By Ben Hoffman
Completely out of left field and totally unexpectedly, the Liberal government of Quebec has followed the example of its Parti Quebecois predecessor and hung Quebec universities out to dry. The recent news of a $103 million cut from its bursary program surprises absolutely nobody. After all, this raises the total cuts to $300 million in the last eight years, provoking outrage, much the same as the perennial cuts in Alberta do.
What is different between the situations of our francophriends and our own is the attitude of the responses: while us cowboy-canucks lie back and take it, the Quebecois are not so lax. The reaction to the cuts in Quebec has been inflammatory, violently articulate and anything but apathetic. The students have banded together and struck back.
The strike, in all its passionate glory, represents everything that we at the University of Calgary don’t. A group of 80,000 students have coalesced to jam the system, a clog in the heart of higher education. Where we have naught but lazy, half-hearted responses led by an animated few and fed with hotdogs, they have angry rallies and protest groups numbering in the hundreds across universities, all skipping class in the name of fervent rebellion.
It may be nothing more than a symbolic gesture, but there is something empowering about the stories of these students. Each of them has classes they need to attend, classes they have paid for, classes they are skipping to try and make a difference in their government. It makes one feel we could do more for our own struggles.
However, the reaction it will probably evoke here is a cynical one: how apt are students to make a difference anyway? What would it matter if I actually went out and tried? That response speaks to the atrophy of our rich province, the mentality that Mom and Dad’s money is here to fill the gap when social programs can’t. It is also the wrong response.
Society is made up of its members. It is therefore its members’ responsibility to voice dissent. If the only thing that inspires us to care about the social movements that affect our livelihood is the free food change’s agents offer, then we are practically bending over and inviting the government. It is not the responsibility of event organizers to voice dissent, it is the responsibility of a collective. But a collective is just a group of individuals, and hence individuals must be involved.
If you still believe you can’t change the world, consider the Quebec collective: since their rebellion’s inception, the opposed government has moved from threatening to cancel the semester, to whimpering like a dog with tail between legs, scraping together whatever scraps it can to repair the offending section of next year’s budget.