Maple Spring 2.0? Students Protest Austerity in Montreal

Tens of thousands of students, workers, and families protested austerity in the streets of Montreal on Thursday, denouncing the Quebec government’s plans to reduce spending on education, health care, and other social services.

There was a heavy police presence at the demonstration, which was spearheaded by the province-wide student union, Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ). According to CTV Montreal, representatives of 130,000 students voted to hold the one-day protest, and many post-secondary schools decided to cancel classes for the day.

About 60,000 students have been on strike since late-March, when Quebec Liberals cut $729 million in spending to table the province’s first balanced budget in six years.

“The point of this protest is to show the ideological path taken by the provincial government is being done without a consensus,” ASSÉ spokesperson Camille Godbout told CTV Montreal.

The action is part of a broader “Printemps 2015” anti-austerity movement that includes major labor groups and community groups.

“Cuts to education, now, are seen as part of a broader attack on Quebec’s social safety net, including healthcare and pension benefits, and a degradation of particularly working class Quebecois life,” organizer and journalist Kate Aronoff wrote earlier this week.

The Confédération des syndicats nationaux, a union representing 325,000 workers across Quebec, also called on its members to join the protest.