Commentary by the Young Communist League of Canada about the student struggle in Canada and especially Ontario today.
The unity and militancy of the Quebec student struggle has begun to shake the rest of Canada. Across the country, the youth and student movement has been inspired and emboldened by the struggle in Quebec. Many have correctly concluded that the best form of solidarity is to step-up a united fight back at home.
The Young Communist League of Canada supports this growing mobilization, made stronger by work like the Casserole Night in Canada protests that heard post banging from Antigonish, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia; and here in Ontario, by solidarity tours like that organized by the Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario and the Toronto student strike workshops which drew in over hundred eager participants.
Now is the time to start building a broad, militant and united fight back for accessible education, which is in crisis in our province:
• fees in Ontario are 23 higher than the cross-Canada average
• college tuition has outstripped inflation by 378%
• university tuition has outstripped inflation by 509%
• students graduate with an average debt of $37,000
The McGuinty Liberal government has just announced dangerous plans to compress four year degrees into three. In Canada and around the world we are seeing a new kind of education system where we pay more and learn less. As all students scramble to find work and pay our bills in an economic crisis of capitalism, indigenous peoples, women, and racialized communities face growing barriers to post-secondary education. International students are exploited as ‘cash-cows’.
The vast majority of students already see education as socially positive and support lower fees and greater access. In order to turn this sentiment into a visible force, hard work is required, convincing our campuses of the demand that access to education is a right, and of the urgency and necessity for united and growing strategy. United struggle is the only effective path for students to win.
The way forward for the student struggle must be to place front-and-center the question of a broad, powerful and united fight back with an escalating action plan that reaches beyond access to education and ultimately demands free education. The passive tactics of lobbying, post cards and petitions, isolated or one-day-a-year actions, and campaigns centered on media outreach rather than mass mobilization are simply not enough.
As the most progressive student union in English-speaking Canada, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is in the best position to build such a plan and win the students of Ontario to a program of united struggle. To its credit, not only reduced fees but free education is the policy (at least on paper) of the CFS. This strong mandate has to be put into action now. There is no contradiction between respecting the autonomy of local campuses and the CFS organizing and making a political battle to win students into struggle -- in fact, the opposite.