Free Education Montrealâ€™s mandate is based on principles of social justice and stems from Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in part:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Although the Declaration insists on free education primarily at the elementary levels, it is impossible to make higher education equally accessible to all without eliminating fees for education at all levels. It is also impossible for education to be geared towards the full development of the human personality if less wealthy students must choose their course of study based on the burdens of poverty and the need to pay back student debt.
Free education benefits not just young people, but all members of society, as it fosters innovative, creative and unbiased research of benefit to everyone, as well as students who leave their institutions not just with new skills, but as critical thinkers with a fuller understanding of humanity and their role in society.
What do we mean by ‘free‘?
Be free to…
Learn, teach and research creatively:
Everyone should have free access to high quality education and lifelong learning. Educators and researchers should have resources, institutional support and academic freedom.
Study for educational fulfilment:
Everyone should have the freedom to pursue education for personal growth and the common good.
Govern our educational institutions:
Educational institutions should be governed by those who study and work there in cooperation with the community.
Be free from…
Students should be able to pursue their studies without the physical and emotional burdens of poverty and debt.
Students should be able to pursue their studies in an environment free from excessive marketing and profiteering on textbooks and class materials, foods, etc., and advertising on the university campus. Students, researchers and educators should be free from profit-driven influence on grants, funding.
Students, researchers and educators should be free from corporate interference in governance, academic and student life.
Our purpose and objectives
The purpose of Free Education Montreal is to encourage students and other community members in the Montreal area to think critically and hopefully about education and the role and responsibility of educators and students, as well as to support and bring together student and other community groups fighting the rising costs and deterioration of education.
Our short-term goals are to prevent further tuition and fee increases and profit-driven influences at our educational institutions in Quebec, and to have more accessible grants and supports for students, greater transparency in our educational institutions’ budgets and participation in their governance.
Our long-term goals are to eliminate tuition and fees in educational institutions and increase the quality of education through public re-investment in and the democratization of Canada and Quebec’s education system, as well as to strengthen educational institutionsâ€™ positive impact on social justice through research, teaching, and community involvement. In the pursuit of this goal, we will join with other groups across Canada and throughout the world fighting for social justice, equality of opportunity and properly-funded networks of public goods and support them in their work whenever possible.
Who We Are
We are a group of students, researchers, professionals, artists, parents, workers and community members who believe that education is a societal right and responsibility, not a business. We are open to people of all linguistic backgrounds, and to those who may not prioritize the abolition of tuition but oppose the immediate program of increases planned by the Quebec government.
We came together in June 2009, when Concordia University’s Board of Governors decided to increase tuition for international students once again and without notice, resulting in great hardship for many of our fellow students. As a response, members of the Concordia Graduate Students’ Association called for help to students across Montreal – CEGEP and University, anglophone and francophone, graduate and undergraduate, including the Concordia Student Union (for undergraduates), the Association for Solidarity among Student Unions (ASSĂ‰) and the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ) – to demonstrate outside Concordia’s Board of Governors meeting. We then formed Montreal Students Against Tuition Increases (MSATI), which became known as Free Education Montreal (FEM) in January 2010. Since then we have been working to expand our membership to include other educational institutions and community members in Montreal.