Non-Striking Students Sue Quebec Colleges

     MONTREAL (CN) – In a class action against 25 colleges and Quebec, Canadian students say the schools didn’t do enough to protect students who did not want to strike against tuition increases this spring.
     About 150,000 of Quebec’s 460,000 post-secondary students went on strike this spring, challenging the government’s plan to increase tuition by $325 a year over 5 years.
     University students in Quebec pay about $2,520 a year in tuition: the lowest in Canada and less than half of what students in most other provinces pay, according to Statistics Canada.
     Lead plaintiffs Kim Laganière and Mihai Adrian Graghici sued 25 universities and junior colleges and the attorney general of Quebec, in Superior Court, claiming their education and job prospects were injured when winter term classes were terminated.
     Laganière, a 20-year-old nursing student at Collège Montmorency, says she voted against the strike vote, but was unable to finish her academic session when winter classes were terminated. She says she will get her diploma 6 months later than expected, and wants compensation for the time she will miss in the work force. Graghici says she is in a similar situation, as her studies at the Université Laval were also disrupted.
     During the protests, Quebec courts issued temporary injunctions for several post-secondary institutions, intended to force students to end picket lines and return to class. In May, Bill 78 was enacted to ensure that post-secondary students have the right to attend classes without obstruction.
     Bill 78 restricts protesting on college grounds and requires protest groups of 50 or more people to submit protest routes and agendas to police for approval.
     But the class claims in its complaint, “This measure did not address the damage already caused to students wanting to pursue their courses.”
     The class blasts the government for “doing nothing” to facilitate the resumption of classes, before Bill 78. It claims that government officials tried to negotiate with student associations that organized the strikes “while they knew or should have known that these associations had no legitimacy to do so.”
     The newly elected Parti Québécois government has promised to scrap the tuition hikes and repeal Bill 78, which was implemented by outgoing Premier Jean Charest.
     The class seeks compensation for lost earnings, lost work experience, and loss of tuition and scholarships.
     The class is represented by Michel Savonitto.

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