Frustration from student group stirs tuition rally

Dressed in coats, hats and mittens to brace against the cold, students with the Young Communist League rallied outside the Robert C. Gillett Student Commons on Nov. 8 to fight for free education. “We believe that free education is a right for all people,” said welding student alumni and former communist club leader at the […]
Photo: Meg Wall
The Youth Communist League/Ligue de la Jeunesse communiste protested on Nov. 8 against the high tuition costs. The group believes that free education is a human right.

Dressed in coats, hats and mittens to brace against the cold, students with the Young Communist League rallied outside the Robert C. Gillett Student Commons on Nov. 8 to fight for free education.

“We believe that free education is a right for all people,” said welding student alumni and former communist club leader at the college, Cashton Perry. “We have the resources, but we believe that it’s a political decision to not provide free education for people. So we want to try to fight for that and change that.”

A dozen students participated in the protest.

According to their website, the Youth Communist League/Ligue de la Jeunesse communiste (YCL-LJC) is a revolutionary youth organization made up of school and community clubs across Canada. They have been active in major social movements and aspire to be a “Marxist-Leninist force in the youth and student movement.”

“I feel like this is a crucial moment in the student movement,” said community and justice services student Harmon Pope, who is also the club leader of Algonquin College’s Horizon club. “We’re seeing economic conditions worsen and we’re seeing a lot of tuition spikes, certainly in Quebec. We haven’t learned any of the lessons from the Maple Spring.”

The Maple Spring refers to a seven-month-long protest in 2012 where students in Québec went on strike in response to a planned 75 per cent increase in university tuition fees. It was the longest student strike in both Québec and Canadian history.

Now, over a decade later, the costs of everything from rent to food prices can make a person feel “squished,” said Perry, and taking tuition fees off the backs of students would be a “big alleviation of pressure.”

“It’s something that everyone’s feeling,” said Perry. “Some people are supported by their parents, but they’ll still have to live with the debt. So, it’s something that’s in everyone’s interest.”

While most students passing by were apathetic to the rally, some students were left confused.

“When I heard they were protesting or doing something for communism, I came out here expecting a full-blown kind of group or a riot,” said Matt Pybus, a radio student. “But they’re just standing here.”

In contrast to the recent protests the City of Ottawa has seen, such as the “Freedom Convoy” in 2021 and this year’s “1 Million March 4 Children,” the tuition rally on campus did not produce swarms of angry demonstrators and caused no closures.

Though he doesn’t mind their intentions, Pybus doesn’t believe the protest will accomplish anything.

After protesting at the college, the group moved to Parliament Hill to join with like-minded groups from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University to continue the rally for free education for students.

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