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2012 Quebec student protests

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2012 Quebec student protests

2012 Quebec student protests
July 22 (left), May 22 (up) and April 15 (center) demonstrations and Victoriaville riots (down).
Date February 13, 2012 – September 7, 2012
Location Quebec, Canada
Goals Tuition freeze, Free education
Lead figures
Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec
Line Beauchamp, Minister of Education (until May 14, 2012)
Michelle Courchesne, Minister of Education (May 14-September 4)
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of the CLASSE
Martine Desjardins of the FEUQ
Léo Bureau-Blouin of the FECQ
Injuries 23+ (as of May 25)
Arrested 2,500 (as of May 25)[1]

The 2012 Quebec student protests were a series of [3] A third of Quebec students continued to participate in the strike by its 100th day,[4] while a quarter million had participated during its peak.[5] Other students continued to attend their courses.[6]

Left-wing groups endorsed the student protests, which evolved into generalized demonstrations against the provincial government. Opposition parties (Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire, Option nationale), workers unions (Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Canadian Union of Public Employees) and many groups demonstrated alongside the students in April and May 2012.[7]

On May 18, the Government passed Bill 78, an emergency law forbidding picketing or protest near university grounds, and requiring police approval for large public protests anywhere in Quebec. The law was mainly repealed by the Marois government in September 2012[8] and expired in 2013.[9][10][11]

In the Fall of 2012, with a new school term beginning, student participation in the strikes and demonstrations dwindled. The Quebec nationalist Parti Quebecois was later elected as minority government and halted any tuition increases in line with its campaign promises.[12]

These protests are sometimes named Maple Spring,[13] from the French Printemps érable which suggests Printemps arabe (Arab spring) as well as the maple tree which symbolizes Quebec and Canada.[14]

Historical context

Until the 1960s, post-secondary education in Quebec was not broadly pursued, partly due to costs. Following the Quiet Revolution, the government took over responsibility for higher education. Changes included the creation of a separate pre-university college level, a publicly funded college system, and providing universities enough funding so that it would be affordable to anyone who wanted to attend.[15]

University tuition fees in Quebec were frozen at $540 per year from 1968 to 1990. In 1994, annual tuition rose to $1668, after which it was frozen until 2007, when it grew by $100 per year until 2012, making it $2168. Overall, tuition increased an average of $37 per year or 300% between 1968 and 2012, not including other fees that are paid to universities (e.g. administration fees, student service fees, etc.).[16] The overall cost living inflation as measured by an aggregate inflation index commonly used by economists rose 557% from 1968 to 1990,[17] while Quebec maintained the lowest tuition fees in Canada.[18][19] Quebec students pay 10% of the cost and benefit from transfer payments from other provinces whose students pay up to three times more tuition.[20]

Quebec was a net recipient of transfer payments from the federal government, using these to fund social programs including education. The transfer payments were politically charged in provinces that giving more than they received from the federal government.[21]

In December 2010, Quebec university officials urged a five year, $1500 tuition increase that would raise student costs by 80%.[3]


One of the many night protests in the streets of Montreal, 27 May 2012.

In March 2011, Quebec decided to pursue planned five year tuition increases, prompting protests from student groups, and the occupation of the office of the Finance minister.[3] In July, student leaders accused police of brutality and repression against protesters, whose numbers swelled to 30,000 by November, leading to the occupation of [McGill University]]'s administrative building.[3] Beginning late February 2012, nine per cent of Quebec students, or 36,000 students, went on strike, using a square red flag for protest.[3]

On March 7, 2012, during a sit-in demonstration blocking front of the Loto-Québec (lottery) head office, police deployed tear gas and flash-bang grenades against over 1,000 protesters.[3] One demonstrator's eye was seriously wounded by what he and other demonstrators stated was a flash-bang grenade launched by police.[22] According to the student's father, police investigators sought to demonstrate the wound was caused by a snowball.[22]

During the morning rush hour on March 20, 150 student demonstrators blocked the Montreal-bound entrance ramp to the Champlain Bridge in Brossard using concrete blocks.[23] Upon the arrival of Sûreté du Québec police officers, the protestors fled through the streets of Brossard to coaches waiting for them at Terminus Panama. When officers arrived at the Terminus, they surrounded the buses and arrested around 100 demonstrators. Each was identified and fined C$494.[23]

On March 22 an estimated 200,000 people protested in downtown Montreal.[3] At its peak, the parade stretched up to 50 blocks. While there was no violence, the police confiscated sticks carried by some participants.[24]

In April and early May, 185,000 Quebec students went on strike, with an additional 90,000 students threatening to strike. Quebec education minister Line Beauchamp called on students to negotiate while refusing to negotiate with CLASSE, which she accused of instigating violence. Students demanded that university administrative costs be reduced by $189 million, to pay for teaching and research.[3]

