Montreal has been the focus of attention in the past little while, and it’s all due to the violent protests in Quebec. It’s not the first time for tuition costs to increase, and it’s also not the first time for protests because of it. This is a more extreme version as the protests have included violence, rioting in the streets and have resulted in cancellation of university classes altogether.
Tuition prices started to rise in the mid-1980s in North Amercia. In 1990, the government increased it from $500 to $1600. This was a gradual change over 4 years and led people to protest. Then again, in 1996, there was meant to be a 30 percent increase. Student protest occurred again, this time prompting a withdrawal of the proposed hike. In 2007, another tuition increase, for $500 over 5 years, was proposed and ratified.
Despite all these increases, tuition in Quebec remained lower than anywhere else in Canada. The issue didn’t come about until March of 2011, where the Finance Minister wanted to increase it by $325 over five years. The subsequent protests began in August of last year for this proposition and have continued until now, really escalating in February.
The protesters were pepper sprayed on Jacques Cartier Bridge by police and sustained some serious injuries. After this, the protests were supposed to be peaceful but the violence simply escalated: Bags of bricks meant to stop the use of the subway were thrown on the subway tracks – the city had no choice but to close down the subway line. The protests then started becoming more frequent with destruction and altercations on both sides of the law. The violence went on, such as in early May, when the police fought back against the civilians and one person ended up losing an eye, with a policeman being beat continuously. Classes had already been cancelled for 11 universities and 14 CEGEPs, so people were out of school. An agreement was made to have tuition changes delayed for a few months, despite many student groups that just want to go back to school. The violence and protests continue on today.
I understand the frustration that the Quebecois feel when the prices rise so steadily over the years. Money is a big deal, and even if it’s not at the root of all happiness, it is true that it doesn’t grow on trees. Quebec’s economy is not doing as well as it could and it has been known for being a poorer province in Canada for some time. Thus, maybe they do have a right to pay less than the rest of us because their economy is worse off and people are faced with hard times. But on the other hand, the province has been receiving equalization payments since the 1970s. This levels out the playing field a bit, and so, tuition increases might not be so unfair after all as other social services are already highly subsidized. Plus, Ontario’s tuition prices are comparable to those of Alberta’s, and their economy is currently comparable to Quebec’s. This may not be fair, but Ontarian students are not filling the streets, causing all these riots. It is harder to accept when things change for the worse all of a sudden, like with the Quebec government raising tuition prices, than it is when people don’t have to have this adjustment – like in Ontario when their economy fell but their tuition remained the same. That still doesn’t mean that Quebec’s protests were called for and their cries were fair.
I live in Alberta and pay much more than they do in Quebec. If the rest of us are required to pay a certain amount and work hard for our money, the same expectations should apply in Quebec. Even if they did get to pay less for tuition, I think it’s immature to protest so profusely when they’re aware that the playing field is just being leveled out a bit more. They’re already receiving equalization payments, and live in one of the most privileged places in Canada with some of the lowest prices on housing. Because of their protests, they’ve caused many schools to be shut down altogether, which isn’t fair for those who want to attend school and don’t want to be a part of the nonsense. Plus, I feel like the government should be responsible enough not to give in when things turn violent, because it makes people believe that violence is the answer. This protesting is unnecessary as these increases are reasonable and fair. Granted, my reception to their plight may have been warmer if they hadn’t turned to violence.