Why Strike?

To Undergraduate Students of the University of Ottawa,

Last year UOttawa made history when we became the first campus in Ontario to have General Assemblies as the highest decision making body of our Student Federation. We achieved this victory with a referendum that ended in 1968 students voting YES to GA’s. This clearly showed us that students not only wanted but embraced new structures and methods, but that students are also willing to get engaged in ways that the SFUO has previously not presented them. In light of this fact, among many others, the Revolutionary Student Movement is calling for a strike in spring 2015 to challenge both our ridiculously high tuition fees and the new code of conduct that the University is quietly introducing this year. This letter will further expand on these issues and hopefully answer a lot of questions many students may have about the strike.

1) Is Tuition really that big of a deal?
Yes, our tuition has risen every year for the past 9 years. This year tuition fees went up 3% for domestic undergraduate students, 5% for domestic graduate students and those in “professional programs”, and 10% for international students. Despite rising fees, we have not seen a significant improvement in our quality of education. In fact, our quality of education has decreased. We have extremely large class sizes, many of the buildings on campus are inaccessible, and courses and programs such as journalism are being cut. Students do not have access to adequate study space and are paying way too much for residence. Many students work part-time or full-time jobs (sometimes more than one) to put themselves through school. Tuition is a significant burden for many students, and potential students.

2) Don’t we have student representation at the Board of Governors?
In theory yes. However, students have only 3 out of 31 seats on the Board of Governors. In the past, students have been prevent from voting on measures regarding tuition fees due to a supposed “conflict of interest”. The other 28 seats on the Board of Governors are filled by the university’s upper administration and representatives from large corporations. To quote from an SFUO Membership Advisory that was released earlier this year: “Undergraduate student representative Vincent Mousseau motioned to include a tuition freeze in the budget for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year. Undergraduate student representative Myriam Whalen proposed a motion for the Treasury Committee to draft alternative budgets next year, including one that considers a tuition fee freeze. Both motions were overwhelmingly defeated. This disheartening defeat solidified the reality that the Board of Governors will not consider alternatives and refuses to work with students.” This quote shows overwhelmingly that the university is unwilling to work with students and that the structures which supposedly give us input in actual fact do not. The SFUO has used the same tactics of presenting motions and protesting student fees year after year with no successes. Ultimately, these measures have been exhausted. On the other hand Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in the country and a consistent history of winning those victories in strikes. If we want to successfully lower tuition and create an education system that is open to working-class students, we need to consider striking: a strike is our greatest asset.

3) Striking seems extreme, why not use other tactics like demonstrations or petitions?
Striking is a last resort. Other tactics and actions have failed on their own in the past. However, if they were to take place in the context of a strike they might be more effective. Striking necessarily has to incorporate a variety of actions in order to be effective. These actions can be marches, sit-ins, artistic events, vigils; no tactic should be overlooked but all should be in service of the strike demands and agreed upon by the students. The actions should also escalate over the course of the strike to be most effective.

4) But aren’t strikes just a thing that Quebec does? We don’t have that culture here…
We don’t have that culture yet. The strike culture in Quebec is not something that arose spontaneously. It has been continuously building since 1968 when a series of strikes took place in support of giving working class people access to post-secondary education. There have been a series of strikes in Quebec throughout the past 50 years, and this trend continues to this day with preparations for a strike in Quebec in the spring of 2015. Unlike Quebec, we have the history of Quebec strikes to look to for guidance, and in turn our struggles will help students in Quebec and across Canada win victories.

5) Will the strike go on forever?
The strike lasts as long as students decide for it continue. Ultimately strikes only work when the masses of students are mobilized and standing in solidarity. Students can vote to end a strike at any time or vote to extend the strike for a particular length of time. Ultimately we as students control when it stops, not the university.

6) Won’t this make it harder for me to finish my degree?
Yes, this can delay you finishing your courses and getting your diploma. However, so can debt and rising tuition fees. Many students drop out of school several times before finishing a degree in order to work to pay for tuition. Striking is a way for us to fight back against rising fees and mounting debt.

7) What does this mean for graduate students?
Since graduate students are organized under a different student union (GSAED), they are not bound by our strike vote. However, we should strongly urge GSAED to strike alongside us. A campus united can never be defeated.

