by Eric Duhaime
More than 100,000 Quebec students have been boycotting their courses for the last 12 weeks. They are protesting the increase in tuition fees proposed by Jean Charest’s government.
There have been riots in downtown Montreal almost every night since the boycott started. Feminists, union leaders, communists and other anti-capitalist activists of all stripes are hoping for something like a new “Arab spring,” which they call the “Quebec spring” or the “maple spring.”
Some of you unionized English-Canadian workers might even be unknowingly subsidizing this degeneration in the streets of Montreal, since unions from outside the province are sending money to the most fanatical and radical student associations.
For three months now, Quebecers have been debating students’ versus taxpayers’ contributions to university costs and all sorts of mainly radical leftist ideas. Surprisingly, nobody is talking about the main issue that is at stake here — education — in spite of the fact there is much more reason to be concerned about it in Quebec.
In this day and age when our economy is moving at full speed from industrial to knowledge-based, our main resource is the educated brains of our youth. Well, not only does Quebec have fewer young people, it also has a very significant deficit in its number of university graduates.
An associate professor at the University of Ottawa, Ross Finnie, recently released a study showing to what extent Quebec lags behind the rest of Canada. Of 22-year-olds across the country, 42% are attending university in English-Canada compared to a mere 30% in Quebec.
This has nothing to do with family income.
For example, of families earning between $5,000 and $25,000, 39% of Ontarians go to university as opposed to 18% in Quebec. In the income bracket of $25,000 and $50,000, 34% of young Ontarians attend university vs. 20% in La Belle Province.
Even among students coming from the wealthiest families — earning more than $100,000 — Ontario leads with 62% compared to 55% for Quebec.
In general, these numbers show a difference of 12% to 21% in the number of students attending university in both provinces.
A student in Quebec currently pays on average $1,968 per year compared to $5,535 in the rest of Canada. Even at the end of the government’s proposed tuition hike, Quebec students will still be much better off with fees of $3,793.
To explain the problem of undereducation in Quebec we need to look at something much deeper than tuition fees or family wealth.
Denise Bombardier, a respected intellectual figure in Quebec, wondered aloud in Le Devoir newspaper last Sunday if Quebec is not still suffering from a “cultural deficit. A thirst for knowledge, the desire to surpass oneself, intellectual curiosity, and ambition are not properly nurtured in our youth by their parents, school and society as a whole.”
She raises a much more important social debate we should all be having, and one that better justifies Quebecers taking to the streets to promote a profound cultural change.
Categories: Contributor Columns