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Post-secondary institutions across the country are facing major funding shortages, and students—already struggling with major debt loads after graduation—are being asked to pick up even more of the tab.

But students in Quebec are fighting back in impressive style.

Student activists Roxanne Dubois and Ariane Campeau were hosted by CUPE’s newly-formed national post-secondary sector task force at the all-committees meeting in Ottawa, where they provided updates on the mass student protests happening across Quebec, and set the context for the post-secondary situation in the rest of the country.

Over the past two months, hundreds of thousands of students and supporters have taken to the streets in Quebec, striking in protest of a proposed 75 per cent hike in tuition fees over five years.

Members from other committees attended the presentation to the task force, packing the room to capacity.

Ariane Campeau, vice president of the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ), described the long history of the student movement in Quebec, which dates back to the 1960s, and talked about some of the organizing that went into the mass demonstrations.

She told the crowd how FEUQ and other student organizations didn’t rely on Facebook and Twitter, instead focusing on direct, face-to-face communication on campuses to get their message across. Wisconsin student activist Peter Rickman talked about using a similar strategy to generate support for mass protests in Madison, when he spoke to CUPE activists in June 2011.

She also explained how the red square, a simple, easily replicable symbol that’s become synonymous with the movement and highly recognizable across the province, was adopted by the students after seeing anti-poverty groups use it in the 90s.

Dubois, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), told the crowd that students across Canada face an average debt load between $20,000 and $30,000 upon graduation, and called for a national framework to ensure that post-secondary education is affordable and accessible to all Canadians.

Quebec student organizations are currently in discussions with the provincial government to set parameters for negotiations. More protests are expected, with a massive, province-wide rally planned for April 22.

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