MONTREAL — Members of Hillel Montreal met with Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and members of that association, to discuss the student campaign against an increase in tuition and other areas of common concern.
FEUQ, which represents 125,000 university students, is one of the key organizers of the protest, which has included street demonstrations and a boycott of classes.
The meeting, held at the Hillel House Aug. 30, was arranged by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), which has had a longstanding relationship with FEUQ. Several of its members have participated in missions to Israel, sponsored by CIJA or its predecessor, the Quebec-Israel Committee.
Desjardins, a doctoral student in education at the Université du Québec à Montréal, provided a background on the tuition and her personal perspective.
Hillel students asked if FEUQ supported the Parti Québécois (PQ) in the election campaign, as it appeared to. Desjardins responded that, in fact, she had attacked the PQ on some issues, and that the FEUQ had “frozen” relations with the Liberal Party and the Coalition Avenir Québec following their support of Bill 78, the emergency legislation passed in May that places conditions on public demonstrations.
She insisted that FEUQ did not support any particular political party but rather tried to impress upon students the importance of participating in democracy by voting.
Hillel members raised concerns over the Nazi-like salutes given by a few protesters last spring, apparently to mock police.
Desjardins said she immediately condemned it and FEUQ dissociates itself from that kind of behaviour.
CIJA community relations and campus assistant director Myriam Azogui-Halbwax confirmed that Desjardins had called CIJA right away to reassure the organization that none of the people using the gesture were associated with FEUQ.
The members of Hillel and FEUQ agreed to maintain ties and to meet again.
This was not the first time members of FEUQ participated in a Jewish community event. Several representatives attended CIJA’s annual Fête nationale cocktail reception in June.