Quebec student strike vote climbs to nearly 30,000

Thousands of post-secondary students in the province could be on strike by the end of month to protest against Quebec austerity. But is the voting process as democratic as it should be?

Online voting would be more democratic, says UQAM law student

A protester with a painted face takes in a rally to mark the 100th day of the Quebec students strike, in Montreal, Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Thousands of post-secondary students in the province could be on strike by the end of month to protest against Quebec austerity.

Last night, members of the University of Quebec in Montreal’s faculty of education voted to join the movement against the government's austerity measures.

That brings the number of CEGEP and university students who have voted in favour to walk out of class to more than 29,000.

However, some students say the convention for tallying strike votes is not as democratic as it should be.

Kathryn Giroux, a third-year law student at UQAM, said online voting would be more representative of the general student populace than a vote at the end of a marathon general assembly.

"Students cannot take an afternoon off to come and sit in an assembly for five hours, repeatedly, maybe every second week or so, to vote in favour or not in favour of a strike. What happens is you end up with an assembly with a very small proportion of the actual amount of students within the faculty and they decide for everyone, Giroux told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Wednesday.

"It’s really not representative of the full faculty. It’s not a majority vote."

Assemblies not representative of student body

My understanding is that if the vote is electronic you’re going to have smaller proportions that are voting to strike.- Kathryn Giroux, UQAM law student

ASSÉ student union spokeswoman Camille Godbout disagreed, saying general assemblies are the best way to make sure everyone understands the issues at hand before casting a vote whether to strike.

Giroux said it's hard for general assemblies to be truly democratic because people vote publicly and could easily feel pressured. She said possible strikes of longer than one day should be voted on by secret ballot and should be done online.

A recent example at CEGEP Vieux-Montréal where 1,072 students voted to strike on behalf of the entire 6,500-person student body at an assembly attended by fewer than 2,000. 

"I’d say the pro-strike movement is a little bit against it. They seem to claim that if you’re not present at an assembly you’re not informed well enough to take a decision on whether to go on strike or not, and they don’t want the vote to pass electronically at all because in the end you’re going to be consulting everyone, Giroux said.

"I can’t say for sure, but my understanding is that if the vote is electronic you’re going to have smaller proportions that are voting to strike."

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