Students Sound Educated and Knowledgeable

May 7, 2012


This morning, I attended the first hour and a half of the general assembly of the Association étudiante du Cégep Saint-Laurent (AECSL). AECSL is one of the 171 groups that are members of CLASSE. (For more information about the group, visit

AECSL has 3 500 members who are all students of the college. It has existed since students went on strike on February 20. I’m told that typical meetings last as long as seven hours, in part, because the organization is committed to direct democracy. That means that anyone who attends the school can participate in decisions. I’d estimate there were between 300 and 350 in the large room I sat in. Another 75 to 100 people sat in a second room outside. This was the biggest meeting, because organizers weren’t expecting to have to operate in two rooms. They took about 10 minutes or so to set up the technical expertise to ensure that everyone in the second room could speak to a motion and vote.

On the way in, students showed their student cards at the door to get yellow voting cards. I saw four votes in which students held up the cards so that the chair of the meeting could get a read on what the room wanted. Charest has said a lot about the necessity of these votes being secret, but I saw no reason for such a demand. Does Charest run his caucus by secret ballot?

The discussion I observed didn’t concern the actual offer that students were considering, but was instead a discussion about the procedure that led students to participate in the negotiation. Students asked all the same questions I wondered about. “Were government officials and unions prepared to negotiate when they invited you to talk?” “If you don’t have the right to make decisions on our behalf, why is the government and the media talking about a tentative agreement?”

Then members of the media arrived and the room voted to hold the meeting behind closed doors. At that point, I had to decide whether I was there as a citizen observer, in which case I could stay, but would never have the right to report on what I saw. I decided to leave. I still don’t know whether AECSL voted to accept or reject the offer. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

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Tracey Arial

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Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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