Why Are The Strikes In Quebec So French?
As talks between the Quebec government and student unions on university tuition hikes continue in Montreal, recent figures on the number of striking students per university show a deep Anglo-French divide. The student bodies in Quebec's English-speaking universities are much less active in the protests.
On his blog for L'Actualité.com, Anglophone writer and filmaker Josh Freed cites several reasons for this discrepancy in the bilingual Canadian province. First is what he calls the "McGill factor." McGill university is one of the best universities worldwide, and it "needs to put in place higher tuition to stay competitive with other Canadian universities that are much richer," he writes. And the McGill students are happy to be part of this elite.
But there are also a set of underlying cultural reasons that can help explain the gulf between the French and English attitudes. According to surveys, Anglophone students are more attached to university degrees than Francophone ones, which may explain why they are reluctant to strike on class time.
They also consider themselves lucky, because they have stronger links with other Anglophone areas of Canada where tuition is much higher (approximately $5,000 for the University of Toronto, compared to only $2,519 in Quebec). Anglophone students have weaker ties to French ideals like free higher education, whereas the Francophone community strongly identifies with France's traditions of social rights struggles.
In the end, only the heavily criticized law 78 restricting demonstration rights in Quebec might unite Anglophone and Francophone students, writes Freed.