Student strike would be ‘direct action’ against government’s OSAP cuts
A motion to create a comprehensive Ontario student strike plan was passed at the semi-annual general meeting of the Canadian Federation of Students—Ontario (CFS-O), on Jan. 20.
The motion called for the plan to include a budget, a logistics plan for strike activities, and a framework of strike demands for key issues affecting students.
The plan will be developed and then presented at the CFS-O’s Annual General Meeting slated for the summer.
Glenda Anderson, the vice president of equity and external affairs at the Graduate Students’ Association at Brock University, seconded the emergency motion that called for the CFS to provide “support, be it for a local that or members that want to mobilize or if they choose to strike.”
Anderson said that the main influence for the motion stemmed from the Ontario government’s cuts to the OSAP program and charging interest on student loans immediately after graduation.
“We just saw that as an attack on student unions and our democracy,” said Anderson.
The motion also called for the plan to be developed with “insight and consultation from the solidarity partners, labour unions and activists, and the leaders of the 2012 Quebec student strike.”
In 2012, tens of thousands of students in Quebec went on strike against a planned 75 per cent tuition increase.
It lasted from February to September 2012 and became known as the “Maple Spring” when the government passed Bill 78, banning picket lines at universities and protests anywhere without notifying police, sparking a mass protest movement in Quebec.
It ended when the Liberal government was defeated in an election and the new Parti Québécois government promised to not implement the tuition increases.
Nour Alideeb, chairperson of CFS-O explained that there are legal differences surrounding striking in Quebec and Ontario.
“In Quebec and BC, students have the right to organize, which means that strikes can look a little bit different than what they would look like here in Ontario,” said Alideeb.
International students may also have unique issues with striking due to visa requirements, she added.
An important part of preparing for a strike is “educating members about what’s going on and why this is a great tactic to use,” Alideeb said.
The CFS-O chairperson noted that labour unions have seen successes with strike actions in the past and that it is an alternative to protesting.
“I think that a strike is an escalated tactic from a protest or a rally and to me, it’s a more consistent way of engaging people in the conversation about what’s going on,” she said.
The CFS’ role is to provide support, Alideeb emphasized, in the form of education, materials, ground outreach, and possibly legal support, although she “hopes it would never get to that point.”
According to Alideeb, there is no way to tell exactly when a strike could occur, as this depends “on each of the local campuses and their capacity to organize towards a local strike.”