Toula Drimonis: I have questions about Quebec's tuition scheme

For one, why will some French-speaking foreign students now pay far less than French-speaking Canadians to study here?

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Ever since the Coalition Avenir Québec government surprised English universities with what is sure to be a failed attempt at a nasty cash grab — badly disguised as a plan to save French — several unanswered questions have nagged at me. Les questions qui tuent, if you will.

Why does the CAQ blame English-speaking students for “anglicizing” Montreal when it has never presented any peer-reviewed studies or concrete data proving that a) English-speaking student bodies cause any long-term loss of French in our metropolis, and b) tuition hikes will better protect the French language?

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I Gotta Feeling is a Black Eyed Peas lyric, not a credible source of information on which to base a disastrous tuition hike.

How can Premier François Legault and his ministers claim out-of-province students “anglicize” Quebec and, in the same breath, complain they leave the province after graduating? Which is it? Do they infect us with English, or do they exploit cheap tuition and then flee, never to be heard again?

Why is there such disproportionate focus on non-Quebec students when they represent a mere 4.7 per cent of Quebec’s entire student body? In a province, by the way, that’s 80 per cent French-speaking and where 94.5 per cent of the population can converse in basic French. Has swatting a fly with a sledgehammer become this government’s go-to plan of action?

What is Legault thinking when he reposts a headline that refers to non-Quebec students, many of whom hold the same passport as he does, as “foreign”? 

And how are out-of-province students (many of them francophone) “foreign” when their Canadian parents pay substantial taxes that contribute to funding our provincial educational institutions and subsidizing students who come to study here?

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Why is this government OK with other provinces subsidizing the many Quebec students (6,400 students in Ontario alone!) currently studying in the ROC, while it contemptuously chooses not to do the same? What happens when/if other provinces retaliate in kind?

Why are Canadian students considered “foreign” while the 16,000 or so of actual foreigners from France and Belgium are treated as Quebecers eligible for domestic tuition rates, kept low thanks to the efforts of protesting Quebec students in 2012?

Why will these French-speaking foreign students now pay far less than French-speaking Canadians to study here, and why is La Presse reporting the government may soon slash tuition even more for French and Belgian students, and perhaps Swiss too?

Are some French-speakers more valued than others? If not, why hasn’t Quebec entered into similar bilateral agreements giving the same discounts to non-European French-speaking countries in la Francophonie, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Haiti?

Do those who consider Quebec’s non-francophones a threat to the preservation of French (even though a recent OQLF study shows more allophones and anglophones than ever attend French schools) acknowledge that, although small in number, they, too, pay substantial taxes that help fund these massive discounts for French-speaking foreign students and all francization efforts in the province?

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Speaking of les cousins, why are 2,000 students from France and Belgium enjoying Quebec’s cheap tuition fees despite studying in English at McGill? While I’m not against it, I can’t help but highlight the irony.

Why did the National Assembly hold a media scrum to inform us they passed a pointless motion “saving” Christmas from the Canadian Human Rights Commission, but sent a letter informing our English higher-education institutions that their counter-proposal — made “in a spirit of partnership” — had been rejected?

For the rest of us, no press conference where questions would need to be answered — just a social media post.

Why are we seeing so much anger online now that McGill has chosen to fight back with a Canada Award grant to offset these damaging tuition hikes?

And why did a world-class institution have to resort to such desperate tactics to begin with?

So many questions. I could really do with some coherent answers.

Toula Drimonis is a Montreal journalist and the author of We, the Others: Allophones, Immigrants, and Belonging in Canada. X @toulastake

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