Students on strike in Quebec voted Monday on whether to continue strikes held in response to Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his Liberal Party’s plans to raise tuition fees at universities by a whopping 82 percent, or $1,700, over five years.
Following three more votes Monday to end the strike and one vote in favour of continuing student protests, the tally now stands at six to two among junior colleges, called CEGEPs in Quebec, in favour of returning to class.
However, this doesn’t mean the end of protesting. Some university faculties will remain on strike after votes in favor of continuing demonstrations. Additionally, some CEGEPs and university students have yet to vote.
Despite the promise of ongoing demonstrations, certain students fell disillusioned that some of their peers had voted to end the strike.
“The romanticism of it all is over,” said one student to the Canadian Press, still wearing his iconic red square.
A few people wiped tears of disappointment from their eyes. Some strike supporters tried to console each other with long hugs outside College de Maisonneuve.
“I’m too upset to talk,” said one weeping woman, who did not want to give her name.
Regardless of whether or not students continue protesting in Quebec, it’s clear the movement, dubbed the Maple Spring by the media, had a profound effect on the Canadian political landscape.
The Canadian Press reports the party leading the polls in the current provincial election campaign, the PQ, has proposed eliminating the tuition hikes and replacing them with much small increases affixed to the rate of inflation, a direct result of the protests organized by students who made fee increases the bedrock of their movement.
Students also warn they could return to striking after the September 4 election, depending on who wins, while others claim they will continue to protest despite Monday’s results.
One woman vowed that the movement would not give up, despite Monday’s results.
“We’ll continue fighting anyways—you’ll see us in the streets,” said Laurie Tatibouet, an 18-year-old student from CEGEP St-Laurent, the only junior college that has voted so far to keep striking.
“The fight seems to be starting to get tougher right now and it will be hard to continue.”
The primary concerns among defectors who voted to end the strike appears to be a desire to complete their degrees in a timely fashion and that the movement might be losing momentum.
“My objective is to finish my semester—and it would be great if I can finish it in six weeks,” Ian Laine, 18, who believes it will be difficult for the strike movement to reignite after the provincial election.
“I don’t know if everyone will jump back in the same boat to restart it.”
“I agree with everything that happened. It’s just that it’s time to return to school,” 19-year-old Charlie Hébert told the Toronto Star.
Continuing the strike would mean losing yet another semester of classes, which for many means risking a delayed entry into university, the Star reports.
A prominent anarchist and participant in the protest movement, Jaggi Singh, reminded his followers on Twitter that the strikes aren’t about opposing one party or government, but about opposing a “destructive system.” Singh is among those urging that the strikes continue during the election.
Busloads of police greeted students returning to class Monday morning at a Montreal preparatory college, the first school to resume session since the strike started last February.
Despite the fact that the CEGEP’s students opted by a wide margin to return to class, police said they feared the possibility that pupils from other colleges might show up to protest.
“Last spring, students from other CEGEPs were protesting at ones that still had classes,” Montreal police spokesperson Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière said. He said officers were deployed to André-Laurendeau just in case.
In the end, there were no problems at the school.