Same Day – 2012
15 inkjet prints and newspapers
The following text is a letter written to Premier Jean Charest, framed and mounted in the exhibition Same Day:
Mr. Jean Charest,
The student conflict has been marked by a lack of direct dialogue between the student associations and your government. Your refusal to negotiate led to punches and counter punches delivered publicly through the media. After three months of protest, both sides were holding daily news conferences. The messages were clouded by spin. As a student, it became quite difficult to determine my position amongst all of the misinformation. Finally, at the end of May, your government sat down at the negotiating table with the students. Several days later you pulled out of the talks while simultaneously stating that your door is always open to further discussion.
I’m perplexed. What do you mean by your door is open when you have closed down the only forum for tangible discussion? I’m similarly confused about your decision to pass Bill 78, which was presented as the only possible resolution. I don’t believe that Bill 78 was the only means of resolving the student conflict. Most problematically, I don’t believe that you want to resolve the student conflict.
I abide by the laws of my government but I am having a hard time seeing how this special law is just. The law sends a clear message that there is now a whopping price attached to implementing a strike. In a democracy it shouldn’t be illegal to go on strike (by strike here, I mean students collectively voting to temporarily stop going to class in protest against the raise in tuition fees). Fines of up to $125,000 have definitely affected the way my student union representatives operate. With this law, the burden of proof has been shifted onto my union’s shoulders—being involved with the student protests could lead to their immediate loss of funding until they can prove their innocence. Bill 78 uses the threat of financial liability as a means of intimidation and demonizes students who want to enforce their legitimate democratic decision to go on strike.
Your government has taken the position that the people who benefit should pay for their education. I agree with this statement only I think it is society as a whole that benefits from an educated population. Repeatedly your Education Ministers have insisted that tuition increases are not unreasonable in comparison to other provinces in Canada or to the cost of a higher education in the United States. Why are we looking at these standards as something we should emulate in Quebec? Regardless of my personal beliefs, I would be willing to accept a tuition increase if it was made clear to me why we need to change how we structure our society. If the proposed increase of student fees is an inevitable fact and your government sees no other alternative for balancing the Quebec budget, why haven’t you been able to sit down with the student associations in order to explain this conclusion?
Given that almost all the discussion that your government has had with the student associations has taken place through the media, I often lack confidence in your statements. In this context, how am I to determine the truth of your claims?
Student and artist