This past week, general assemblies at Université de Montréal resulted in two more student associations voting for a combination of strike days and an unlimited general strike to begin in March. These are the 366-member anthropology association AEAUM and the 170-member art history association AEEHAUM.
However, strike votes failed to carry for larger student associations at other institutions, where they decided through referendums rather than general assemblies.
After approving a three-day strike in a general assembly on February 6, AFESPED (political science and law at Université du Québec à Montréal) was required by its bylaws to put the question of an unlimited general strike to a referendum instead. The results, announced Friday, were 215 votes for and 463 against, with a participation rate of 37.9%.
Meanwhile, AGEECL (Cégep Limoilou) held a referendum at its two campuses on the question of two non-consecutive strike days on February 18 and March 8. The results were 40.5%/31.5% of votes in favour, and 58%/68.5% against, with a participation rate of 23%/36.6%.
Referendums may be spread out over multiple days and locations, and make it much easier for large numbers of people, or those unable or unwilling to attend a general assembly, to participate in voting on important issues that directly affect them. On the other hand, as previously mentioned on this site, referendums eliminate the possibility for the kind of collective deliberation and debate essential to a healthy, participatory democracy, and foreclose opportunities for consensus-seeking or last-minute amendments to the motion being voted on.
Aside from the above-mentioned AEAUM and AEEHAUM, only AESFQ (midwifery at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières) and AFESH (social science at Université du Québec à Montréal) have so far voted in favour of an unlimited general strike. Together, the four associations represent a total of less than 5,000 students in 2 administrative regions of the province — well under the agreed minimum of 20,000 in 3 regions needed to launch an all-out strike.
For an updated list of the student associations going on strike, please visit the “Who’s on Strike” section of this website.
[Correction Feb. 16: This article originally suggested that AFESPED members chose to put the question of an unlimited general strike to a referendum, when in fact it is required by their bylaws for any strike longer than 3 days. Apologies for the error.]