Campus Catch -Up

Protesting tuition increases

Dozens of Quebec students occupied the office of the Quebec Ministry of Finance on March 24 to protest a tuition increase. As of 2012, tuition for students studying in Quebec will increase annually by $325 per student. The increase will continue for five years.Quebec Minister of Finance Raymound Bachand announced the increase on March 17.

Quebec student group l’Association pour un solidarité syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ) organized the protest, which saw 100 students demonstrate inside the building’s entrance. ASSÉ currently has 45,000 members in 18 chapters across the province.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, ASSÉ director of communications, told the McGill Daily that the protest aimed to inform Bachand of the discontent following his announcement. It also served to warn him that if he didn’t revoke his decision, a larger movement would be organized in the near future. While the aim of the occupation was peaceful, Nadeau-Dubois told the McGill Daily that security guards inside the building reacted violently, spraying some protestors with pepper spray.

The protestors hung a red banner in the main atrium of the building that, translated, read, ‘Bachand, take your fee hikes up the ass!’ Nadeau-Dubois said ASSÉ is calling for a provincial demonstration March 31 in Montreal.

“This action is really the last straw that we’ll give the Charest government to warn him to back down on the tuition hikes. If he refuses to do so at that time, well then we will embark on a mass mobilization, and we’re ready to go all the way to overcome it.”

Katherine Fernandez-Blance

Funds withdrawn from activism group

The University of British Columbia’s chapter of Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) was denied funding by the student government’s Social Justice Centre (SJC). The decision was made due to differing views about the group’s stance on political issues.

According to their website, STAND’s mandate is to push the Canadian government to take action in ending the conflict in Darfur, Sudan. UBC STAND applied for $1,000 in funding to organize a conference that would help teach students how to lobby the government on social justice issues. On March 11, SJC members said at a meeting that they disagreed with STAND’s support of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Greg Williams, a member of the SJC, told the University’s paper, the Ubyssey, that he believes STAND was supporting western imperialism. He said that while the SJC doesn’t usually turn down funding for groups entirely, there are some exceptions.

“Usually that’s for one of two reasons: either we don’t think that they really need the money, or as in this case, because we do not believe that funding it is within our mandate,” Williams told the Ubyssey on March 16.

Katherine Fernandez-Blance

Furthering Fair Trade

Ryan Ward, head of the University of Ottawa’s Engineers Without Borders, is leading a campaign to get the University fully fair-trade certified as early as September.

The University’s Student Federation recently announced their support of this initiative. The University of Ottawa (U of O) already has an ethical purchasing policy, but this campaign aims to ensure that it extends to all products on campus. If successful, Fair Trade Canada would designate U of O the second fair-trade certified school in Canada.

The campaign will be reviewed by the University this spring, and if it passes, the policy will state that whenever possible, the U of O should purchase Fair Trade products.

Ward told the University’s paper, the Fulcrum, that it’s a common misconception that fair trade products are more expensive than non fair trade ones. Because of this there has been reluctance to become fair trade certified in the past. However, Ward said that a fair trade certification had potential to shape the University’s image.

“There’s only one other fair-trade university in Canada—the University of [British Columbia] … what it means to them is it’s distinguishing,” Ward told the Fulcrum on March 24.

Katherine Fernandez-Blance

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