McGill students take gov't to court today
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
The Students' Society of McGill University is taking the province of Quebec to court today in an effort to save out-of-province students from the threat of differential tuition hikes.
The decision by Quebec Minister of Education Pauline Marois to raise tuition fees by $1,200 for out-of-province students studying in Quebec was announced last year and the effects of the decision are already visible.
Elizabeth Gomery, SSMU VP-university affairs, said both the students' society and volunteer plaintiff Paul Ruel are prepared to prove the illegality of differential tuition hikes in court today and possibly tomorrow.
The differential hikes are also considered unfair in comparison to the 'Sweetheart Deal' a bilateral agreement allowing students from any of 50 countries including France and Nigeria to pay the same tuition as a Quebec resident.
Ruel, a 22-year-old political science student from McGill, said he was willing to become involved when he heard the SSMU was looking for a plaintiff because he is directly affected and as a plaintiff, he can lend more weight to the case.
Originally from British Columbia, Ruel said he was drawn to Montreal because of French roots and the desire to study francophone society yet questions whether he will be able to afford to continue studying in the province. Ruel said he has already begun filling out applications for student aid.
Gomery said the students' society will be asking the courts to rule in their favour by striking down differential tuition fees, returning money to all out-of-province students for their fall semester and holding off on charging the increase for the winter semester until a ruling is made.
Although the Minister's office would not comment, Gomery said the official line being used by the government in defense of the differential tuition is that out-of-province students are only paying the national average. "The sovereigntist government is trying to make a distinction between who is a Quebecer and who is not," Gomery said.
The society has received support from many Quebec universities including Concordia and Bishop's Universities. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is also standing behind McGill's efforts and will continue to do so, national director Hoops Harrison said.
Harrison said they have been involved in lobbying the government at the federal level on this issue for the past three or four months and plan to get more involved the higher it gets.
Western's University Students' Council president Ryan Parks said he believes the provincial government in Quebec has overstepped its bounds. "They are still a part of Canada and students should have the right to study in any province."