On May 6, 2012, a demonstration took place in Victoriaville, which eventually turned into a riot when vandals started throwing projectiles at the crowd. At least ten people were injured, including some police officers who were attacked by protesters.[25] Two protesters were very seriously injured. The first one lost an eye. The second one sustained head trauma and a skull fracture.[26]

On May 14, 2012 Line Beauchamp announced that she would resign from her position as Quebec Education Minister and Deputy Premier. Beauchamp stated that she “lost confidence in the student leaders’ will to end this conflict.” Later that same day, Premier Charest announced that Michelle Courchesne would replace Beauchamp as Education Minister and Deputy Premier.[27]

On May 18, 2012, molotov cocktails, and police responded by firing rubber bullets and using tear gas and noise bombs against the protesters. Police declared the protest to be illegal.[28][29][30]

On May 19, 2012, Montreal-based band Arcade Fire wore the "red square" solidarity symbol during a performance with Mick Jagger on the season finale of Saturday Night Live.[31]

On May 20, 2012, during an evening protest that turned violent, a protester was seriously injured by police officers in riot gear.[32] Upon attacking an officer, the victim was beaten by five officers with their clubs and forcibly neutralized.

On May 22, 2012, in response to the passage of Canadian history."[13][34]

By May 24, 2012, the "Casseroles" series of nightly protests had rapidly expanded to most Montreal residential neighborhoods outside of the usual protest routes.[35][36] Inspired by the cacerolazos of Chile in 1971, these involved residents banging on pots and pans from their windows or taking to the streets with their kitchenware at 8 o'clock. A viral amateur video of one such protest in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood further fueled this phenomenon.

On May 31, the Quebec government stated that it was pulling out of talks meant to end the protest after four days of negotiations with student leaders, without having reached a stable consensus. By that day, more than 150,000 students were estimated to be on strike.[37]

After the announcement by ministerial decree of tuition freeze on September 5, 2012, the remaining student associations on strike voted to return to class.

Bill 78

On May 16, soon after the appointment of Michelle Courchesne, she and Premier Charest announced their plan to introduce Bill 78. The bill is titled "An Act to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend," and restricts freedom of assembly, protest, or picketing on or near university grounds, and anywhere in Quebec without prior police approval. The bill also places restrictions upon the right of education employees to strike.

While some students and law professors have been critical of the impact of Bill 78 on fundamental rights, Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier stated that there has been no equivalent respect given to non-striking students' rights to their education, and that the intent of the law is to return calm to Quebec society.[38] Some business leaders in downtown Montreal, the epicenter of the protests, supported Bill due to vandalism and disruption of local establishments.[39]


Red square

The red square, symbol of the Quebec student protest against tuition fee increases.
  The red square is a symbol of the protest against the raise in university fees. It is the primary symbol that was used in the student protests of 2005 and 2012. The square first appeared in October 2004 when the Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté (Collective for a Quebec without Poverty) used it in a campaign against Bill 57. Throughout the 2012 student protest, red squares made of felt, worn by students opposed to tuition increases and their supporters, can also be seen on many monuments, and in the windows of educational institutions, businesses and residences.[40] A giant red square was briefly suspended from the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and the Mount Royal Cross by students from the Université de Montréal during a protest.[41]

Other squares

After the red square became a well-known symbol in Quebec, other groups decided to use squares of varying colours to promote their own viewpoints.

  •   The blue square is worn by people who are opposed to the tuition fee increases and opposed to the student strikes.[42]
  •   The green square is worn by those in favour of raising tuition fees.[43]
  •   The yellow square, recommended by commentator Richard Martineau but not widely adopted, would be worn by those who support delaying the tuition increases over a greater period of time.[44]
  •   The black square is worn by people who oppose Bill 78 and/or generally oppose police brutality and civil rights abuses.[45]
  •   The white square is worn by parents of students in the protest who would like the students and the government to reach an agreement and/or to show opposition to any form of violence.[46]


On April 18, 2012 a group of 300 protesters broke windows and ransacked rooms at the University of Montreal and injured a security guard. Among the six that were arrested, Yalda Machouf-Khadir, the daughter of Quebec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, was sued by the University of Montreal for CAD$100,000 in damages.[47] Students were later sentenced to probation and community service.[48]

On June 12, 2012, some protesters were referring to local police authorities as [49]

