Melissa Palermo, VP Education for Ryerson Students' Union tells TMC from inside the minister's office, "Its definitely a time for students to look over to Quebec and be inspired at what is happening there…we can be confident that the student movement is ready to build and take more action."
The student movement conducted two simultaneous occuapations of government offices this morning in Toronto. "Ontario and Quebec Students for a Free Education" occupied the Bureau du Quebec à Toronto on Queen St. West at around 10 AM. Meanwhile, a group of about 20 students occupied education minister Glen Murray's office (which he shares with Bob Rae) at 514 Parliament.
A text message from the occupiers at the Bureau du Quebec this morning read "We are currently occupying the bureau du Quebec a Toronto in soldiarity with student strikes in Qubec and to denounce tuition increases. Spread the word. Free education! Gratuité scolaire!".
Students demanded that the office fax thier press release to the Quebec Premier's office, security and then police were called, but then office staff met thier demands and faxed the communique. The students then joined the Parliament st. occupation, some on the inside and others in a solidarity protest outside Glen Murray's office.
TMC spoke with Xavier Lafrance outside the office, Xavier had participated in the earlier occupation and was a former representative of CASSEE which helped organized the 2005 student strikes in Quebec. "This occupation was in suport of the strike in Quebec and also in solidarity with struggles here in Ontario for a free education". he said.
In the press release he wrote "Eduation is a right, a collective good. It's financing must be assumed collectively, through a system of progressive taxation and through a tax on coporate profits".
The Ontario government plans a $121 million cut in post-secondary education funding while increasing tuition fees by an average of 5% province-wide. Funding programs that have been identified for elmination includes: Ontario Work Study Program, Textbook and Technology Grant, Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship, Onatio Trust for Sudent Support, Ontario Special Bursary Program, and the Fellowship for the Study in French.
Socialist Worker posted an eyewitness account from inside the occupation in which Max Bru wrote "Everyone knows what's been happening in Quebec and we're all very inspired. We also think that while it's easier to feel outraged by a sudden hike of 75 per cent as in Quebec, it's not so obvious here because ministers have honed the art of stretching out the cuts so it appears less bad. People told personal stories of poverty and debt in higher educaiton, and are adding up our collective debt. 17 people here have a collective student debt of over $400,000."
In a video posted on the the internet from inside the occupation, students chant 'education is a right, we will not give up the fight".
Cars driving by have been honking in support. One older man walking on the sidewalk outside the occupation told the demonstrators that when he went to univeristy the government paid not only his tuition, but also for a living stipend. There was minimal police presence and they did not stay on scene.
At about 1 PM there were about 40 outside the office and about 20 inside the occupation, as of 3:20 there were about 20 people outside. The occupation continued until 5 PM when the students left as planned.
This story was written and updated live from the scene of Glen Murray/Bob Rae's office from noon to 5:30 PM by TMC reporters Megan Kinch and Zach Ruiter.
Megan updated live on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/meganysta