Students launch class-action lawsuit over Quebec strike

A class-action lawsuit is being organized by young Quebecers frustrated because they say they were hurt by the province's student strikes.
Nursing student Kim Laganière is one of two lead plaintiffs on a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for the school term she lost to the Quebec student strike. 'I'm not working because I don't have my diploma,' she said Thursday outside the Montreal courthouse, accompanied by her lawyer Michel Savonitto, left. (CBC)

A class-action lawsuit is being organized by young Quebecers frustrated because they say they were hurt by the province's student strikes.

The undertaking to sue 25 universities and CEGEP colleges, as well as the Quebec government, was announced Thursday by students and their lawyers.

The plaintiffs say not enough was done to let them have access to their classrooms to complete their courses.

One says she will get her nursing diploma six months late, which will cost her financially.

"I incurred losses and I'm just asking for a reimbursement," said the nursing student, Kim Laganière. "This will delay my entry into the job market by six to 12 months."

The group's lawyer is not setting a figure on the amount requested, saying the financial impact varies from one person to the next.

The damage includes loss of salary, lost work experience, lost tuition fees and lost summer jobs, according to lawyer Michel Savonitto.

"These amounts aren't necessarily very big in some cases, but if you add them up it becomes astronomical.… A court will evaluate the amount of the damages at the appropriate moment."

Right to strike at issue

The case may wind up determining whether the right to strike, as laid out in the provincial labour code, applies to students. Savonitto said he will argue that there must be some distinction made between the rights of workers and those of students.

More than 150,000 students were on strike at the peak of the Quebec student crisis last spring, representing one-third of the pupils at the province's universities and CEGEPs. Some other students who didn't support the strike tried to bring injunctions to force post-secondary schools to keep teaching.

The Quebec government finally suspended the winter term at many schools on May 18. Hundreds of courses had effectively shut down at that point, some since as early as February, because of the student boycott, campus pickets and professors' unwillingness to teach, either in solidarity with students or in the face of the workplace disruptions.

The Charest government's Bill 78, now known as Law 12, was designed to force classrooms to be reopened and, in most cases, classes are indeed carrying on. But students in a minority of university faculties are continuing to strike, and the law is being ignored in some cases.

There were incidents earlier this week at the University of Montreal, where riot police moved in on protesters who had locked themselves inside a building.

With files from CBC News