Student Strike is Not a Simple Boycott: History and Perspectives

The following text was compiled by L’Association des juristes progressistes (AJP) in response to the administration of several universities that have sent notices to their students that falsely allege that the concept of strike is limited to workers under the labour code. This is false and the following text explains this fallacy with clarity and precision. The AJP was founded in 2010 and is an organization of lawyers, law students and workers from the legal system, dedicated to defending rights and putting the judicial to task in order to assist the struggle for social justice and end inequality.

Concordia students, and students from other universities are not boycotting their classes. The vote is to STRIKE against tuition increases and the privatization of education. 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor

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Whereas the number of strikers against the tuition hike has surpassed 290 000 across the province (if we include the strike on March 22nd 2012), it is important to note that the management of certain universities, like McGill, Concordia and Université de Montréal, are sending notices to their students in which they allege that the concept of strike is limited to workers under the Labour Code (R.S.Q., chapter C-27). Consequently, they qualify the movement as being a simple boycott and allege that professors should give the classes despite the strike votes taken by the student associations and threaten students with academic reprisals in case of absence or omission to give in papers.

Beyond constituting a political intimidation tactic that comes from parties that are far from being neutral in this debate (it is important de remember that the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec is a staunch supporter of the hikes), this directive is based on important historical errors and is contrary to the spirit, if not the letter of theCanadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (The Constitution Act, 1982, Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11) as well as Charter of human rights and freedoms, (RSQ, c C-12).

Firstly, it is important to note that the right to strike was not created by the Labour Code. It existed long before the enactment of this law as it originates from the working-class struggles of the 19th century.  An international phenomenon of contestation, the right to strike was elevated to the rank of fundamental rights on an international scale through its recognition in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, dating from 1966, which was ratified by Canada.

Moreover, this pressure tactic, which sits at the crossroads between the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression, was used in numerous instances in modern democracies to achieve Continue reading

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