Volume 91, Issue 82

Thursday, March 5, 1998

Lady Liberty


Court ruling upholds differential tuition in Quebec

By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Gazette Staff

In the war over tuition, the Quebec government just won the battle over differential tuition fees for out-of-province students – but the Students' Society of McGill University hasn't given up yet.

The court case, which began in early December, was initiated by the students' society and Paul Ruel, third-year political science student, as they were upset with non-Quebec students having to pay $1,200 more than local students.

The final ruling came from the provincial court a few weeks ago and the news was less than sensational for students affected by differential tuition fees. "Essentially, the judge ruled against us on all arguments," Ruel said.

The judge based all his decisions on the belief there was no discrimination of students regarding the residency issue and also did not think differential fees could be considered illegal, Ruel said, adding no out-of-province student can ever achieve permanent resident status under this ruling and therefore will always have to pay more.

"Why do we have a province like Quebec who makes it harder for Canadian students from outside the province of Quebec to attend than those from other countries – that's bullshit," said Member of Parliament for London North Centre Joe Fontana.

In spite of this setback, before slack week both parties decided it would be in their best interest to appeal the ruling, said SSMU VP-university affairs Elizabeth Gomerly. "So many people expected us to win but the end support has been strong – a momentum which has been building nicely after the case."

This momentum may also bring increased public support through groups such as the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, a Western affiliated lobby group, who has decided to step up to the cause and become more visible, said national director Hoops Harrison. "CASA has never been one to give up on a cause."

Harrison said he found the judge's decision to be more politically motivated than legal, although he always expected the case to have to go to an appeal. "We expected the decision to be negative but not this negative."

VP-external of Concordia Students' Union David Smaller said they made an active decision not to become involved. "We did not feel the student tuition issue is a legal issue, it is rather a political issue."

Ruel said he feels trapped by these fees in the sense he cannot finish his degree at another university but is forced to pay the extra amount. The 22-year-old student has even had to apply for his first student loan – an act Ruel believes is the result of the differential tuition fees which were first brought in by the Quebec government last year.

Communications officer for the Quebec Ministry of Education Jean Leclare said the government does not want to comment at this time.

Western's University Students' Council President Ryan Parks said he believes it is ridiculous that we have free trade globally and yet there are inter-provincial barriers within Canada.

"This ruling sounds like a separatist policy," Parks said. "First and foremost we're Canadians."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998