Thursday 29 March 2001
Buzz on campus
In the city's colleges and universities, summit's like rallying points of
The Montreal Gazette
Montreal's college and university campuses are abuzz with
talk reminiscent of the protest movements of the 1960s.
Students are even invoking some of the landmark events of
those restless times - the Vietnam War and the Kent State
shootings - as they call for class boycotts and picket lines
to protest against the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City
"Everybody is talking about it," said Heloise
Moysan-Laplante of College de Maisonneuve.
It's hard to miss kiosks set up in high-traffic locations
near the entrances to college and university buildings,
decorated with colourful banners and containing information
about Internet sites, meetings and training camps devoted to
protesting against the summit.
At the downtown campus of the Universite du Quebec a
Montreal, lunch hour is a particularly busy period, with
debates, documentary films and the distribution of pamphlets
filled with warnings about the impact of globalization.
Students say they worry that the Free Trade Area of the
Americas - the agreement that the leaders of 34 countries
from North, Central and South America will be working toward
April 20-22 - will erode human rights, the environment,
health care, working conditions and education. The slogan on
posters and pamphlets on every campus in French, English and
Spanish is: "No Way FTAA."
"It's going to affect society as a whole, but particularly
students, and we have to act," said Moysan-Laplante,
secretary of the students' association at Maisonneuve.
"We're searching for concrete methods to oppose what's
happening," said Moysan-Laplante, co-ordinator of a movement
set up to press for a widespread student strike. "One of the
ways that's most visible and most powerful is a strike."
If that happened, students would boycott classes and exams
in the week leading up to the weekend summit.
Phil Ilijevski, of the Quebec branch of the Canadian
Federation of Students, called strike action by students,
especially at colleges, "very likely."
"Many are calling for a general strike during the summit.
Things are really heating up," Ilijevski said.
Moysan-Laplante said that if college and university
authorities refuse to recognize the protest action by
canceling classes and exams, the students will try to cause
enough disruption that things will shut down anyway.
Students in some faculties at the Universite du Montreal and
UQAM are also expected to participate in some form of
protest during summit week.
Concordia University agreed to defer exam dates for students
who chose to protest in Quebec City at exam time.
McGill University refused to follow suit, prompting some
students to say they will boycott their exams if they fall
during the week of the summit.
"People are bringing up references to Vietnam and the Kent
State shooting," said Wojtek Baraniak, president of the
student society at McGill. "They're willing to make that
sacrifice, and I applaud them. I found it ironic that the
university wasn't according deferral for students who wanted
to voice their dissent."
Rosalie Jukier, McGill's dean of students, warned that
skipping exams will result in "academic consequences."
"The university was worried about creating a precedent,"
Jukier explained after the senate voted 32-31 against
deferring exams. "A protest is not a legitimate reason for
not (taking) exams."
About 5,000 Montreal-area students are expected to join
thousands of anti-globalization activists in Quebec City.
The Canadian Federation of Students is part of Common
Frontiers, one of the two coalitions behind the Peoples'
Summit of the Americas, a parallel event to the official
summit that is to be held April 17-21.
Francophone and anglophone student groups are working to
together to organize bus transportation to Quebec City for
Booths set up at Concordia, McGill and UQAM are taking
reservations for seats. A total of 104 yellow school buses,
seating 48 each, will be leaving for Quebec between April 19
Bus companies initially demanded a surcharge above the
regular rental fee of $300 per bus, Ilijevski said, "but
they backed down."
With hotels in Quebec City fully booked, Universite Laval
last week announced that it will open its facilities to
accommodate 3,000 out-of-town students during the summit.
Protest activities planned for Quebec City include street
blockages on April 20 and a massive march and demonstration
the following day.
The student movement is crucial, said Alvaro Vargas of the
Groupe Oppose a la Mondialisation des Marches, a Montreal
"They have a capacity for mobilization that's outstanding.
These are the people who are most critical of
globalization," Vargas said, although he noted that not all
of those critics are completely against a free-trade
"Some of us want to negotiate and modify it a bit."
To prepare for and counter the planned efforts by an
estimated 6,000 police officers to keep the protesters away
from the summit, student groups have organized campus
training sessions on civil disobedience and have brought in
speakers on safety issues.
The police will be armed with stun guns, plastic bullets,
billy clubs, pepper pray and tear gas, members of Vargas's
group told students yesterday at a meeting at UQAM.
"For us, occupying a public street means taking part in a
peaceful, democratic process," Vargas said of non-violent
protests. "There are other groups that are more radical and
we respect their strategy, but we have made our decision."
- Reservations for seats on the student buses going to
Quebec City can be made by calling (514) 931-2377. More
information on student anti-summit activities is available
at http://www.education-action.net and at
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