8) Aren’t we just being selfish and greedy?
No, none of the students on this campus have had a say in any of the tuition fee increases we’ve faced. Most of us would rather be saving up for the future since, let’s face it, there are not many jobs waiting for us. This is not about greed: it’s about survival. Accumulating debt hurts students; many will never pay off their student loans despite hard work and perseverance. Furthermore, if tuition fees continue to increase at this alarming rate, our generation will not be able to afford to send our children to post-secondary education. This is not about saving a few bucks or haggling for a good deal, it’s about the fact that this is not a sustainable model of education. We are not only fighting for ourselves, but for all students across Canada and for the future.

9) I can afford tuition, why should I care?
Your generation’s children may not be able to say the same; even your younger siblings are going to have a tougher time paying if we don’t start lowering fees. Furthermore, you are letting down your classmates and anyone else who may want to come to university but cannot afford tuition.

10) What happens if the strike fails?
Failure is always a possibility, but there is also the possibility of victory. If the strike fails we will keep trying until we have eliminated tuition fees and have achieved open access to education for everyone. We will keep trying until we win.

Today we have the opportunity to make history and become the first school in English Canada to strike against tuition fees. Let’s not miss the opportunity. Vote yes to investigate the possibility of a strike in the spring of 2015. We have nothing to lose but our fees, we have a world to win.

In Solidarity,
The Revolutionary Student Movement (MER-RSM)


University of Ottawa Revolutionary Student Movement in association with OPIRG denounces the unceasing attack on the people of Gaza perpetrated by the State of Israel that to this hour has resulted in more than a thousand Palestinians killed, thousands wounded, overwhelming majority of them civilians – children, women, the elderly and men not affiliated with any armed group.

As we write this statement, we want to reach out to the Palestinian people to express our solidarity with their struggle for freedom in their own homeland, liberation from colonial oppression and an end to ethnic cleansing. We express our condolences and deep sorrow to the families of victims of this horrifying bloodshed initiated and carried out by Israel.

For more than three weeks the State of Israel has indiscriminately massacred Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel historically has been a force at the service of Western and particularly American imperialism, therefore U.S., Canadian and European governments shamelessly provide diplomatic, military and financial backing for these atrocities.

The international community too stands idly while Israel violates international law and continues the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can only express the institutional timid position: “The people of Gaza have nowhere to run. They are trapped and besieged on a speck of land. Every area is a civilian area…” he announces, but an international action led by the UN is nowhere to be found; the UN shines for its ineffectiveness and lack of real commitment.

The Israeli government has cynically used the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers in the occupied West Bank in order to launch a devastating attack on the people of Gaza, while no connection to Hamas or Gaza has been established by the Israeli Investigators. The actual reason behind the attack is the outrageous refusal of Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This attack is aimed at breaking the recently established unity government between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the occupied West Bank and it once again demonstrates that the current Israeli establishment is only interested in continuation of oppression of the Palestinian people.

In the mean time, the bourgeois media has been working hard to justify the genocidal acts of Israel by appealing to Israel’s “right to self-defense”, a right not equally granted to the historically oppressed Palestinian people. This “right”, however, is used by Israel as a justification for bombing hospitals, schools, residential buildings and even UN shelters in Gaza, killing innocent civilians who seek refuge from the carnage. This latest assault is just one more chapter in the mission of the Israeli state to enforce apartheid and complete ethnic cleansing on the Palestinian people. The ruling class in Canada and other Western countries, through its media, has expressed its support for these bloody ambitions. For them, the war on the Palestinians is just another good business opportunity.

By supporting Israel, the Canadian and other Western governments support one of the most backwards and violent elements in the Middle East. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank suffer daily humiliation of military checkpoints on every road, Israeli violation of basic human rights and unaccountable violence. Palestinian workers are exploited by the Israeli bourgeoisie that operates industrial plants on the occupied land, paying the Palestinians extremely low wages and not providing any rights to them. Not only is support given to the State of Israel perpetuating the decades-long brutal oppression of Palestinians, it also deprives most of ordinary people in Israel of peace, security and hope in the better future.

Israel must immediately cease its attacks on the people in Gaza, lift the illegal blockade, stop the apartheid in the occupied West Bank and recognize the right of the Palestinian people for their homeland, from which they are being relentlessly expelled by Israel since 1948.

