We can report that the lawsuit student protester Katie Nelson brought against the Montreal Police (SPVM), certain officers and the City of Montreal has been settled. That’s pretty much all we can report as Nelson isn’t allowed to discuss the terms of the settlement.

During the 2012 Quebec Student Protests (aka Maple Spring), Nelson amassed over $6000 in tickets including for things as banal as spitting on the street and swearing. Realizing that she was being specifically targeted by police and singled out for fines (some officers even referred to her by name), she decided to take the cops and the city to court for political profiling. We had a chance to speak with her in 2013 shortly after she launched the suit.

Since then, she had continued to participate in protests and speak out against various forms of oppression and violence, both caused by police and the state and not. All the while, she made many court appearances fighting her many citations and preparing for her profiling case.

In December 2015, she was attacked from behind and briefly hospitalized during a nighttime protest after she identified some officers from her case undercover dressed as protesters. She claims it was one of the undercover agent provocateurs who knocked her to the ground, a claim that was not confirmed by police but verified by photos and videos and others at the scene. The December incident was not part of the 2013 motion.

While Nelson’s lawsuit didn’t end with a mass public shaming of the Police Department and heads rolling (figuratively, of course) at the SPVM as a new precedent set as many may have hoped, it also didn’t end with Nelson losing and another unfortunate precedent set. The suit was settled, and that’s all we can tell you.

* Featured image by Thien Vo

The first rule of reading news articles on the internet: if you don’t want to get angry, stay away from the comments. I broke that rule more than once, both during the lead up to the current student protests against austerity and since they started to bloom. I have lived to regret it, though my shattered piece of mind did lead to one rather interesting observation: the rhetoric of trolls has permeated the mainstream.

Are you familiar with CJAD? While their most prominent opinion show hosts veer right of centre, their overall news coverage is quite balanced. However, their audience, at least those who comment on Facebook, is, for the most part, divided between those who feel everything is about language and separatism and those who spew the sort of bile I would only expect from the most ignorant portions of the Republican base south of the border.

A few weeks ago, I saw one comment that made me do a double-take. The commenter was arguing that the reason a pre-strike protest at UQAM drew only a few hundred people was because the unions didn’t have the money to front the students this year and this was good because students’ brains hadn’t developed enough to comprehend complex political and economic philosophy.

I replied, calling him out on his ageism and he actually tried to respond with a flawed scientific argument. It was then that I realized I was speaking with the drunk at the bar that everyone knew was going to be thrown out by bouncers before the night was over, so I closed the tab on my computer and stopped engaging.

The problem is that his condescending attitude has found its place beyond the space inhabited by trolls. You see it all over the media and the web these days. It’s just a little less blatant and a lot more insidious.

So-Called Austerity

CTV news may not be the most progressive media out there, but they have always maintained at least basic journalistic standards when it comes to their reporting. Their bias has always been apparent in what they choose to present, not their choice of words.

Now, that seems to have changed. In at least three recent posts to their website about Printemps 2015, they refer to the Couillard government’s “so-called” austerity measures. So-called? When did the Quebec government’s plan to cut services and pensions fall into the realm of alleged austerity?

I’m pretty sure if you asked Philippe Couillard if his government was implementing austerity measures, he’d deny it, but he’s a politician. However, if you google austerity and compare the definition to what the premier has been doing, you’d see they match. According to the Financial Times Lexicon, “austerity measures refer to official actions taken by the government, during a period of adverse economic conditions, to reduce its budget deficit using a combination of spending cuts or tax rises.” The media even called it austerity until the students got involved.

You may agree with this definition. You may prefer, as I do, to extrapolate a bit and call austerity the practice of cutting off services and support for the poor or those of moderate to average income because of a perceived crisis and implement corporate welfare, er, business incentives and tax breaks. Either way, austerity is what the Couillard administration is bringing in.

Either way, austerity is what those in the streets are fighting. Instead of actually trying to defend austerity, which is really a tough sell, those against the protests have taken to arguing that it’s not really austerity the students, and now others, are fighting.

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Quebec Has it Easy

Leave it to Reddit to explain how a protest clearly against austerity may not be. It all stems from the fact that Couillard’s austerity measures aren’t as severe as those elsewhere. This is true (Greece comes to mind), but it also misses the point completely.

It reminds me of the old right-wing refrain from 2012. You know the old chestnut I’m talking about, the one that points out how Quebec students pay the lowest tuition in North America. While true, it is irrelevant to the discussion.

That fight was for no tuition increase, not even a penny, with the ultimate goal, for some, of university being free. This is a fight for no austerity, not even a little, but a different approach to allocating resources.

Making the argument that students should accept a tuition increase or Quebec should accept its austerity because it’s not that bad compared to other places presupposes that tuition increases and austerity are inevitable and need to be accepted, if only a little bit. Or, just the tip.

Grow Up, Get a Job

I was wondering why these arguments still got any traction and why that random CJAD troll’s statements, which were beyond offensive, weren’t criticised by more than some random lefty who happened to make the mistake of reading the comments. I think it stems from what Winston Churchill said:

“If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.”

The modern local equivalent of this statement is “when these kids grow up and get a job, they’ll understand why they’re being foolish.”

The concept that abandoning social justice and embracing neoliberal economic policies and the global austerity agenda is a sign of maturity is not only wrong and condescending to those who have a different opinion, but it is also an option that is only open to the privileged. As someone who is privileged, has grown up to a certain extent, and has a job, I can tell you that austerity is wrong-headed and harmful.

Another world is, in fact, possible, and it starts with those in the streets. Now if only we can all admit that they do know what they’re talking about.

* photos by Gerry Lauzon

The protest called by the ASSE started at Victoria Square with people of all background gathering. I mean from firefighters to high school kids. They came from all over as well, not just Montreal, by the bus load. The protest left on St-Jacques westbound, turned right on University/Rober-Bourassa up to Sherbrooke, eastbound to Berri and finished down at Émilie-Gamelin Park. No itinerary was given to Police but the march was not declared illegal to my knowledge.

At 3pm when arriving at Émilie-Gamelin Park, the crowd split in two with one group going east on Ontario and one staying at the Park. The Ontario march was intercepted by the SPVM riot squad at Montcalm and a stand off took place. Protesters sat down as Police were asking them to proceed South in order to avoid, I’m guessing here, to end too close to the Jacques-Cartier bridge during rush hour.

30 minutes later the stand off was broken when protesters were pepper sprayed and the crowd moved back towards the Park where another stand off took place with the riot squad asking people move off of the road and into the park, they actually said “please” and “thank you”.

That one saw a reversal of roles where in the end, Police retreated to their initial position to cheers from the crowd. However, water bottles thrown at retreating police officers was met with a tear gas gun firing one shot at the crowd. I left shortly after this incident.

I’ve heard of other clashes going on at the end of the protest and I’m not surprised since there was so many people spread out everywhere.

ED’s note, the protest continued into the night:

I saw protesters with red faces from pepper spray but no other injuries. It was interesting to see High School kids getting their first taste of protesting in Montreal and how they realized it was serious business. The feedback I got from some of them is that they will not be deterred and they will be coming back.

The next big rally/protest is scheduled on May 1st.

It’s all in the headline, really. To be completely honest, I was contemplating just posting that sentence with a picture and a series of arrows pointing up. Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

A few months ago, Montreal police, along with firefighters, transit workers and other government employees protesting cuts to their pensions were all over the news. They weren’t hiding the fact that these cuts were part of Quebec Premier Philippe Couilard’s austerity agenda. I even remember seeing a fire truck blocking traffic with the word “austerity” painted across the part of the vehicle that holds the ladder.

So what happens when another group, striking students, decide to take up the anti-austerity cause? Well, we get rough cops, a bit of tear gas and a handful of arrests. And that was just yesterday, day one of the strike.

Now, while some police in Laval seemed to get that there is a correlation between students striking against austerity and their own cause, SPVM officers are parading around blissfully ignorant of the irony of wearing red squares on the back of their uniforms while crushing a peaceful protest against austerity. I’d laugh if I didn’t want to cry.

Symbol Appropriation

“On n’a rien volé, nous!” Well, you surely appropriated one symbol, whether by intent or accident, from a movement you are now trying to crush. This despite the fact that the movement you are fighting is itself fighting for what you are fighting for.

Yes, all protesting civil servants have a square with their protest’s mantra written on it plastered all over their vehicles and, in some cases, themselves. Whether by accident or some kind of cruel joke, the squares on police cars and now uniforms are red.

Surely someone in the police brotherhood must have realized the irony. Maybe they found it fitting at the time. It is anything but that now.

No No Solidarité

A few months ago, I openly wondered if it was possible to have solidarity with people who had clearly been enemies in the past. Now, it is abundantly clear that the SPVM officers don’t want to change their tune with protestors, despite fighting for the same overall cause.

They clearly don’t care about the broader issue of austerity. They just want their piece of the pie restored and screw everyone else.

While you may say that they’re just following orders, they presumably were a few months ago when a group of firefighters somehow made it into the council chamber at Montreal City Hall on their watch. The hypocrisy is not surprising, it’s just sad and very, very petty.

* Photo by Cem Ertekin

What is austerity? Very simply put, it is when governments decide to ‘tighten the belt’ in order to resolve ‘debt crises.’ A government starts running a deficit, and thus has to review its budget. While that sounds like a very basic accounting job, it is inherently extremely political. Why? Because you have to decide on which expenditures to cut, or which sources of income to raise.

Two large scale anti-austerity protests have taken place in the past couple of months. All around Montreal, you can still see ambulances, firetrucks, and police cars covered with “On n’a rien volé” stickers. Clearly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Parti Libéral du Quebec’s (PLQ) cuts are real, but they are in no way new, or unexpected.

The Maple Spring of 2012 brought hundreds of thousands of students to the streets. Why did the students take to the streets? Back in 2012, PLQ announced that it was planning on raising tuition fees by $1625 over five years. That was an unacceptable policy, mainly because education is supposed to be a basic right, and not a privilege.

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From the November 29 Anti-Austerity March

Of course, the PLQ’s decision to raise tuition fees was not out of the blue. Quebec was (and curiously, still is) facing a rising debt crisis. What happens when you find out that your balance is in the negative? You try to break even. This sounds all logical and rational. Yet, breaking even can turn out to be problematic, if you have your priorities set wrong.

In 2012, PLQ assumed incorrectly that students could be made to bear the burden of the provincial government’s debt crisis. The Maple Spring was the students’ response to this misjudgment, and it was without a doubt very polarizing. While there were hundreds of thousands of students taking to the street almost every week, there were others who wanted none of this.

The problem with the pacifist mind frame is that not everyone can afford to be apathetic. To some, an increase of a thousand dollars over the course of five years might not be too much; but for others it effectively means that higher education is barred to them.

At any rate, after the Maple Spring, the PLQ was replaced by the Parti Québecois (PQ), which declared that the tuition hikes would not take place. However, the PQ decided to cut university budgets by $123 million. So instead of directly barring education to some students, the provincial government succeeded in reducing the quality of education for everyone.

Montreal May 22 protest
From the May 22 student protests in 2012.

Similar to Bill 10 which would overhaul Quebec’s health bureaucracy, and Bill 3 that will overhaul municipal pensions, the cuts to university budgets are part of the same austerity regime based on all the wrong priorities. The provincial government finds itself in a debt of about $3.9 billion and figures that the solution is cutting social services.

The Maple Spring showed that students were more than willing to fight a government that encroached on its basic rights. And more recently, the past two months have shown that mobilization against austerity is not just a possibility, but a reality. It is a little disappointing that people start caring about the consequences of austerity only after they themselves are affected, but that does not matter anymore.

Enter the Spring 2015 Committee. Take a look at what they say on their website:

“While they reach for the last pennies in our pockets, federal and provincial governments increase military spending, invest in prisons, police, and security measures, and roll out the red carpet for the extraction industries. People with friends in high places, the rich, large companies, multinationals, banks and lobbying firms are running the show. A small minority is strangling the community. If the interests of the majority do not orient the actions and priorities of the government, it is illusory to continue to speak of this as a democracy. In a just and equitable society, wealth should not be accumulated at the expense of our environment and should be fairly redistributed among all.”

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“Like wolves, humans act collectively and form groups in order to survive and defend our common interests.”

There is nothing innocent about austerity. It is not simply an apolitical economic decision to break even; mainly because there can be no such thing as an apolitical economic decision. Governments have priorities, and this government has shown us that their priorities are not social justice, social equality, or even simply social services.

It seems, however, that there is enough money in the provincial coffers to fund the $1.2 billion required for the infrastructure projects for the infamous Plan Nord.

It is clear that the governments of this province, both PLQ and PQ, have got their priorities wrong. It then falls on us to collectively fight against austerity and stand in solidarity with one another.

Of course, none of the political choices available might be pleasing. In fact, you might be completely against the system to begin with. But the realistic choice is fighting one battle at a time; while keeping the dream of social justice and social equality alive. It is realistic, because at least we know we can fight the good fight.

This is not just the students’ fight anymore; although I daresay students have led the charge, and are still leading the charge. But it is time to realize that austerity affects us all. As such, it is our collective responsibility to stand in solidarity, and say no to austerity.

 

“The social crisis is behind us.”

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois made that statement yesterday, concluding her party’s Summit on Higher Education at the Arsenal in Griffintown. Later that same afternoon, as teargass reigned down on peaceful protesters at St-Denis near des Pins, it looked more like the social crisis was a few blocks north and a number of blocks east of where she was speaking.

Did Marois really not see this coming? Did she think she could raise tuition and no one would hit the streets?

Well, protesters did take to the streets of Montreal. Estimates had the crowd anywhere between five and twenty thousand.

montreal march feb 26 arial shotThe red squares were back. Anarchopanda was back. This was a festive protest boasting the kind of numbers seen late May 2012 as the Maple Spring was really starting to heat up, only it was a few months earlier and there was snow on the ground. The perfect kind of snow for snowballs.

Turns out snowballs and riot cops aren’t a good mix. When a few protesters, whether intentionally or not, threw their soggy projectiles in the direction of the police, things turned ugly: teargass, noise cannons, billyclubs, arrests and claims that the protest was illegal from the get-go because protesters didn’t provide a route. Now, another well-known element of last year’s Maple Spring was back as well: police repression.

But wait, wasn’t Marois personally offended by Bill 78? Didn’t she promise to repeal it? Well, yes, Bill 78 is no longer on the books, but then again, technically, it was never even enforced. All those arrests last year in Montreal for being at an illegal protest because no route was provided, well, they were officially made under a municipal bylaw that mirrored some of the more egregious elements of 78, not the infamous bill itself (in Quebec City, arrests were made under the highway code).

So Marois was offended by Bill 78 but has no problem using a bylaw that does exactly the same offensive things? Makes sense. After all, she repealed Charest’s tuition hikes on her first day in office as she had promised, then brought in her own tuition hikes a few months later.

But wait, these increases only amount to $70 a year or at least that’s what right-wing media outlets keep reminding us. Really, who cares how much it is, it’s an increase and that’s the point. While the much larger amount Charest wanted to impose all in one shot may have made it easier to mobilize such a massive student base in the early stages, the Maple Spring was, at it’s core, a protest against the very idea of a tuition increase and by extension, austerity.

To put it bluntly, for a politician to give the student protesters what they want, they would have to lower tuition with the ultimate goal being free education. To merely avoid more protests, they would have to, at the very least, maintain the freeze. Just one penny in the wrong direction and people will take to the streets.

That much is clear to me and most casual observers and it should have been clear to Pauline Marois, too. I think it was. I think she knew all too well that people didn’t vote for her so she could pay lip service to what students and their allies were demanding; in fact, they didn’t vote for her at all, but rather against Jean Charest and it looked like the PQ had the best chance of replacing the Liberals.

She might have figured that it would be easy to distract people later on, make them think the PQ came to power because of sovereignty, language or some other issue that Quebec politicians have used to distract the discourse for decades. The problem is that with a game changer protest like the Maple Spring, people aren’t as easily fooled or silenced. To paraphrase one of the signs held up yesterday, people didn’t stay the course and stay in the streets for six months just to accept another hike.

marois charestSure, not all student groups were at the protest yesterday, just ASSE (the largest and most radical group which formed the CLASSE last year). The other groups were at the conference itself, fighting for a freeze. Now that they were denied, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them don their red squares again, despite former colleague Leo Bureau Blouin now sitting as a PQ MNA.

Even if they don’t, the student protesters have the support of unions, teachers and others. Who knows how many more will join?

Hell, maybe even anglo rights activists will realize that the goal of free post-secondary education is a better place to put money than the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francais, wash out the pots they just used to cook pasta and start banging on them in the streets. It probably won’t happen, but hey, a progressive anglo boy can dream.

Now that the old tricks don’t seem to work anymore and the new boss is protested just as quickly as the old boss was, the future possibilities are wide open. Maybe Marois was right and the social crisis is indeed almost behind us, but the social revolution is right ahead.

* Top photo by Iana Kazakova, other images courtesy movementetudiant.info

 

Gabrielle Nadeau DuboisEthan Cox is the Quebec Correspondent for Rabble.ca where this interview with Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the former spokesperson for student group CLASSE originally appeared..

Ethan Cox: You were recently found guilty of contempt of court, for expressing the opinion that picket lines were legitimate in a TV interview. That’s a ruling I know you plan to appeal, so can you tell me why you think the ruling was unjust?

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois: Well there are a few things. A problem with the first ruling is that the judge interpreted my words as direct advice to break the injunctions. The point my lawyer and I made is that it was a political opinion I expressed, that those injunctions were not a good way to solve the conflict. I said it was a deception, that those injunctions were used to override the democratic decision to go on strike. That’s one of the main things we are going to focus on during the appeal. I cannot say that I didn’t say what I said. Or that it was not what I meant. I said what I said and I meant what I said. It was a political opinion, not a direct order to tell anyone to do anything. So that’s the main point. It’s very important that we do this, because if the ruling stands, it creates a precedent for other social movements.  It will be one of the first times a spokesperson for a social movement could be found guilty for expressing a political opinion. That’s a precedent we don’t want to see created.

What do you think of the PQ government floating the idea of legislating a right to strike for students?

GND: It’s clearly a double-edged sword. The first thing that is important to remember is that the Liberal government created this debate. For decades in Quebec the right for students to have a political strike has always existed. Everyone, including the Liberals, accepted it politically and socially. Mr. Charest himself recognized this right. I think it’s a debate that has been created to delegitimize the student movement by the Liberals. The student movement has shown in the last few years that it is able to take democratic positions on many issues, and is able to make democratic decisions to go on strike.

I don’t see why we have to change the law that’s already quite clear. It gives a monopoly over representation of students to the student associations. It says they are recognized. We are not workers, but students. Our strike is a political strike. I don’t see why we should limit this fundamental right to strike.

There’s been quite an outpouring of support for your appeal through the website appelatous.org, you’re now over $100,000 in donations towards your legal defence fund. So what’s next?

 GND: We are expecting the sentence any day now. We will then go and appeal. It’s going to be a long battle, a two-year battle to go in front of the appeal court. That’s why we’ve asked for the people’s donations and solidarity.

We were totally surprised by the amount of solidarity we’ve seen. We now have enough money to pay back CLASSE for the expenses of the case thus far. We also have enough to go forward with the appeal process. There will also be enough money to support other students who are in front of the courts. For me it’s very important to show that solidarity towards the other students. It’s a very beautiful surprise for us. I think even if the mobilization isn’t currently as concrete in the streets, the people are still very vigilant about what’s going on. We have gained this huge amount of money in only two weeks, which I think is indicative of the fact the movement is not dead at all.

What do you think of the PQ government’s budget and performance so far?

GND:I think it’s a deception for the left. We were expecting a lot more. Especially in a context where the Liberals have no leader, and everyone knows there is not going to be an election. I think the PQ had a chance to go forward with progressive measures that they had announced during the electoral campaign, measures that were a first step in the right direction. I think it’s a big deception by the PQ, that they claim they aren’t able to turn things around. The education summit that they have announced is the same type of thing. I think that indexation is the only thing that could come out of that. 

I am also preoccupied by the fact that there seems to exist an intention within the Parti Quebecois to continue the privatization of universities that the Liberals started. That’s very disturbing for us. It means we have to be vigilant towards this party. We have to be at this summit, put our positions up front, and be ready to be in the streets if this government does not respect our position.

What do you think the outcome of the PQ education summit will be? Do you think there will be a freeze or indexation? What are your concerns with the commodification and privatization of education? Do you find it hard to communicate this specific problem to students because it’s more abstract than a tuition hike? 

GND: The tuition hike was so massive and abrupt that it was a shock for the students. The mobilization was a lot easier because of that. If the PQ do go for indexation it will be difficult for the student movement to mobilize on that issue and on the issue of commodification of education.

The good news is that we began to talk about these things in the last months of the strike. It’s once again proof that the PQ basically share the same ideological foundation as the Liberal party. I hope it wakes up a lot of Quebecers, and left leaning people who are still supporting the PQ. Those who say the PQ are a little bit better than the Liberals. No, this party is part of the same neo-liberal ideology. We have to break this eternal sharing of power between these two parties.

If bad things come out of the summit, how hard will it be to get students to mobilize again? 

GND: It will be difficult. Students are now dealing with the consequences of their strike. It’s already difficult for them. One thing that’s also going to be difficult is that we are seeing the common front of student organizations dissolve over the issue of commodification of education.

So we aren’t going to see that alliance. We are going to see once again a student movement that is going to be divided. I think it’s for good reason, but it will be hard to mobilize. It will be a huge challenge for the progressive student movement.

There’s lots of speculation about you becoming the co-spokesperson for Quebec Solidaire, are you interested? 

GND: For the moment I have chosen to focus on my studies. I still have a B.A. to finish. I have been very involved in the movement over the last five years. So I feel the need to go back to the books, back to theory. I’m beginning a new degree in Philosophy. I want to focus on that for the moment. I’m still young, I have so many things to do and so many things to learn. It’s not a definitive retreat, only a pause.

I of course will be back in Quebec politics. I’m also writing a book, because I think it’s important to leave something behind and express my own opinions and analysis of the movement. I think it’s important to write about it. It’s a part of history, if we let the mainstream media talk about it, I don’t think they’ll be able to convey the spirit of what the Quebec spring was.

Given the blood on the socialist banner and name in the 20th century, what does a 21st century anti-capitalist movement have to do to be different? 

GND: I think there have been two major problems with the socialist experience: a lack of democracy, and a lack of focus on the environment.

A lot of the alternatives to capitalism that were tried during the 20th century were very authoritarian, and sometimes even more destructive to the environment than neo-liberal economies. I think those are the two main challenges. We have to find a way to do this transition progressively and democratically, and with a focus on the environment.

There seems to be an incredible openness right now in progressive movements in Quebec to working with people in the rest of the country. Why do you think that is? 

GND: It’s sad to say, but I think it’s because of Stephen Harper. By pushing an aggressive neo-liberal agenda on public services and environmental issues, there is a realization of the importance of what is happening in Ottawa. If all the energy we’ve seen in the last months can be redirected towards the Conservatives, it would lend a big hand to the social movements in the rest of Canada.

This new openness is also one of the consequences of the fact that the political debate in Quebec has become a lot more oriented towards left and right issues than the independence issue over the last number of years. But for this to work we need an understanding by the Canadian left of the national issue in Quebec. Come a referendum, other social movements in Canada will have to respect our right to self-determination. That does not mean they have to be in favor of sovereignty, only respect the fact that Quebecers have the right to make their own decisions on their future. If we agree on that I think we have a beautiful opportunity in front of us to build a truly national movement. Historically this was a problem. I hope it’s behind us.

Do you feel there’s a new sense of urgency to go after capitalism? 

GND: I think the ecological crisis is putting huge pressure on our generation. I feel this sense of urgency, and I think many young people do as well. For the first time in history, we have a future for our children that is worse than what we are currently living, in terms of social justice and environmental issues. So I think this sense of urgency is widespread. Now, the challenge is to share this urgency and educate the population. We have to be honest with ourselves. We need systemic change, but have to remember these changes won’t happen in a day. They will happen progressively. We have to begin to democratize and change the structure of our economy. I think that the majority of the population understands that there is something wrong with how things are being done. That there is not enough equality or social rights. Our objective is to take the initiative and say we are the ones who want to change things. This whole idea of “change” is now the slogan of the right wing. The PQ are a good example of that. We need to take back that slogan.

Do you think that building a stronger progressive media capacity is an important part of that popular education? 

GND: Yes. It means having strategies for the mainstream media. Having spokespeople to talk to the mainstream media and population. It means concretely mobilizing in our campuses, our workplaces and our communities.  It also means creating new platforms and new media infrastructures to begin to deliver an alternative message. We can’t only be in the mainstream or alternative media, we need a complementary strategy.

What were your major influences growing up? 

GND: I was raised in a family of activists. My first political mentors were my parents. My father was in the labor movement for years. He was in charge of the environmental issues in one of the major labor unions of Quebec. I was also influenced a lot by activists in Quebec such as Michel Chartrand, Pierre Vadeboncoeur and Pierre Bourgault who were very charismatic activists working with workers and the people to gain rights. They were activists, but also writers and poets.

One of the things that inspired me most in those activists is that they were trying to reach a compromise between the social and national emancipation of Quebec. For me that’s a very big inspiration. I think we have to go back to that influence. Where national emancipation is not only based on a cultural and linguistic level, but also a social level. To present the national independence of Quebec like a political project. That’s what really inspires me in these activists. They were unbelievable speakers and writers, for me they are very big inspirations.

Thanks to Robin Sas for transcription of this interview.

Photos Chris Zacchia


bear hug

CLASSE held a rally that included performances by Quebec artists speaking out against tuition increase last week. The evening featured speeches on issues from democracy to feminism within the student movement and was highlighted by the final speech by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois on behalf of CLASSE after his resignation. The student association intends to motivate students for a huge demonstration on August 22nd. Classe remains unaffiliated from any political party, but intends to influence their power from the streets despite who is elected. Interviews with Dan Bigras and Jeremie Bedard-Wien financial secretary of CLASSE.

Journalist and Editor: Emily Campbell, Videographer: Chris Zacchia

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for Rabble.ca where this post originally appeared.

Quebec Superior Court Chief Justice François Rolland on Wednesday rejected a motion filed by Quebec’s student associations asking for an emergency injunction against certain elements of Quebec’s contentious Bill 78.

In a twenty-one page decision released late Wednesday afternoon, Rolland found that the students case had the “appearance of right”, but failed to meet the two other criteria for this type of emergency injunction, namely “irreparable prejudice” and “balance of inconvenience”.

In Quebec’s legal system various types of injunctions are available, to deal with situations too urgent to leave until a full court case can be conducted, potentially years in the future.

The injunction sought here was a “requete en sursis“, which is similar in nature to a safeguard injunction, and requires the aforementioned three standards be met. It is the most immediate form of injunction, and as a result it is the most difficult to obtain.

In addition to proving that your cause of action is not frivolous, and that you have a reasonable chance of winning the eventual court case (the “appearance of right”) you must also prove that if the injunction is not granted you will suffer irreparable harm, which cannot be remedied at a later stage (the “irreparable prejudice”), and that greater damage, or inconvenience, will happen to you if the injunction is not granted, than would to the respondent if it is granted (the “balance of inconvenience”).

“We have to remember it’s a decision on an emergency injunction, which was only seeking to temporarily suspend some articles of the law. Soon we will be able to argue against the law itself, and we have high hopes that when we argue on the deeper issues we will win,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesperson for CLASSE, one of the student groups seeking the injunction.

In an interview with rabble.ca after the decision was released, Nadeau-Dubois explained that the student groups had filed two motions, today’s injunction, and a request to annul the law in it’s entirety. The second case will hopefully be heard this fall.

On the question of whether the student groups would appeal this ruling, or simply proceed with their main case against the law, Nadeau-Dubois wasn’t ruling anything out. CLASSE will be meeting with their lawyers, and other student associations, tomorrow morning to determine their strategy going forward, but nothing is off the table.

Nadeau-Dubois described Bill 78 as “a strategy from the government to apply the law in the short term, knowing the process to challenge the law will take longer. It’s a deliberate strategy to override the institutions which are there to protect our rights. If it succeeds then any government can pass an unconstitutional law, knowing by the time it’s overturned the crisis will have passed. It’s a terrible precedent.”

Justice Rolland’s impartiality has been harshly criticized by La Presse and Le Devoiramong others, in recent months. He has been quoted arguing that judges must not take part in public discussions, because doing so will compromise their impartiality. Nevertheless, he appears to have done just that earlier this year, when he told students seeking injunctions allowing them to return to class to appeal to the government, and seemed to demand that the government intervene. They of course did, with Bill 78, and he is now the judge handling appeals of the law.

“We had asked the judge to recuse himself in other matters, injunctions, because we thought he was not impartial at the time. This time we decided not to ask him to do so, and maybe that was a mistake. We will be considering all our options about this judge in the future,” said Nadeau-Dubois.

He also took strong issue with the government assertion that freedom of association does not apply to student associations in the same way it does to labour unions.

“We can’t wait to argue the real case. We have strong evidence and documents which prove that the student strike is legal, it should be recognized, and obviously freedom of association applies to student associations as well as unions. When it [the provincial law granting recognition and rights to student unions] was originally passed by the National Assembly, the argument that was made was that obligatory fees are at the heart of having the right to associate”.

One of the articles of Bill 78 which the student groups tried to have suspended allows the government to block the collection of dues by a student association or federation which violates Bill 78.

Nadeau-Dubois explained that the threat of this section of the law was one of their main arguments for the urgency and necessity of the injunction, and they were very dissatisfied with the judge’s decision that since the penalty had yet to be applied, their rights weren’t threatened.

“This is a clear attack on student associations, and on our right to freedom of association. If that part of the law is applied in August there is a high probability that it will simply kill the student associations of Quebec. That would be very sad. It’s probably the element of the law which is least explained in the media, but it’s one of the most serious parts.”

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.

There was further confusion over the legality of spontaneous protests. Although Bill 78 seems to clearly make them illegal, the government argued – and Justice Rolland accepted – that they were legal if not formally organized.

“Bill 78 made spontaneous protests illegal. Now this judgement says they are legal, but what is the definition of a spontaneous protest? Citizens will not know if a protest is spontaneous or not, if it is illegal or not. We don’t know what we have the right to organize. In a democratic society everyone should have the right to organize and go down into the streets whenever they want, without the fear of a huge fine,” said Nadeau-Dubois.

To get a better handle on the legal issues involved, rabble.ca spoke to two legal experts to get their take on the ruling. Patrice Blais, a lawyer in Montreal, and David DesBaillets, a law professor at UQAM.

Both expect the students to win, and prove the law unconstitutional, at trial. They cautioned that while this ruling may be a setback, it should in no way be interpreted as a defeat.

“This is a preliminary ruling, which was decided on prejudice and inconvenience, not the facts of the case. It’s important to understand that losing at this stage does not indicate that you have a weak case, merely that you were unable to clear some exceedingly high legal hurdles. It is exceptionally rare to see a law overturned at the stage of a temporary injunction, that’s why I’m not surprised by this ruling. I would have been very surprised if a court at this point granted this injunction, just as I’ll be shocked if the law is not ultimately struck down,” said Blais.

“The court will almost always take the safe, conservative route, and in this case that was putting off a decision on the constitutionality of the law.”

“To me the decision is disappointing. I think it’s a cop-out. The court chose to pass the buck on constitutionality, and cited the case of Manitoba v. Metropolitan Stores Ltd. to establish that they were required to accept the constitutionality of the law Prima Facie, or as a given,” said DesBaillets. “This case was decided on the balance of inconvenience, by a court which was clearly eager to pass the decision onto a higher court.”

Both lawyers noted that it was odd that Rolland accepted the assertion of the Quebec government that Bill 78 does not restrain the right to hold a spontaneous protest. Given that a spontaneous protest would be considered illegal under Bill 78, and participants could be charged for attending, it seems clear that the law does exactly that.

“My reading of the decision is that the court is trying to make a fine distinction between student associations and individual protesters to provide constitutional cover, but in reality we know they’re one and the same,” said DesBaillets. “You’re not going to have much of a protest if no one organizes it or publicizes it, and in this case that’s the student associations. Bill 78 places so many limits and conditions on protests that, in effect, your rights have been curbed to the extent that you no longer have any meaningful right to protest.”

“I certainly think the reason the government inserted a time limit on the law has a lot to do with their own judgement that this law is not constitutional. It looks like they very deliberately passed a law they knew was unconstitutional in order to restore order at any cost, even if it undermines basic civil liberties. It’s a very dangerous precedent,” he continued.

“I find it interesting that the government is trying to minimize the effect of the law in order to justify its constitutionality” added Blais. “The time limit on the law [it is set to expire on July 1, 2013] is also very interesting, insofar as if this case goes to the end, the law will likely have expired and the government will argue that the issue is academic and the case should not be heard. But I think there will be a strong argument to continue the case, that it is not academic, because it will be about the government imposing laws with a time limit and avoiding constitutional challenges to their actions. That would set a very bad precedent in a democracy, that a government could pass any temporary measure without consequence or judicial review.”

“My understanding of the constitution is that it’s on the students side,” summed up DesBaillets. “I can’t imagine the court ultimately upholding this law.”

Photo of Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois courtesy of Justin Ling via Flickr

With another day of action against tuition hikes planned for this afternoon – the sequel for similar actions on the 22nd of March and May – I spent the June 21 combing few some of the recent polls to try and get an idea of where all this madness has left us politically.

It’s been polarizing. After surviving a rash of discontent within her party ranks and rumours of her being replaced by political veteran Gilles Duceppe, Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois consolidated PQ ranks around the tuition hike issue. Marois and her fellow PQ MNA’s even took to donning the student movement’s symbolic red square – until recently, that is.

The PQ have also been energized by surprisingly favourable results in recent by-elections, taking Argenteuil from the Liberals last week, and almost doing the same in the Montreal riding Lafontaine, a perennial stronghold of the ruling Liberal Party.

The Liberals on the other hand, led by Premier Jean Charest, have recently found themselves on the back foot. Mired in controversy over both the ongoing student conflict and the Charbonneau Commission into corruption and collusion in the Quebec construction industry – which some predict could have unsavory results for Charest’s Liberals – the party has been trying to protect its image in the past month. The party debuted a new slogan on its website – “Governing: it’s not always easy” – a month ago, and released a new ad this week with Charest defending his “political courage.”

And in the midst of the traditional PQ-Liberal back-and-forth, the wildcard Coalition Avenir Québec – despite plummeting back to earth after leading polls for months earlier in the year – lingers as a possible seat-stealer for both main parties in a future election.

Nor has it been a boring few weeks for Québec Solidaire, the provincial party most sympathetic to the student movement. Amir Khadir, their co-leader and MNA, was arrested during a student protest in Quebec City.

So without further ado, onto the numbers (given the well-documented meaninglessness of polls, I’ve attempted to give as clear a picture as possible by amalgamating various polls, namely Léger Marketing, Angus Reid, Forum Research Inc., and the invaluable ThreeHundredEight.com).

Liberals up by a hair

The Léger/Le Devoir poll released this week has the Liberals narrowly ahead of the PQ, 33% to 32%, indicating the Liberals have actually made a slight gain in public opinion.

As far as other parties go, the CAQ has dropped two points to 19%, but remain the strongest third party with Québec Solidaire down a point to 9%.

ThreeHundredEight’s weighted poll averages have the Liberals edging the PQ by 0.4%, with the CAQ at 19.6% and Québec Solidaire at 9.4%.

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the poll (depending on how cynical you are) is Charest’s personal ratings. 26% of respondents find Charest to be the best choice for premier – up eight points – compared to 21% for Marois (a two point drop) and 19% for CAQ leader François Legault (a four point drop). Khadir, on of Québec Solidaire’s two leaders, dropped five points to 6%.

ThreeHundredEight predict an election for September, pointing to the 55% of Quebecers who agree, a number which “sounds eerily close to a likely turnout rate.” Either way, says the blog, “with the numbers where they are, it could go down to the wire.”

For ThreeHundredEight’s full breakdown of the Léger/Le Devoir poll, including the numbers by region (teaser: Montreal is looking less Liberal), click here.

Tuition hike numbers

The Léger/Le Devoir poll included the following question:

The government has decided to increase tuition fees by $254 per year for the next seven years for a total increase of $1780. Students dispute this decision and request a freeze on tuition.

Are you more favorable to the government’s position, or more favorable to that of students?

Of the 1000 Quebecers surveyed, 56% favoured the government’s position, with 35% favouring the students.

Broken down by voter intention, respondents who said they intend to vote Liberal came out strongest in favour of the government at 94%, ahead of CAQ voters with 76%. Respondents who said they intend to vote for Québec Solidaire were most in favour of the students at 86%, with PQ voters second at 63%.

NDP, Justin Trudeau make big gains 

At the federal level, both a Forum Research Inc. poll and an Angus Reid/Toronto Star poll from this week show the NDP ahead of the ruling Conservative Party.

Forum Research have the NDP with a seven point lead over the Conservatives with 37% of decided voters favouring the NDP. The Liberal Party came third with 22%, with the Bloc Québécois and Green Party coming a distant fourth and fifth.

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau

To put the numbers in perspective, if an election were held today, those numbers would give the NDP a minority government with 136 of 308 seats (a 33-seat increase). Conservative seats would drop from 166 to 114, and Liberal seats would climb from the current 34 to 53.

Angus Reid, however, has the NDP at 35% (up two points) to the Conservatives 34%, and the Liberals at 19% (up one point).

Forum Research found that 53% of Canadians expect the Conservative government to be defeated in the next election, including 21% of Conservative supporters.

Finally, Justin Trudeau leads all contenders for Liberal Party leadership by a mile with 23% – 33% of Liberal supporters also picked Trudeau. Angus Reid had 42% approving of Trudeau, with Westmount-Ville-Marie MP Marc Garneau a distant second with 23%. In a hypothetical scenario where Trudeau is Liberal leader and an election is held today, NDP support would drop to 32% of the electorate, with the Liberals drawing even with the Conservatives at 28% each, according to the Forum Research poll.

“It is clear that Trudeau draws support (about 5%) from the NDP,” writes Forum Research.

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for Rabble.ca where this post originally appeared.

Quebec students and allies outraged over the repressive and anti-democratic nature of Bill 78, its municipal companion Bylaw P-6, and other extreme police tactics, including political profiling and preventative arrests, are about to get some very heavy duty backup.

One might even say vindication?

In an opening address to be delivered today to the 47 member UN Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will express her “alarm” at ongoing attempts to restrict freedom of assembly in Quebec.

Her speech, a draft copy of which was obtained by UN Watch, will also express “concern” over similar restrictions in Russia (Russia’s law limiting protest was passed shortly after Bill 78, prompting some to speculate it was modeled on Quebec’s legislation) and “deep concern” over such restrictions in Eritrea.

In diplomatic terms alarm is a far more severe word than concern, making Canada’s restrictions on protest the most troubling to the UN agency.

In a speech running to several pages in length, and highlighting human rights issues in dozens of countries, the situation in Quebec warrants a single, albeit explosive, paragraph.

“Moves to restrict freedom of assembly continue to alarm me, as is the case in the province of Quebec in Canada in the context of students’ protests”.

This expression of alarm will likely lead to Canada’s inclusion on the UN watchlist of countries which the agency believes are not upholding their international obligations with respect to human rights, a list which includes Syria, Zimbabwe and Pakistan.

UN Watch, an organization best known for attacking any criticism of Israel by the UN as anti-Semitic or disproportionate, dedicated most of their release announcing the leaked speech to attacking Pillay’s criticism of Canada in similar terms.

It criticized Pillay for mentioning Canada, but not the situation in China or Cuba, and concluded that “…the UN commissioner is making a big mistake by sending the message that countries that have blots on their system – if indeed the Quebec law is a blot – are even worse than countries where the blot is the system”.

But of course she is sending no such message, and the inference that she is is a convenient fiction. It does not follow that anyone who has the temerity to mention the situation in Canada, or Palestine, is in some way delegitimizing the serious human rights threats faced in any other country.

The speech’s focus on Canada, Russia and Eritrea is in response to recent developments in these countries. It seems more than logical to focus on developing threats to human rights, rather than rehashing criticisms of countries like China, which the UN agency has severely criticized on many occasions in the past.

It is a particularly rich criticism of a speech where attention is paid to human rights situations in over a dozen countries, and Canada occupies only one paragraph.

UN Watch are correct that Canada has a much better reputation on human rights than many other countries, which makes it all the more alarming, and demanding of international attention, that we are now taking such a significant step backwards in our dedication to these rights.

The truth is that many in this country have done their best to bury their head in the sand as the situation in Quebec has descended into what can only be described as repression. Ask anyone if they approve of preventative arrest, profiling people for detention on the basis of a political symbol, mass arrests of peaceful protesters or indiscriminate use of force by police and their answer will be an emphatic no.

But our concern for fellow human beings in countries like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia seems to end at our shores. Call it denial, perhaps we simply can’t accept that such things are happening here in Canada, but the silence in the media and among the population at large has been deafening.

It is no exaggeration to say that the situation in Quebec is the most serious threat to our fundamental rights, as articulated in the Quebec and Canadian Charter, and the International Declaration of Human Rights, that we have seen in decades.

That is why the Quebec Bar Association, representing the province’s lawyers and prosecutors, has taken the unprecedented step of condemning Bill 78. It’s why over six hundred lawyers in full robes took to the streets of Montreal to protest the situation, a first in Quebec history.

It’s time to take our heads out of the sand and give them a stiff shake. Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [sic] to do nothing”, and right now there are an awful lot of good men and women doing nothing.

