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Quebec Student Leaders to Speak in Vancouver

'Lessons from the front lines' topic of Tuesday event backed by labour and student groups.

By Crawford Kilian, 18 Jun 2012, TheTyee.ca

Montreal students protesting in the streets

Montreal on March 22. The protest now shifts into 'summer mood' says a leader. Photo: Samuel Kuhn.

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The Canadian Federation of Students and the B.C. Federation of Labour have invited two leaders of the Quebec student movement to visit B.C. to share their experiences over the past four months of protests and demonstrations.

Martine Desjardins and Yanick Gregoire, president and executive vice-president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), will speak on the "Student strike: lessons from the front lines" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, in the Alice MacKay Room at the Vancouver Public Library at 350 West Georgia.

In an interview with The Tyee, Desjardins said: "We were invited by the unions, students and workers to learn how we achieved putting thousands of people in the streets across the province." She said she was also "open to see what people are doing in Vancouver."

"The movement is changing," Desjardins said. "We still have demonstrations day by day, but people are in a summer mood. They're going to the festivals to distribute red squares, and going from door to door to prepare for the next election. We are the biggest lobby in Quebec."

Asked if Quebec students were in touch with protest movements elsewhere, Desjardins said: "We're talking a lot with the student movements, in Chile, England, and France, and workers' unions also. Some students are in the Occupy movement also, but it's on the side."

'Similarities and differences': BC student leader

Speaking with The Tyee, B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said he did hope to learn from the students, though "We already know how to put thousands in the streets."

"We're contemplating how to fight back against the right wing," Sinclair went on, "how to fight the agenda of offloading onto the poor and middle class while others get a free ride."

Katie Marocchi, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students B.C. is co-hosting the visit.

"The CFS-B.C. sees similarities and differences in post-secondary between here and Quebec," she told The Tyee. "There are lessons we can learn from them. We have several campaigns on rising tuition fees, reduced core funding, and no provincial grant system. Our members are participating in casserole nights" -- noisy but peaceful events in which demonstrators bang pots and pans.

"The situation in Quebec is also about standing up for your rights and freedom of speech," Manocchi said. "CFS-B.C. wants to bring the Quebec movement closer to home. What we can take from Quebec can strengthen our ability to organize. Our focus will be on the coming election and post-secondary issues."  [Tyee]

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