After a period of inaction, the campaign for affordable and democratic post-secondary education is gaining new momentum. The Canadian Federation of Students reports that on November 2, thousands of students demanding free education rallied on 58 campuses, in 36 cities across every province.
“Fight the Fees” marks a new stage in this struggle, particularly in English-speaking Canada, where the student movement has traditionally called for tuition freezes or roll-backs. Occasionally, campaigns around these demands have achieved temporary successes, in provinces where NDP or Liberal governments sought to win electoral support. But the long term trend has been a rapid escalation of tuition fees, while working class students face tighter job markets and rising housing costs. Meanwhile, awareness has grown that post-secondary education is free in many other countries, from socialist Cuba to capitalist France and Germany, and developing countries such as Brazil.
As the CFS says, “November 2 marked a point from which students will not turn back. Exorbitant tuition fees and record levels of student debt have created a crisis that demands fundamental change. The only solution is the outright elimination of tuition fees in favour of a universal system of public post-secondary education.”
A growing number of Canadians agree that education is a right, not a privilege, and that a fully public post-secondary education is at the core of a just, equitable and fair society. The CFS National Day of Action was backed by more than 90 labour unions, civil society organizations and community groups. Just as significant, the Nov. 2 organizers prioritized the need to work in solidarity with the powerful Quebec student movement to build a truly pan-Canadian struggle. There is huge potential to mobilize around this critical issue, as part of a broad People’s Coalition for fundamental change.