Many Quebec students heading back to school but vow to keep fighting against tuition increases

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

With bated breath, on Monday, Quebecers looked-on as students at several junior colleges (CEGEPs) returned to school  for the first time since February when students chose to boycott classes in a protest of tuition hikes.

According to the Montreal Gazette, four of the 14 CEGEPs (junior colleges) resumed classes without incident.

Another 3 student unions voted to go back to class while the others will cast ballots in the next couple of days. So far, only one CEGEP has opted to continue the strike.

Quebec's largest student group, CLASSE, is also in the process of voting on whether to end their strike when classes open at Quebec's universities next week.

[Related: Students are the wild card in the Quebec election]

Whether to go back to class or not has become a strategic dilemma for many students in Quebec.

As chronicled by the Canadian Press, there are personal concerns about what impact continued strikes might have on academic progress. There are also electoral concerns — such as whether continued strikes will only help the Charest Liberals by making the student conflict a key ballot-box issue.

But even if the students vote to return to classes, it should not be interpreted as a sign that they are backing down, said Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) president Martine Desjardins told the Gazette.

"Our goal has not changed: what we are after is a freeze in tuition."

On Sunday, FEUQ joined other Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) in launching a get-out-the-student-vote campaign.  The two student unions representing half the province's 400,000 CEGEP and university students unveiled a video as well as plans for four radio spots intended to encourage young Quebecers to vote in the Sept. 4 provincial election.

[ More Politics: eHealth Ontario CEO Greg Reed returns $81K bonus ]

According to the Montreal Gazette, only 36 per cent of voters ages 18 to 24 voted in the 2008 provincial election.

"It is important that the maxiumum number of students turn out to vote," Éliane Laberge, president of the FECQ, said.  "It is important to to elect a government that will represent us."

There's also other public protests in the works: CLASSE, for example, is mobilizing support for what they hope will be an enormous demonstration on August 22.

In other words, the students may be going back to class but their battle is far from over.