Turnout small for first of student votes to resume strike

A few weeks shy of the return to class laid out in Bill 78, students from Quebec colleges and universities have started to vote on resuming their strike to protest against rising tuition fees.

 A few weeks shy of the return to class laid out in Bill 78, students from Quebec colleges and universities have started to vote on resuming their strike to protest against rising tuition fees.

Social work students from the Université de Montréal voted Monday night in favour of continuing the strike, although only 10 per cent of the student body turned up to vote.

However, the majority vote means the students, members of the AÉSSUM association, won't return to class on Aug. 27, the date students are to be back on campus to finish the interrupted winter session.

Jeanne Reynolds, spokesperson for the student group CLASSE, said it's up to each individual association to determine if its vote is valid.

CLASSE, an umbrella organization comprised of dozens of student associations, won't dictate how many students must be present for each vote, she said.

Some may decide to hold second votes if they feel they didn't have a quorum, she added.

Students at the CÉGEP de Saint-Laurent, who were scheduled to vote Monday, decided instead to defer their decision until Saturday. 

Another vote is scheduled for today at CÉGEP Marie-Victorin, one of several colleges where protesters blocked doors and prevented students with court injunctions from attending class in the spring.

The association representing students in the humanities department at the Université du Québec à Montréal is also among the groups that will poll its members today.

By next Monday, students from seven other colleges in Montreal will have decided whether they'll return to class.

Nearly 2,000 teachers from colleges and universities have signed a manifesto to show their solidarity with the student associations.

They warn they'll respect the strike vote and won't return to class if students choose to continue their boycott.

Bill 78 — an emergency law brought in by the government to ease tensions in the tuition crisis — suspended the winter semester for the one-third of Quebec students who participated in the student strike.

According to that law, classes at all colleges except two, CÉGEP de Maisonneuve  and CÉGEP d’Ahuntsic, must resume on Aug. 17.

Other institutions were allowed to set their own start date.

The provisions of the bill, including a controversial measure that requires any group of 50 people or more to file their planned itinerary to police before holding a protest, have yet to be enforced by authorities.

However, a portion of the bill does address blocking access of students who want to return to class.