Quebec professors invite international signatories

Professors in Quebec are asking for signatures from professors outside Quebec on the petition below; as the guest-post following says, “International solidarity is important in trying to get as much attention to what is going on as we can. For us, just signing this kind of letter could be deemed illegal!  (Fortunately, for those not living in Quebec, Quebec law does not extend outside its jurisdiction…)”

But what are you signing, and why?  Prof. Alia Al-Saji (McGill) explains:

A general student strike has been going on in Quebec since mid-February.  This strike involves college and university students.  At its peak, over half of Quebec’s post-secondary students were on strike; currently about 150,000 students are still on strike.  What was at stake was a 75% hike in tuition fees over five years to be implemented this fall by the Quebec government, part of a general policy to impose “user-fees” and privatize public services.

In May, the Quebec government passed a “special law” (Bill 78, now Law 12) to suspend the session and effectively lock out striking students, rescheduling the remainder of the session for August.  This law includes draconian measures that criminalize protest and picketing and that levy severe fines on anyone who by “act” or “omission” impedes or slows down the resumption of classes in August.  Fines promised in the law effectively end student associations that choose to continue the strike, and for those that do not “use appropriate means” to induce their members to obey the law.  The law renders illegal all demonstrations of 50 or more people that have not provided their itinerary to the authorities eight hours in advance.  This law has led to massive public outcry and a wave of civil disobedience in Quebec.  Though the Quebec Human Rights Commission recently found the law to contravene the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the government has refused to abrogate the law.

For professors who teach in striking institutions, the impact of the law is chilling.  Not only are we open to fines if we refuse to teach under these conditions ($1000-$5000 per day), but we are also unable to freely voice our support for the student strike lest this be construed as inducing someone to commit an offense under this law (for which we would be held equally liable).

Faced with these conditions, some Quebec instructors have launched an international call for solidarity from professors outside Quebec.  They have written a manifesto that they invite you to sign. To sign the manifesto, please send your name and school affiliation to: manifestegreveetudiante@gmail.com

Manifesto in English: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3lTHAjqihRqcjByeG51Zi1Qcms/edit

Manifeste en Français: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3lTHAjqihRqXzVybXUzbWRXUjA/edit

Manifiesto en Espanol: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3lTHAjqihRqVzUyU2VqYkx0MGM/edit

Website:

http://profscontrelahausse.org/petitions-et-lettres-ouvertes/petition-pour-la-defense-de-la-democratie-et-du-doit-de-protestation-des-etudiant-es/

10 thoughts on “Quebec professors invite international signatories

  1. Quebec’s still nice! I’m deeply impressed with Quebec students, who are fighting for their future to an extent which my Ontario students don’t often seem to consider.

  2. Andreas in comment #1, could you please clarify: are you serious or are you making a sarcastic remark/joke about this matter? Following Kathryn in comment #2, it seems to me that the response here is one of many things that makes/can keep Quebec a very nice/good place!

    I still really like this post regarding the same or similar previous/preceding law, including the photo following the line, “This is how Montreal responds to being told not to gather”

  3. David:

    Andreas has a special sense of humor, which, it seems, is an acquired taste, which I have acquired and you have not.

  4. Yeah, I tend to assume Andreas is joking.

    Check out that awesome sentence in the manifesto: “We consider it unacceptable that Quebec professors are now forced to be cogs in this Orwellian system.” That is lovely.

  5. Thank you to Feminist Philosophers for posting this. Yes, this is the same “special law” that all of us were protesting in May, and to which the previous post, referenced by David, referred.

    Despite the repressive law, the “nicest” aspect of all this has been the students. I continue to be amazed by students who are willing to put so much at risk for a fee hike, the totality of which most of them will not have to endure personally (the hike is to be spread out over 5 years, or 7 years in the latest version, by which time most will have graduated). And I continue to be impressed by how articulate the students are and the connections they draw to other social issues and struggles.

    Example: One of the main student associations, la CLASSE (much maligned in the media for its militancy) functions through direct democracy and has feminism as a fundamental principle. So much so that the association ended up not taking money from a Comic Fundraiser because its members objected to the sexist, racist and homophobic jokes that had been made at the fundraiser and didn’t want to accept money that involved denigrating oppressed groups. That got them a lot of snide remarks, but made the feminist in me so happy…

  6. I am by no means a legal expert, but I had a quick glance at the text of the special law (pdf link). There are a lot of things that could be construed as stoppage, slowdown, reduction or degradation of normal activities. It seems to me that under the provisions of section 11 of the bill, an instructor could be fined for as little as omitting to take attendance, assigning less homework, scheduling fewer exams, etc. However, the fines would be on the order of $1,000 to $5,000 rather than $7,000 to $35,000 for individual acts like these (not that this makes much difference since $1,000 is not pocket change for most instructors). I have a hard time believing that such charges would hold in court, but it does seem possible if the instructor is otherwise known to have rigid classroom policies and has been vocal about student causes.

  7. Anonymous:

    Thank you for pointing out the extent to which “omissions” could be interpreted under this law. I agree with you that this might include any changes to one’s teaching that could be taken to be a slowdown or reduction in normal activities. The law polices what goes on in the classroom quite heavily…

    In terms of the fines, I am not a legal expert either, so thank you for your input. I read the fine as being $7,000 to $35,000 because that applied to anyone who was an “employee” of an “association of employees” (article 26.1). However, upon closer examination, I realize that that would not apply to all professors working at a striking institution, but only the ones who were union reps or senior staff for instance, so I think you are right that it is the first order of fines that apply ($1,000 to $5,000). It’s not much of a relief, of course, since this fine applies to each day or partial day of teaching.

    Personally, I don’t think this law will hold up in court (at least that is my hope). The law is already being contested, but by the time it makes it through the courts, it will be too late; the damage will have been done. I say this because I think the law is a pretext to repress the student strike and the popular support it is getting. Having this law provides a justification for police to crackdown (with force and not only with fines) on picketing, demonstration and any form of assembly that can be interpreted as impeding the resumption of normal activities on campus, by rendering these illegal. Freedom of assembly and expression on striking campuses can be severely (and “lawfully”) limited.

  8. Comment #7 moved the author to ask us to update the post accordingly; the post now reflects the fine amount ($1000-$5000 per day).

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