If you would like to volunteer and join the effort, please contact us at the above email before embarking on any translation work, in order to avoid any redundancies. We cannot accept translations that have not been cleared with us first.
For more useful English-language sources on the conflict, see:
Gustavo Kuhn June 5, 2012
Original French Text: http://journal.tdg.ch/premier-ministre-fabrique-conflit-fins-electorales-2012-06-05
Montreal political science professor Alain Gagnon is in Geneva. In the following interview, he analyzes the reasons underlying the student conflict.
Though they have attracted fewer people over the past few days, student protests are continuing in Quebec. Alain Gagnon, professor of political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), is in Geneva. Pinned to his shirt is a small red square symbolizing his support for the student strike. According to him, Jean Charest’s Liberal government is fuelling the conflict for electoral purposes rather than seeking a solution. Interview.
What do Quebec’s students really want?
The movement began when the government announced its intention to increase university tuition by 75% over five years. Some associations opposed the hike simply because they found it excessive. However, La CLASSE (the coalition of associations for student union solidarity), which represents over half of the groups implicated, has denounced the government’s position on university policy from the outset. They oppose, in particular, the adoption of a more liberal “Anglo-Saxon” model based on the user-payer concept.
But when the government decided to pass Bill 78 limiting the right to demonstrate, the conflict extended far beyond the issue of tuition fees.
In my opinion, this is part of Premier Jean Charest’s political strategy.
Are you saying that the government is deliberately polarizing the positions?
Charest clearly wants to prolong this crisis. He has no desire to reach an agreement. Keep in mind, students had been on strike for over 16 weeks before Charest conceded to meet with them. He also passed the special law Bill 78 limiting demonstrations before the meeting. And when the students proposed an alternative to tuition hikes to fund universities, the government cut off negotiations. It is also worth noting that costs incurred during this crisis, largely due to law-enforcement expenses, have already far surpassed the amount that would have been generated by the tuition hike.
What could the government hope to gain from this crisis?
Charest is looking to be re-elected for a fourth mandate. However, a lot of Quebeckers have lost confidence in his policies. His approval rating is at 30%. But when questioned about his ability to establish peace and order, his rating goes up to 50%. He is therefore intentionally polarizing the debate to get re-elected. He knows it’s his only chance.
It’s important to understand that Charest has been in power for a long time in Quebec. Not only has his Liberal Party has been implicated in numerous cases of favouritism, a public inquiry is now underway to investigate allegations of government-related collusion and corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. Many scandals will likely emerge, but only after elections.
Having lost any moral authority, Charest is now fuelling the student conflict so he can step in and be the saviour of social peace.
Do the students have support for their cause?
Many Quebeckers are in favour of accessible education for all. They want an educated society. In fact, it was by focusing on education that Quebec was able to catch up with the other Canadian provinces at the beginning of the Quiet Revolution. Many people are also outraged by Bill 78.
But of course there are a lot of other Quebeckers who are tired of the demonstrations.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.