Stop the massacre of the Palestinian people! Stop the Israeli occupation and oppression!


After the uOttawa RSM was successful at shutting down a men’s rights fascist event in Ottawa, the organizers of the action were approached by The Fulcrum, uOttawa’s English language newspaper, for an interview (available here). Given the increased interest of this event in recent days, and that The Fulcrum’s article omitted much of the political content contained in the interview, we are reproducing the interview in full below.

How and why did the Revolutionary Student Movement come to the decision to protest the event on Friday?

A number of Equality Canada’s posters had been deliberately posted over Proletarian Feminist Front posters, a community organization our club is informally associated with and a number of our members and friends of the club felt that the event was misrepresenting feminism and would make our campus less safe. We are not the only campus that has rejected this type of event, it is clear that other campuses also feel the ideas being put forward by Men’s Rights Activists are dangerous and hateful. An example of the type of hatred these groups promote is of course the recent assault on a feminist at Queen’s University. Although equality Canada denies any connection, it is clear she was assaulted for standing up to a MRA group on her campus and we do not want that type of group here. It was brought to a vote at our general meeting the day before and we decided to attend the event.

Why did the RSM decide to protest in the way they did? In other words, why enter the room and make noise as opposed to protesting with signs at the door or some other form of protest?

We feel that these ideas have no place on our campus and refuse to legitimize them by allowing MRA’s space to organize. As was demonstrated, campus security will not protect our community from events that are harmful to men, women and transpeople in the community so we decided to stand up for what we feel is right.

The term “hate speech” was used a lot by both sides on Friday night. What is your definition of hate speech and do you think either side engaged in it at the event? In what way?

We define hate speech as comments, ideas or opinions, which incite or legitimize further violence against an oppressed group.  We do believe there was hate speech coming from Professor Fiamengo as she made it clear that she did not feel the recent threats made against Anna-Marie Roy were a big deal, stating there was a difference between fantasizing about rape and committing it. This legitimizes rape whether the threat was carried through or not.

Organizers of the event accused members of your group of censoring them. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

As students of the campus and community members we have a right to decide what does and does not happen here.

Any other comments you’d like to add?

We support gender equality between all genders, not just cis-gendered men and women and believe that an essential part of this struggle for equality is recognizing the systemic oppression of women and transpeople. The liberation of all genders ultimately includes fighting for an end to the capitalist system.



The uOttawa Marxist Students’ Association has been actively involved in the creation of the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) since the RSM’s initial conception. Over the past year our movement has grown in ways that we did not expect, both in Ottawa and across Canada. We’ve expanded the RSM to new provinces, seeded organizations on new campuses, and have built our own capacity at uOttawa by an incredible amount. It’s been a good year.
However, given that the Marxist Students’ Association has a different name than other sections of the RSM, as we begin to look at the concrete steps necessary to formalize the RSM as an organization (i.e. move away from a series of independent and autonomous organizations towards a more overarching structure, politics, and approach to work), we are continually asked about the nature of our relationship to the broader RSM. While the uOttawa Marxist Students’ Associaton has consistently been in favour of building a formal RSM, our own organization has existed since before the effort to establish an RSM was underway; hence the difference in naming conventions between the two organizations. Also, the name “Marxist Students’ Association” reflected a different tactical approach to student organizing than is now practiced by our organization; at the time of the Marxist Students’ Association’s creation, we were far less focused on action and far more focused on study. This line has been corrected through our engagement with the building of a Canada-wide RSM.
       The Marxist Students’ Association wishes to end all ambiguity as to the nature of our relationship with the broader RSM. As such, we are formally re-naming our organization the Revolutionary Student Movement: uOttawa Chapter. We do this to reflect our better approach to organizing. We do this to stand united with other RSM sections in Montreal, Quebec City, Guelph, Toronto, and even here in Ottawa at Carleton University and Algonquin College. But most of all we do this to show that we are unequivocally in favour of the construction of a pan-Canadian united revolutionary student movement, and that we have full confidence in the process already underway.
We invite everyone that wishes to be part of these efforts to organize themselves and attend the Third National Conference of Revolutionary Youth and Students, to be held on March 1-2 in Montreal.
See you in March!