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Pauliine Marois with Students (January 21, 2013
Quebec Premier Pauline Marois poses with students at a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the Quebec Fleur de Lys flag, Monday, January 21, 2013 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

“In March, Quebec student groups declared war on a planned tuition hike of roughly $2,000 over five years. By April, students at 11 of Quebec’s 18 universities and 14 of its 48 CEGEPs had declared “strikes” and were skipping classes. There were nightly marches in Montreal that made life miserable for many who lived and worked downtown. Students who dared go to classes, even after judges orders allowing them to return, were stopped by masked protesters. The nightly marches started turning violent and threatened the tourism industry. Something had to be done.”  (MacLeans.ca)

Back to the Students’ strike: Bill 78

During the spring of 2012, beginning on 13 February 2012, Quebec’s university and CEGEPs’ students were on strike.  The strike lasted until 7 September 2012 when Madame Marois’ newly elected government repealed the proposed hike in tuition fees.

18 May 2012:  Bill 78 is enacted 

As described in the opening quotation of this post, the strike became disorderly. Moreover, it disrupted students who wanted to finish their university or CEGEP term.  Consequently, on 18 May 2012, the National Assembly of Quebec passed Bill 78, an “Act to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend” (Bill 78, Wikipedia) but an act that restricted the degree to which the students could create a public disturbance.

The law makes it illegal to deny a person access to any place if that person has a right or duty to be there and further restricts “any form of gathering” that might cause such denial from assembling inside any educational building, on the grounds of such a building, and within 50 meters of the limits of those grounds. Employees of the colleges and universities may strike with accordance to the Labour Code, but they are still required to work their normal scheduled hours and carry out their usual duties(Bill 78, Wikipedia.)

22 May 2012: a Demonstration

Bill 78 (L.Q., 2012, c. 12 / Laws of Quebec, 2012, chapter 12) is a temporary law which expires on 1 July 2013. However, on 22 May 2012, four days after Bill 78 was passed, between 400,000 and 500,000 individuals flooded the streets of Montreal in defiance of the new law.  Obviously this was lawlessness, but the students looked upon their limited ability to protest as an infringement on their civil rights.  They were therefore breaking the law in protest of the law, and they were not alone.

Bill 78: criticized and condemned

Bill 78 has been criticized and condemned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Quebec Human Rights Commission and civil libertarians.  Moreover, lawyers organized a demonstration of their own and the law has been called  “the second worst on record next since the War Measures Act.”[i]

A Decree

As I wrote in Thoughts about Quebec, on 28 August 2012, students were again protesting the rise in tuition.  Madame Marois had become Premier on 4 September 2012 so, on 7 September 2012, three days after her election and the death, by gun, of Denis Blanchette, she and her Parti Québécois decreed to freeze tuition fees.

Quebec Premier-elect Pauline Marois and her husband, Claude Blanchet, are among the dignitaries atending the funeral services for Denis Blanchette Monday, September 10, 2012 in Montreal. Richard Bain is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Blanchette and wounding another man outside the Parti Quebecois election night rally. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Quebec Premier-elect Pauline Marois and her husband, Claude Blanchet, are among the dignitaries attending the funeral services for Denis Blanchette Monday, September 10, 2012 in Montreal. Richard Bain is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Blanchette and wounding another man outside the Parti Quebecois election night rally. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Ryan Remiorz


The Strike

  • The students broke the law. One does not break the law.
  • Moreover, it would be my opinion that Madame Marois used the students to pursue her political goals.
  • The discrepancy between the increase in tuition fees ($2,168 to $3,793 between 2012 and 2017 or $325.00 per year) and the level of protest it generated is such that one could argue that at some point, earlier than later, the increase in tuition fees ceased to be the motive.  It seems that the students’ motive was self-entitlement.  I could be wrong.
  • It would be my opinion that those students who tried to prevent classmates from attending class and succeeded in doing so acted irresponsibly.
  • I do not think Madame Marois will find sufficient money to provide free tuition or continue to freeze tuition fees.

Quebec within Confederation

As for the degree of separation now in place between Quebec and the rest of Canada:

  • double taxation,
  • limited validity of a Quebec citizen’s heath-insurance card, to which I will add
  • unilingualism,
  • etc.

No referendum has allowed this degree of sovereignty.  Quebec has a different Civil Code,[ii] which was a condition of Confederation.[iii]  However, a Civil Code deals with Private Law.  It does not apply to the relationship between the Province of Quebec and Ottawa, the Federal Government.  I must ask an expert to tell me, in a wealth of details, to what extent Quebec can act independently.  I suspect that by refusing to sign the Patriation of the Constitution (1982), Quebec may have given itself significant elbow room.


I would like my country to remain united.  Canadians are privileged.  We have social programs and people are usually tolerant of others.  We are a bilingual country, except Quebec.  Ironically, however, Quebec probably has the largest concentration of bilingual Canadians.  French-Canadian students often enroll in English-language CEGEPs and universities.

There is no police brutality.  The Mounties are a living legend.  The Canadian Armed Forces have their Royal 22nd Regiment (the Van Doos), a mostly French regiment.  Finally, at an individual level, there is very little animosity between French-speaking and English-speaking citizens.  We don’t bear arms and we pay our taxes.

I hope all of you are well.

Ad mari usque ad mareFrom Sea to Sea Canada's motto

A mari usque ad mare
(From Sea to Sea)
Canada’s motto

© Micheline Walker
25 January 2013
[i] Blatchford, Andy (April 16, 2010). “Quebec student bill ‘worst law’ since War Measures Act: law professor”. Winnipeg Free Press.
[ii] “The Civil Code of Québec is a general law that contains all of the basic provisions that govern life in society, namely the relationships among citizens and the relationships between people and property. It governs all civil rights, such as leasing items or property, sales contracts, etc. It also deals with family law, as in the case of matrimonial regimes.” (Civil Code, Wikipedia)
[îii] Three Conferences, Confederation and Now: Civil Unrest 

Today, the temperature in Sherbrooke, Quebec is -23°C (-9.4°F).  In Victoria, British Columbia the temperature is -1°C (+30.2°F).  In Los Angeles, California, the weather is 21.1°C (+70°F).  I believe that is the reason why Canadian singer songwriter Joni Mitchell wants to go to California.

singer-songwriter: Joni Mitchell (b. November 7, 1943)
piece: “California”