Gatineau students to vote on joining protest
Published Tuesday, February 21, 2012 5:58PM EST
Thousands of Gatineau university students will vote Thursday on striking to protest hikes to their Canadian-low tuition.
About 6,000 students at the Universite du Quebec en Outaouais will have the chance to vote on joining 30,000 other Quebec students are skipping class this week.
They said they would be protesting the government's plan to raise tuition by $325 a year for the next five years.
"It's a principle, we think education is a right," said Hassene Bahri. "We don't think it's a consumable good, we think everybody has the right."
Quebec currently has the lowest tuition in the country for its residents - $2,600 for a year in an arts program is less than half what Ontario students pay.
"We have higher taxes than rest of Canada," said UQO student Gabriel Laurin. "Those taxes enable us to pay for our public services, health, education, social services, so our taxes already pay for education."
"I know it's less expensive than other provinces but I think it can be the same price in a few years if it continues to grow," said Karine Lafleur.
The university's student association said it's against the increase, but will leave it up to the referendum to decide if a strike is the right thing to do.
"We have a position on the raising of the fees, we're against them raising the fees for school but we don't have a position on a strike," said Justin Claros with the student's association. "We're neutral right now, we're going to go with what the students say."
Quebec education minister Line Beauchamp said the fee increases will happen and she's not caving to student demands.
For their part, some students said they're prepared to suffer the academic consequences of a strike.
"We feel the lack of respect shown by the government gives us no choice," Bahri said. "We should act and this is the only way left to make our voice heard."
The university said it's too early to say if there will be classes in the event of a strike and they'd have to wait for Thursday night's vote.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee