The 1996 McMaster Blockade

By Parnika Godkhindi, OPIRG McMaster

During OPIRG’s first year at McMaster University, a historic “Day of Action” protest was held on Wednesday, 7 February 1996 in response to increasing tuition fees and tax cuts being granted to the country’s wealthy.

The blockade was jointly planned by the Ontario Public Interest Research Group, the McMaster Students Union, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3906. Students at Mohawk College were also invited to participate. It was part of a larger nationwide protest being spearheaded by the Canadian Federation of Students.

Between 1996 and 1997, post-secondary tuition in the country increased by approximately 20%. At the same time, tax rates were being reduced for corporations and the wealthy. A media statement issued by OPIRG on 1 February 1996 explains the dangers of the underfunding of post-secondary education, beyond the increase in tuition:

“What are the consequences of universities being forced to rely more and more upon corporate donations and market-driven research?”

The protest involved blocking key campus access routes, symbolic of how the government was blocking students’ access to campus by raising tuition. Classes, however, were not cancelled. The campus-wide strike lasted from 8 am to noon. Later that same day, OPIRG hosted a discussion panel on post-secondary education’s role in the future, inviting representatives from various groups in the university community to speak.

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