Students' strike rights reviewed by Quebec legal aid group

A legal aid group has suggested ways for students to strike in an orderly fashion, unlike the tumultuous Quebec student crisis of last spring.
Legal aid group Juripop made three recommendations in its study on students' right to strike. (The Canadian Press)

A legal aid group has suggested ways for students to strike in an orderly fashion, unlike the tumultuous Quebec student crisis of last spring.

Guillaume Rousseau, a professor in Sherbrooke University's law faculty and strategic advisor for Juripop, prepared a report which suggests three scenarios to help resolve the ongoing issues surrounding students' right to strike.

He said the clash of collective and individual rights led to conflict among students. 

Defining those rights could help, he said.

"If there is a right to strike for students that is clear, and there is a condition to respect order to have a legal strike, then there will be less violence," said Rousseau.

The study was done at the request of the Quebec college student federation (FECQ), the Quebec student roundtable – a federation of student unions – and the more militant student union umbrella group, ASSÉ.

The first scenario suggests binding post-secondary institutions to strike votes and forcing them to halt classes if a majority of students vote in favour of a strike.

The second scenario prescribes adding the students' right to strike to the legislation that grants the accreditation and financing of student associations.

The third scenario recommends the creation of a province-wide collective agreement for students, which would be negotiated every five years.

This last concept would only allow strikes to take place during negotiations.

Former student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said putting strict legal rules on student strikes could limit people's freedom.

"Student strikes are part of our political culture. If we want to put a law around it, it can be a problem. It could, you know, restrain the political freedom of our students," he said.