Towards bill 78

But it was badly mistaken. The agreement offered no compromise on tuition fees and instead, commissioned the creation of a review-board of sorts which would seek to uncover funds in university budgets which eventually could, possibly, be used to partially offset the tuition fee hike. General assemblies, after reviewing the content of the proposal along with the flawed process that produced it, unanimously rejected it. The government was, in a way, stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The strike showed some signs of wavering, but over 150,000 students were still on strike and seemed determined to do what was necessary and follow the struggle through to the end. The mood in assemblies was resolved: the only acceptable proposal was to scrap the tuition hike. After so many weeks of protesting and enduring repression, the stakes were higher than ever.

On the other hand, the government didn’t appear to be giving up either. It still had support among the public, so by conceding or compromising it risked losing a huge amount of credibility. If we take into account the global context, with France, England, Greece, Chile as examples, in the past years and months uprisings there gradually faded without making any significant headway, while governments held their ground. It’s likely that Quebec didn’t want to set a precedent.

As special legislation designed to break the strike was rumored to be in the works, the education minister resigned, probably because she opposed it. But the resignation of the minister who had been the face of the state’s intransigence was a bittersweet victory. A few days later, the Liberal Party introduced Bill 78 in parliament. The emergency law, officially titled “An act to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend”, was adopted in haste after an hours-long marathon session.

The law immediately suspended the semester of every institution on strike, postponing the remaining classes until August. It introduced heavy fines for any individual, union or organization enforcing a student strike from that moment forward. It also restricted protests across the province by declaring illegal any gathering of 50 persons or more unless the event’s date, time, itinerary and other details are pre-approved by police. Anyone advocating or urging defiance of this law could also be subject to stiff penalties.