This text was initially published in L'Invisible, a publication by the newspaper committee of the Montreal Coalition for Paid Internships. Translation by Maria Alexandra Craciun, original text by Kaella Stapels.
Free tuition and student salaries have been a part of students' demands since the 1970s. In France, with the Union nationale des étudiants de France (National union of students in France, or UNEF), in the United States, with the Wages for Students campaign, in Italy and in Quebec, these reflections haven taken on scale and led to action. Today, we can add to these issues the demands for paid internships that have emerged around the world.
Although the question of financial compensation has been present in Quebec media since 2014 with the Campagne de Revendication et d'Actions Interuniversitaires des Étudiant-es en Éducation en Stage (Campaign for Interuniversity Demands and Action for Student Interns in Education, or CRAIES), the remuneration of all internships is a new challenge brought by the CUTE since 2016, in collaboration with several groups and student associations that share this demand. These actors are now grouped together in regional coalitions fighting for remuneration of all internships. Their joint actions reflect the rise of pressure tactics in order to obtain, among other things, remuneration for all internships at all levels of schooling. Let's look at some of the highlights of this mobilization.
One of the movement’s first actions took place on September 24th 2016. Banners were dropped during the Liberal Party of Quebec’s 4th Forum of Ideas in Longueuil. In Fall 2016, doctoral candidates from the psychology departments of various establishments wrapped up a 3-month strike. This led to a financial compensation for their internships in December 2016. Other CÉGEPS and universities continued their journey to demand the remuneration of all unpaid internships. On February 16, 2017, the first student-interns' strike took place: 30 000 students marched in opposition to the Rendez-vous national sur la main-d'oeuvre (National Labour Meetup) in Quebec City. On November 10 2017, a north-american call to mobilization was launched to celebrate the International Day of Interns. Over 20 000 students in the province answered this call with a strike and large gatherings took place in Montreal. This happened right in front of the offices of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity. After this, the Education Minister at the time Hélène David admitted the necessity of discussing and building a plan that involves paid internships beyond the teaching program.
On February 20th, 2018, the first day of the Global Intern Strike, 15 000 students were on strike in Quebec. Strikes and disruptive actions took place all across the province and beyond : Gatineau, Trois-Rivières, Montreal and even Moncton to demand the remuneration of internships. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, over 30 000 students walked out at the same time as another big event in Montreal: a march against sexual violence and exploitation in school and during internships organized by the Montreal Coalition for Paid Internships. In other words, many actions of visibility, strikes, and marches took place in the last few years in order to demand the remuneration of all internships.
Faced with growing student pressure, the Liberal government yielded partially and announced financial compensation for the final teaching internship at the unveiling of its pre-electoral budget. During a disruptive action on May 6th, 2018 at the États généraux sur l’enseignement supérieur (Higher Education General Assembly), Hélène David revealed that her party was working on the issue of compensation for internships in various programs. This would not put an end to the struggle, on the contrary: her cabinet intended to distinguish between the types of training, maintaining the inequitable situation at hand. The CAQ has proposed a similar distinction, but students from across the province - many from fields without any internships at all - are striking in solidarity for an end to all unpaid internships.
The pressure is growing on the government and it is likely to evolve into an unlimited general strike, until we obtain paid internships at all levels of education, in all fields of study, without exception.