On September 4, 2012 the Parti Quebecoise (PQ) were elected to a minority government and Pauline Marois became the first woman to be Premier of Quebec. The election marks the first time since 2007 that a minority government will be formed in Quebec; the PQ won fifty-four seats while the Liberals now hold fifty. While this election marks a shift in Quebec’s history and a milestone for the province’s sovereignties, the real political victory of the year belongs to the student movement, which has gained a large – and arguably a ‘majority – of popular support.
In Montreal on May 22 2012, on the hundredth day of the student strike, more than three hundred thousand people took to the streets to protest the policies of the Jean Charest’s Liberal provincial government. The protest was largely a response to Bill 78, an emergency law that sought to restrict protesting or picketing on campus by ‘protecting’ the rights of institutions to provide unimpeded education to its enrolled students. The demonstrations fought back against these repressive measures and the call for general election became inevitable.
The student protests began in February in opposition to the seventy-five percent increase of tuition fees by the year 2017. However, the Quebec government argued that Quebec’s fees are the lowest of Canada’s provinces, therefore justifying the imposition of higher chargers on public services.
The student movement can be held accountable for the resignation of the Minister of Education, Line Beauchamp.
At the peak of the strike movement, three hundred thousand students were affected – nearly two third of the entire post-secondary student population. Since April 22 demonstrations were occurring nearly every night, with violent clashes between the police, demonstrators and ‘black bloc’ activists. Nearly 2000 arrests were made since the beginning of the conflict, most of them as a result of Bill 78.
In order to avoid more police confrontations, the student ‘casserole’ movement began, and caught onto other Canadian cities as students across the country demonstrated their solidarity to the movement. The pretense was that students and supporters would take the streets peacefully- armed with pots and pans and clanging against Harper’s repressive actions and tuition hikes. Social networks helped with the mobilization and the spread of petitions.
The movements demonstrated the sheer force of social networking and student mobilization to counter the repressive measures of the government – while bringing to light unconstitutional threat of Bill 78 to Canadians’ democratic liberties.