See also


  1. ^ Banerjee, Sidhartha (2012-05-25). "Quebec Student Protests: 2,500 Arrests And Counting".  
  2. ^ "La grève étudiante sur le web".  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Curran, Peggy (22 May 2012). "Anatomy of a crisis after 100 days of protest". Montreal Gazette. 
  4. ^ Lemghalef, Leila (22 May 2012). "Big Montreal march marks 100 days of student anger". Reuters. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Marquis, Eric, "Quebec government escalates campaign to break student strike," World Socialist Web Site, 1 March 2012.
  6. ^ Courvette, Phil. "Emergency law considered in Quebec student protest". Associated Press. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Droits de scolarité au Québec : un débat de société". 
  8. ^ Gouvernement du Québec, « Décret 924-2012 », September 21th, 2012, Gazette officielle, vol. 144, #41, p. 4865.
  9. ^ Elizabeth II 2012, II.14
  10. ^ Elizabeth II 2012, III.16
  11. ^  
  12. ^ Michael, Lindsay. "Quebec's student tuition protest: Who really won the dispute?".  
  13. ^ a b Amy Goodman (May 25, 2012). "Maple Spring: Nearly 1,000 Arrested as Mass Quebec Student Strike Passes 100th Day". Democracy Now. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  14. ^ (French)Printemps érable : cinq choses à savoir sur le conflit des étudiants au Québec Sophie Malherbe, L'Express, 23 May 2012
  15. ^ Mathieu Pigeon. "Education in Québec, before and after the Parent reform". McCord Museum. Retrieved October 11, 2010. 
  16. ^ Ouimet, Michèle. "La belle vie". La Presse. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  17. ^ Bank of Canada. "Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator". 
  18. ^ "National – The Globe and Mail". 
  19. ^ "How much will it cost you?". Government of Quebec. Retrieved May 19, 2012. 
  20. ^ McDonald, L. Ian. "Students don't know how good they have it".  
  21. ^ Hopper, Tristin. "Time for Quebec to end equalization addiction: Montreal think-tank".  
  22. ^ a b "Un étudiant risque de perdre l'usage d'un oeil". La Presse. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  23. ^ a b Santerre, David. "David Santerre, Pont Champlain bloqué : plusieurs étudiants arrêtés". La Presse, March 20, 2012. 
  24. ^ "March stretched more than 50 city blocks at its peak".  
  25. ^ "Victoriaville: une dizaine de blessés, une centaine d'arrestations". La Presse. Retrieved May 4, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Blessés à Victoriaville: enquête indépendante demandée". La Presse. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  27. ^ Séguin, Rhéal (May 15, 2012). "Education minister's exit leaves Charest holding the bag". Globe and Mail (Canada). Retrieved May 17, 2012. 
  28. ^ Canada. "Molotov cocktails launched in Montreal protests following legal crackdown". Globe and Mail (Canada). 
  29. ^ "Conservative MP Blake Richards’ proposed crackdown on masked protesters goes too far.". Toronto Star. May 9, 2012. 
  30. ^ TU THANH HA AND Les Perreaux (May 5, 2012). "Anti-protest legislation passes in Quebec". Globe and Mail (Canada). 
  31. ^ "Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire — The Last Time". Saturday Night Live. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  32. ^ Gabrielle Duchaine (May 20, 2012). "27e manif nocturne: plus de 300 arrestations". La Presse. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  33. ^ Myles Dolphin (May 22, 2012). "Massive Montreal rally marks 100 days of student protests".  
  34. ^ James Mennie (May 23, 2012). "Peaceful day march, heated night demo". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Casserole Pan-Demonium in Quebec". Interactive Graphic (CBC News Canada). Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  36. ^ "Casserole Protests Ring Out Across Quebec". CTV News Montreal. Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  37. ^ Posted: May 31, 2012 4:39 PM ET (2012-06-01). "Quebec student talks collapse and more protests loom — Montreal — CBC News". Retrieved 2012-06-13. 
  38. ^ Les Perreaux And Rhéal Séguin (May 1, 2012). "Quebec’s emergency law blasted by critics". Globe and Mail (Canada). 
  39. ^ Patrick Lemieux (May 18, 2012). "Bill 78 - Quebec Employers Council President offers comments". Canada Newswire. Retrieved May 19, 2012. 
  40. ^ Gaudreau, Valérie (31 March 2012). "Le tour du carré rouge (French)". Le Soleil. Retrieved August 8, 2012. 
  41. ^ "Un carré rouge flottant sur le pont Jacques-Cartier". TVA Nouvelles. 6 April 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2012. 
  42. ^ Marc Allard (8 March 2012). "Grève étudiante : vifs débats dans les cégeps". Le Soleil. 
  43. ^ "Le carré vert nouveau symbole". Le Quotidien. 23 February 2012. p. 6. 
  44. ^ Julie Marcoux,« Carré jaune », TVA Nouvelles, 27 March 2012.
  45. ^ Ian Bussières,« Les manifs ne s'essoufflent pas », Le Soleil, 27 May 2012.
  46. ^ Marie-Pier Duplessis,Conflit étudiant : place au carré blanc de l'armistice », Le Soleil, 10 May 2012.
  47. ^ "Amir Khadir’s daughter named in student protest lawsuit".  
  48. ^
  49. ^ Sidhartha Banerjee (June 12, 2012). "Bill 78 - Jewish groups decry Nazi salutes at Quebec student protests". The Gazette. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 

External links

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