Editorial, Opinion

We need collective action against Quebec’s push for financially inaccessible education

On Oct. 13, the Quebec government announced that tuition for incoming out-of-province Canadian students hoping to study at Quebec universities would double, at both anglophone and francophone post-secondary institutions. This measure will come into effect for all incoming students in Fall 2024 and would entirely reshape the province’s educational landscape. According to French Language Minister Jean-François Roberge, the policy is a means to combat the decline of French in Quebec, which the provincial government blames in part on the influx of out-of-province anglophone students. The province claims that the money collected from the hike in tuition will serve to fund French universities in Quebec.  

After the introduction of Bill 96 in 2023, this new measure is yet another addition to Quebec’s wide array of discriminatory language laws—with each new one further repressing non-native French speakers’ rights in the province. While the provincial government claims that it will uplift and protect the French language and culture in Quebec, this rhetoric is nothing short of a weapon for the implementation of nationalist and exclusionary policies. The dangerous discourse that a nation can only be unified through a single language allows the Quebec government to discriminate on who gets represented in ideals of Québecois identity, while actively surveilling all of those who do not fit its exclusive standards. For anglophone and allophone Quebecers, this is yet another sign that they are not welcome in their own home. 

Fighting the decline of French by preventing out-of-province students, anglophone or not, from studying in Quebec presents a logical flaw. Many out-of-province students speak French or are actively trying to learn. For out-of-province anglophones who studied French before university, studying at English-speaking universities in a francophone province allows them to both foster their learning of French and submit academic work in their first language. Reducing Canadians’ interactions with Quebec and limiting who can learn in the province will only further disincentivize non-speakers from engaging with French language. The Quebec government actively ignores the provincial economic ripple effects this measure will have, especially in a bilingual hub such as Montreal. If the province is concerned about out-of-province students leaving to work elsewhere after graduating, the government must instead address the discriminatory and unwelcoming environment that they create. Measures implemented by Bill 96, including requiring new immigrants to learn French within their first six months in Quebec, are completely unrealistic and only benefit the CAQ’s electoral viability.

McGill’s already high out-of-province tuition fosters an environment where education is a class privilege. Increasing the minimum out-of-province tuition from 8,991.90 CAD per year to about 17,000 CAD will  make higher education even less accessible,in a country where  many entry-level jobs require an undergraduate degree. Considering the class demographic that could afford the tuition change, this measure risks causing a rent hike in Montreal and worsening the city’s housing crisis.

McGill penned an email to the student body against the measure, and must continue to confront the discriminatory policies the Quebec government has taken without university consultation. McGill must acknowledge its already inaccessible tuition for lower-income people and people without intergenerational wealth, and follow the University of Toronto’s move to cover the costs of tuition for the nine surrounding First Nations.

Quebec should, of course, protect the French language. However, the province’s blatant hypocrisy and racist double standards cannot be tolerated any longer. As long as Quebec continues to discriminate in deciding what French-speakers are deemed “acceptable” by prioritizing the financial support of francophone students from France and Belgium, while limiting support to those hailing from non-white Francophonie countries, the province continues to perpetuate colonialism. Quebec must recognize that discriminating against non-French speakers and imposing the French language on its citizens particularly affects Indigenous peoples whose land language rights the province has stolen. Students must resist the hike in their tuition fees for generations to come. The 2012 Quebec student strike was successful in preventing Jean Charest’s provincial government from raising tuition prices then, and collective action is the only thing that can save students now.

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