While most students were in class, the Revolutionary Student Movement of Algonquin was out protesting on March 24th. They voiced their anger over rising tuition costs, and for more student control of post-secondary institutions.
In unison with 15 other campuses nation-wide the group marched across the The University of Ottawa campus and occupied several buildings.
Ontario’s rising tuition prices may be the least of the average student’s worries, but the average student doesn’t care enough about important things according to Dmitry Melnik and Brendan Copegog White, members of RSM Algonquin.
“A lot of people who are trying to get through school, work, and support their family fail to take any action because they just want to get (school) over with,” said White. “Sometimes it seems easier to just do your work and go home, instead of working to organize and change the system you are in.”
This attitude is observed through the lackadaisical involvement in student protests and days of action from students on the Algonquin campus.
After RSM dropped two banners in the school, many people failed to notice and when they did, failed to give it more than a glance.
“We dropped two banners at Algonquin in order to raise awareness of the day of action, and what we wanted to achieve in doing it,” said Melnik. “There we are, announcing we want to abolish not only tuition, but all student debt and no one seemed to give it any thought.”
What people fail to notice is that Quebec’s tuition is so low because they are willing to fight for it, something the rest of Canada should admire and strive to achieve.
Pierre Martin, a political science professor at the University of Montreal believes that Quebec students are “distinct” from the rest of Canada.
“For the vast majority of Quebec students, Canadian universities might just as well be on some other planet,” Martin told CBC in an interview in 2012.
“They’re just not in their world. And their world is one defined by their own situation and also somewhat by the ideals of the Quiet Revolution,” said Pierre Martin.
The Quiet Revolution was a Quebec student protest that took place in the 1960s, the students sought to make post secondary education free. They obviously didn’t succeed in that, but the attitude fostered there continues to keep their tuition rates lowest in the country.
“Here at Algonquin we tried to mobilize a lot of students, but it’s a challenge that everyone in English Canada faces,” said Melnik. “But we tried to combat that through banner drops and other means.”
Activism can a lot of the time count on the environment in which you are raised, being raised in a military community, White felt that he didn’t really fit in. This all changed when he got to college and co-founded RSM Algonquin.
“Growing up I lived in a military town and I was the only communist that I knew, “ said White. “So when I got to college that was something I looked for, to find something else, and eventually I helped co found the RSM at Algonquin.”
Melnik, White, and their other comrades have a lot of goals, not all of them are ideas that everyone would agree with, but it’s the action they take and why they take it that average people can be inspired by.
The group isn’t strictly for communists either; they have anarchists, socialists, libertarians, and mixes of all four.
The group wants to see Aboriginal history become a mandatory class in post secondary, as it is important that Canadians know their colonial past, and that they are aware of who suffered so we could live our lives like we do.
If there is anything to learn from the RSM, it is that when you are silent in times of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
And as John Lennon once said, “those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”