A letter to faculty about the legality of student strikes from Nadia Hausfather the Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Association (ECSGA) Strike Coordinator.
You may have received or heard about the Provost’s letter on Friday to students, which understandably left both students and professors worried about strikes. Yet be aware that the Provost has misconstrued the nature and legality of student strikes. Hopefully this letter can shed some light on the issues raised by the Provost..
Anyone familiar with the history of this province knows that there is a long tradition of effective student strikes since the sixties. Saying that students are “not eligible” to strike is to ignore the reality: While the Quebec Labour Code limits the rights of workers to strike to certain circumstances, no such law governs student strikes. Therefore the only applicable legal texts are the statutes and regulations adopted by the student organizations. These statutes and regulations are required to comply with Quebec’s Companies Act, which governs the legal framework of non-profit organizations. Student strikes are thus legal if they respect the statutes and regulations of the student associations that vote them into effect (e.g. quorum for the general assembly).
Picket lines (attempting to convince students to not attend classes) are one of the main tactics that define student strikes and have been employed countless times in Quebec. The best way to apply a decision to strike made by a general assembly is to have a presence in front of classrooms, engaging in constructive dialogue and providing accurate information regarding the strike to students. Contrary to what was implied by the Provost, peaceful picket lines in front of classrooms do not constitute harassment.
According to Section 264 of the Canadian Criminal Code, “harassment” is behaviour that “causes that other person to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.” That picket lines should be peaceful has always been the position of the student associations that have chosen to participate in the strike. The Provost does not have the authority to define what forms of peaceful assembly are appropriate for Concordia students. There is a broad and legitimate basis for picket lines and a large portion of the student population has chosen to show solidarity.
Please contact me with any other questions or concerns about the strike,
In solidarity for quality accessible education,
ECSGA Strike coordinator
The links below lead to documents prepared by UQAM to address the legality of student strikes in Quebec.