Award-winning Investigative Journalist Robert Parry (1949-2018)

Award-winning investigative journalist and founder/editor of, Robert Parry has passed away. His ground-breaking work uncovering Reagan-era dirty wars in Central America and many other illegal and immoral policies conducted by successive administrations and U.S. intelligence agencies, stands as an inspiration to all in journalists working in the public interest.

Robert had been a regular guest on our Between The Lines and Counterpoint radio shows -- and many other progressive outlets across the U.S. over four decades.

His penetrating analysis of U.S. foreign policy and international conflicts will be sorely missed, and not easily replaced. His son Nat Parry writes a tribute to his father: Robert Parry’s Legacy and the Future of Consortiumnews.

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Quebec's Student Tuition Strike Grows into Massive Anti-Austerity Movement

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Posted May 30, 2012

Interview with Andrew Gavin Marshall, an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, conducted by Scott Harris


What began as organized opposition against 75 percent and then 83 percent increases in university tuition in Canada’s Quebec province, developed first into a student strike – and now has grown into a full-blown social protest movement in sync with anti-austerity activists across the globe. A student boycott of classes initiated in mid-February, grew to over 166,000 students on strike across the province by the end of March.

Swelling numbers of students and their supporters have participated in more than a dozen weeks of protest rallies and marches, with over 300,000 taking to the streets of Montreal on March 22. But after Quebec’s provincial government passed emergency Bill 78, which limits the right of free speech and dissent, nearly 400,000 people marched in Montreal, in deliberate defiance of the Liberal Party government of Jean Charest’s attempt to suppress the student movement.

The three main student groups organizing the strike have been joined in the streets in recent weeks by opposition parties, unions and hundreds of Quebec lawyers. While negotiations between the students and government representatives have recently resumed, police continue to crackdown on protesters, with over 2,500 people arrested since the strike began in February. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Andrew Gavin Marshall, an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, who provides analysis and context for understanding the Quebec student strike and its connections with anti-austerity movements worldwide.

ANDREW GAVIN MARSHALL: The government had announced a 75 and then an 83 percent increases in the cost of tuition, nearly doubling our current cost. In Quebec, we have the lowest tuition in the country and on the continent. We pay an average of $2,500 a semester compared to $5,000 in the rest of Canada. And the United States is far more extreme than that. But we also have half the student debt of the rest of Canada, which has an undergraduate average of $27,000, whereas in Quebec it's $13,000. In the United States, the average undergraduate is $24,000. So the increased tuition cost would obviously nearly double the debt cost. And this is what really mobilizes the student associations here against the tuition increases.

And the student associations here in Quebec, in fact, function a little differently across the rest of Canada and in the United States. They don't really function like our so-called democratic government where you simply elect officials every few years and they do whatever they want. Here, the major student associations function through direct democracy. So, there are general assemblies, there are discussions, debates and the constituents themselves have to vote and make the actual decision. So the representatives simply carry them out, they're not really "officials," they're just truly representative.

So when this issue was put before the student associations and their constituents, in large part, students voted to strike. And the strike began back in February. It even included certain student associations of Anglophone schools here in Quebec, which is a French-speaking province. This is really the issue that sparked the movement. Students became engaged, were protesting consistently. In Montreal, the city where I live, there have been over a few hundred protests, over the past 100 days.

For the first two months of the protest, the government refused to speak to the students, they refused to negotiate, they refused to even consider negotiating. And so, the students' tactic had to change. And through civil disobedience, they were targeting economic centers in the city, such as a sit-in on a major industrial bridge where economic goods in and out of the city every day. Consistently, the student protesters have been met with state violence, state suppression on a weekly basis, if not a daily basis. You would hear and see and experience peaceful protesters being met with tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, smoke bombs, beatings with batons, even having cars and trucks driven into them, shot with rubber bullets. We've had several students who have almost been killed by being shot in the face with rubber bullets (in the) face or the head. One student lost an eye, another student lost his vision, another student lost teeth. And another student ended up in a coma with a skull fracture and brain contusion.

Especially since Bill 78 was passed, which severely restricts the right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly guaranteed by the Canadian charter right to freedom, this has really mobilized a good majority of the population against this bill. So, it's no longer students protesting, you see elderly people, you see children, you see strollers, you see wheelchairs. You see incredible diversity and an array of people every single night. It's truly no longer about tuition. It's about our very freedom and the whole population is mobilizing behind us at the moment.

BETWEEN THE LINES: As you understand it, what are the students' demand here? Do they want complete abolition of the tuition increase of is there some middle ground that could achieve some settlement of this massive strike?

ANDREW GAVIN MARSHALL: Well, the student association, I mean, there are three main ones. All of the main student associations agree that the hikes should be stopped. Although there is some indication from the representative of the college student associations that they're willing to allow for some hikes, and in terms of potential agreement or middle ground, there certainly are possibilities when it comes to the tuition issue. But so long as Bill 78 remains in place, this will have no support from students, and the students will vote against any agreement that does not rescind or repeal Bill 78.

BETWEEN THE LINES: How important is international solidarity with the student movement in Quebec? I've read about protests in Europe, Latin America, Taiwan and of course, here in the United States. Where do you think the links between the student movement and Quebec could take an international movement of students?

ANDREW GAVIN MARSHALL: International solidarity is absolutely necessary. And it gives such incredible hope to the students here. I mean, it really started to sprout up at a time right when we were being so destroyed. And it really gave the students here strength. We saw solidarity protests in Toronto, in Vancouver, in Calgary, in New York organized by Occupy Wall Street, in Paris. There's a student movement entering its first-year anniversary in Chile, which we here are learning from. The massive disparity and political social and economic structures of power are not only in Quebec. These are global issues. These are global challenges and they require mobilizing population against them. And the faster it spreads, the more it spreads, the more globally it spreads, the better for everyone involved.

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