Adil Boukind Le Devoir Members of the Autonomous Federation of Education in Montreal, during Friday’s demonstration
“Discouraged” by a dragging strike, but motivated, hundreds of demonstrators and several public figures gathered Friday in downtown Montreal to ask the Quebec government to acquiesce to the demands of the education sector in order to allow students in the province to return to class in the coming weeks.
A little after 11 a.m., school buses full of strikers and supporters parked on Sherbrooke Street in front of the Prime Minister's offices in preparation for the demonstration. The vast majority of them wore a red cap covered with the logo of the Autonomous Federation of Education (FAE), on indefinite general strike since November 23.
At noon, hundreds of demonstrators decided to block traffic on Sherbrooke Street, at the corner of McGill College. “The more the CAQ despises us, the more we mobilize,” the demonstrators began to chant, posters in their hands. “The CAQ should light up before Christmas,” proclaimed a demonstrator, while others sounded trumpets and horns. “I'm not asking for 5 million per season,” could we read on another poster, alluding to the controversial subsidy granted by the Legault government to finance two preparatory games for the Los Angeles Kings in Quebec which will take place at the Videotron Center in October 2024.
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Personalities in support
This demonstration, which took place a few days before Christmas, took on a particular scale, due to the fact that it mobilized several public figures, who spoke in turn on a stage set up in front of the offices of Prime Minister François Legault, located at the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and McGill College Avenue. Among these were the actor Vincent Bolduc, the author and columnist Catherine Ethier, as well as the actor and singer Jean Maheux and the director Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, among others.
«Bernard, François and Sonia, you are going to eat your turkey and your pie with a laptopon our knees and a phone on our ears so that our children return to school on January 8,” said Vincent Bolduc, triggering cries of support from a crowd gathered in a festive atmosphere, despite the winter cold. The actor was thus referring to the Minister of Education, Bernard Drainville, the Prime Minister, François Legault, as well as the President of the Treasury Board, Sonia LeBel, all three involved in the ongoing negotiations with the public service.
Photo: Adil Boukind Le Devoir Demonstrators and members of the FAE brandish their signs during Friday's demonstration in Montreal.
Photo: Adil Boukind Le Devoir
“We've been being led by boat for 30 years and in the last 22 days, you've been on the cruise,” said Catherine Ethier, in order to congratulate, in her own way, the education sector in its demands for better working conditions in primary and secondary school classes in Quebec. “The population of Quebec is with you,” subsequently underlined the president of the UQAM Professors’ Union, Geneviève Hervieux.
The co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, as well as two other deputies from his party, Guillaume Cliche-Rivard and Ruba Ghazal, also took part in this demonstration.< /p>
While the Quebec government announced Friday that a proposed settlement had been concluded with two teachers' unions, the FAE for its part confirmed in the afternoon that it had agreed to enter into a “blitz of negotiations”, after 22 days of unlimited general strike. However, the “conditions imposed” by the government as part of this negotiation rule out the possibility of a resolution of this labor conflict before the students return to class on January 8, the FAE said in a press release. “This is why the indefinite general strike will continue after the holidays,” confirmed the union federation, which assured that its teams will remain “available to negotiate throughout the holiday period, if necessary.” .
Bernard, François and Sonia, you will eat your turkey and your pie with a laptop on your knees and a telephone on your ears so that our children return to school on January 8
“It discourages me a lot, to the point where I wonder if I should resign to go to the private sector,” said with a sigh secondary school teacher Valérie Lapointe, met on Friday on the sidelines of this mobilization. “For the moment, I don’t see the end” of this strike, continued the teacher, who however continues to support the FAE in its demands with the government.
“I admit that we are exhausted. We just want to go back to school, to see our students again, that’s all we ask,” also said Thassadith Hamis, who teaches in a school in Montreal North. “The government is not listening to us. We never thought he would treat us this way. I would have thought he would sort this out quickly,” she continued. However, she remains convinced that this strike is necessary to improve the working conditions of teachers, more overwhelmed than ever in a context of labor shortage and overcrowded classes.
“We are more determined than ever, as if a point of no return had been reached,” summed up teacher Marlène Béliveau.
With The Canadian Press