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Quebec Students Can Teach the World a Thing or Two About Striking

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The first time Albert Lalonde rallied students at his high school to skip class, he was forced to sit through two hours of detention.

Since the winter of 2019, students in Quebec have been demanding the provincial government set greenhouse gas emission reductions in line with targets recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. With no sign of a response, much less action, the 16-year-old student at Montreal’s Joseph Francois Perrault High School decided to follow in the footsteps of Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg who, last fall, called on students around the world to start striking each Friday to protest world leaders’ inaction on climate change.

After more than 200 students took part in the first walkout last February, Lalonde started organizing general assemblies at his high school with a new goal: to shut the school down.

And on March 15 and May 17 they succeeded, with more than 700 students taking part in both strike votes. By May 17 high school students in Montreal had walked out of class for 14 consecutive Fridays.

“The only way to force the school to shut down is to make sure it’s impossible for it to run,” said Lalonde, now a 17-year-old student at Cégep du Vieux-Montréal, a pre-university college. “You’ve got to block the doors so the school will declare the school is closed.”

On the morning of March 15, hundreds of students showed up at 6 a.m. to form a line around his high school. Students at five other high schools in the city also prevented classes from running, joining 110,000 university students who also voted to strike. In total, 150,000 people flooded the streets of Montreal as part of the international day of protest happening in 125 countries, the highest turnout that day worldwide.

But while that protest came in response to an international call, its runaway success reflects Quebec students’ long history of striking.

Unlike their American counterparts, Quebec students have maintained a practice of striking that has proved successful in leveraging their demands of the provincial government. Since the first student strike back in 1959, their use has led to the opening of more affordable universities between 1969 and 1970 and a tuition freeze in 2012.

The highest escalation comes with the call of a “general unlimited strike,” when a large portion of the student body strikes at the same time and agrees to continue indefinitely until the government meets their demands. During strikes students don’t only walk out of class to protest. They also prevent classes from running by blocking classroom doors and boycotting all assignments and exams. The ideas is that the prospect of delayed graduations can help force universities and the government to negotiate.





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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !