleagues:

There has been much discontent with the higher administration’s most recent approach to the students’ “strike.” See the following web site:
http://www.concordia.ca/now/campus-beat/concordia-community/20120323/notice-obstruction-of-campus-facilities-and-classrooms.php

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute (SdBI) profs and students involved in Winter 2012 courses have discussed this issue and agreed on a response, in the form of a joint statement. See the following web site:
http://wsdb.concordia.ca/about-us/official-position-on-issues/documents/SdBIJointStatementonMarch23rdNotice2012.pdf

As is stated in our collective piece, we do hope Concordia University’s higher administration will consider reversing its current approach and instead commit to engaging in dialogue with students and faculty so that “strike” concerns can be addressed.

Best regards,

GENEVIÈVE RAIL, Ph.D.
Directrice, Institut Simone-De Beauvoir |
Principal, Simone de Beauvoir Institute
Université Concordia | Concordia University

Concordia University President Supports Free Education in Québec

Yesterday,  April 2, 2012, Concordia students occupied the 15th floor of the John Molson School of Business building. Their demands included academic amnesty for striking students and for the university to state their official position against proposed tuition hikes by the Charest government.

Still image from The Link video of April 2, 2012.

In a recent video produced by student newspaper, The Link, Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Frederick Lowy informally met with the students who refused to leave the hallway outside of his office and spoke to the crowd, during which he said:

“I personally would have no problem at all with zero tuition. With no tuition at all, provided the university could get operating funds from other sources. OK. There are other countries in the world, as you know, although not many but there are countries where there are zero costs to higher eduction, just like there is zero cost right now to elementary school education.”

Frederick Lowy must certainly know that there are indeed funds available, if only the Charest government would prioritize accessible higher education rather than subsidize mining corporations.

(2007 © Phil Angers taken from the graphic novel "Extraction!: Comix Reportage)

Here is just one particular source of funds that could (and should) replace the total sum of $265 million tuition fee increases [1] that the Charest government proposes. Consider this example from the Québec 2012-2013 budget: a $332 million grant of public funds is made available to extend route 167 so that the mining corporation, Stornoway Diamonds, can access public land for mineral extraction. Stornoway is only paying a fractional $44 million for the construction of a permanent road that leads nowhere else than its future mine.

“The Route 167 Extension is the $332 million road development project designed to connect the communities of Chibougamau and Mistissini to the Renard Diamond Project by way of a number of other prospective mining projects as well as the new Albanel-Temiscamie-Otish Park…

…On August 1, 2011 Stornoway announced the signing of two financing agreements with the Government of Quebec by which Stornoway will contribute to the construction and maintenance costs of the new road. Stornoway will contribute $44 million to its development …” [2]

Why is québécois society subsidizing this corporation to extract a non-essential mineral from public land?! Why has Premier Charest not consulted the public to ask us whether or not we would prefer to maintain and improve accessibility to higher education rather than to subsidize the profit margins of private corporations?! Would this money not be better spent on education or healthcare or anywhere else with longterm benefits for Québec citizens rather than for short-term dividends for corporate shareholders?

It is time for university administrators like Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Lowy to break their silence. They must assume their roles as leaders of our public institutions to pressure Premier Jean Charest and Education Minister Line Beauchamp to begin dialogue with the student movement. Frederick Lowy should lead the way with his vision for zero fees for higher education in Québec.

All of Québec society — students and otherwise — should ask ourselves: Is it more beneficial for society to give money to private mining corporations so they may access public land for the extraction of gold or diamonds which are often socially and ecologically costly and only serve the interests of luxurious consumption and capitalist financing? Or is it more beneficial to take that same money and give it to public institutions to maintain or improve accessibility to higher education?

Now is the time to decide!


references:
[1] Éric Martic and Simon Tremblay-Pépin (2012) Do we really need to raise tuition fees?: Eight misleading arguments for the hikes. Institut de recherche et d’information socio-économiques (IRIS) p.3.

[2] This text is taken from the Stornoway website (viewed April 3, 2012).

Media Studies Graduate Students Renew Strike in Line With GSA

2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor

Dear Faculty, Staff and Fellow Students,

After careful deliberation, students in the MA Media Studies program at Concordia University have collectively decided to renew our strike on an ongoing basis, to be reviewed weekly. We demand that the Charest government open dialogue with students and rescind the scheduled tuition hikes. To review our full position, please view our statement online here.

We will send a letter to each of our course instructors in Communication Studies to make clear our intentions regarding the submission and evaluation of coursework and to suggest tangible ways that our professors may support us at this time.

We appeal to faculty for continued solidarity in our struggle against the Charest government’s position. Once again, we appreciate the support faculty have provided thus far, and we encourage you to continue supporting us in our call for accessible education.

Sincerely,

MA Media Studies Students
Department of Communication Studies
Concordia University

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