Our rights are not ironclad, they depend on our vigilance against even seemingly minor assaults. In this case we should be able to find common cause across partisan or ideological lines. This is not a left-right issue, but an assault on freedoms we all hold dear.

With her criticism, and Canada’s inclusion on the UN watchlist, Ms. Pillay has shone a light on our situation. What’s happening in Quebec is now the talk of the international community, Jean Charest our international embarrassment.

We need to take a stand, and send a message to the authoritarian-minded among our leaders that any erosion of our rights will be met with stiff resistance.

Pundits on the right love to invoke the sacrifices of our soldiers. Well, our soldiers died in two world wars for the rights and freedoms we enjoy, and which we have chosen to codify in our Constitution. Many also died defending these rights at other times in our history, such as during the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, or the red scare of the 1950s.

Our rights were not granted, they were taken. Fought for over generations. They come to us drenched in the blood of our forebears who laid down their lives for them. A moments inattention and decades of blood, sweat and tears can be taken from us, without our noticing our neck is slit until we turn our head.

“To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high” goes the famous line from In Flanders Fields. Will we be the generation which allows that torch to fall? Our brave youth are in the streets of Quebec every night, paying the price to stand against an unjust law. They need our help.

If there was any doubt in our minds that what is going on in Quebec is a grave threat to our most basic liberties, the attention of the UN should serve as a wake up call.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?

 

You can also follow me on Twitter: @EthanCoxMTL

A poster by the Montreal band Mise en Demeure was on the news as the police found it in Amir Khadir’s home whilst they were looking for incriminating evidence after they arrested Dr. Khadir’s 19 years old daughter Yalda Machouf-Khadir.

Yalda faces various major charges; however she was released on bail until her court appearance later in July. This event took place not long after Dr. Khadir, the Québec Solidaire MNA himself was arrested at student protests in Quebec City and was fined under the Highway Safety Code.

The Mise en Demeure poster was taken in by the police and caused media frenzy over the implications of a politician owning such provocative work; which lead to Le Journal de Montreal and Le Journal de Québec printing such unrestrained headlines as: “KHADIR ARMED,” and “CHAREST DEAD.”

Now, I fully understand that newspapers need to sell, a fact that is certainly getting harder and harder with so much online competition; however at some point outrageous headlines like those are just going to lose readers’ trust; because, well, the comic depiction of Khadir and Charest in the poster are just too trivial to be taken seriously.

To be frank Mise en Demeure didn’t seem to put much thought into their poster, because this work does not refer to revolution and liberty, but it has a clear message of anarchy, promoting a lawless society. Whether this comment on society is deliberate or stems from ignorance of the artist, I shall not venture a guess.

Let us examine the poster and why it is so lacking in thought and consistency. The original painting is that of Eugène Delacroix a 1830 work “Liberty Leading the People” homage to the July Revolution which toppled Charles X of France.

The original painting is full of energy and movement, achieved by loose style brush strokes and use of vivid colours. Delacroix is painting the classical idea of democracy whilst portraying the tenacity and bravery of ordinary French people coming together to regain their rights. Delacroix said: “If I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.”
Liberty herself certainly resembles classical figures of ancient Greece, half nude, and also in profile which was a technique used to depict important people well into the Roman times. So we can agree that Liberty is the dominant figure and the message she is conveying is that of freedom from tyranny, leading the way to equality. What is important to notice is that Liberty is above all the rubble, wounded and the dead, leading France into a peaceful, just and fair future.

Now have a look at the Mise en Demeure poster with Bananarchiste wearing an Anarchy symbol on his Banana costume, shouting back waving a black flag. The tricolor flag Liberty held represented the values of the revolution which were equality, classlessness and unity which is being lost to an angry banana leading the way to chaos and disorder.

Charest’s figure in the poster is an interesting one. In the Delacroix’s painting that particular lifeless man represents the cruelty embarked on the revolutionaries by the royal troops who would shoot protesters and then drag them onto the street in order to send a message to the rest, hence his shirt being dishevelled. What are we supposed to take from the martyrdom of Charest in the poster? Isn’t he supposed to be the bad guy? Is he representing the death of democracy?

Amir Khadir in the poster is being represented by the well-dressed, middle-class man wearing a top hat, holding a gun. Isn’t that an indictment of our politicians as rich liberals who might give us a hand if it suited their agenda?

What started as genuine protests against unfair hikes, and undemocratic passing of the Bill 78, is now being usurped by a few individuals who do not believe in the system altogether and have yet to propose a better alternative; and the danger leering over the horizon is the loss of support from ordinary people just like the occupy movement.

I take a small pleasure in the fact that whoever made the Mise en Demeure poster forgot to change the tricolor flag on top of Notre Dame in the far right corner, so important in showing unity of the people and predicting a democratic future in Delacroix’s painting.

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for Rabble.ca where this post originally appeared.

This Wednesday we need your voice. We only need to borrow it for a few hours, and I promise you’ll enjoy its use. It needs to be raised in unison with others across the country and around the world.

Two events are happening Wednesday night that you need to be at, wherever you are. It just might be the most fun you’ve had all year.

It also might be the most important thing you do all year. If anyone doubted the severity of the situation in Quebec, and the urgent need for solidarity, this weekend’s events will put those doubts to rest.

Police actions over the weekend crossed a line, an even more significant one than that crossed by the reviled Bill 78. Across Montreal’s metro system, and especially at Parc Jean Drapeau, where the Formula 1 racetrack is located, police engaged in “preventative arrests”.

People were pulled off metros, denied access to a public park, searched, and in many cases arrested. Why? Because they were wearing a political symbol. A red square of solidarity with the student cause.

Or, in the words of a Montreal police officer to a Le Devoir reporter, a “revolutionary symbol.”

Many journalists were also denied access to the Park, as police tried to limit the public visibility of their repressive actions. However, the best account of what transpired was written by two courageous journalists with Montreal daily Le Devoir, who went undercover wearing red squares to see what would happen. The results of their experiment are hair raising, and must be read to be understood (English translation + French original).

In Montreal right now, you may be arrested en masse for participating in a peaceful demonstration. You may be stopped and searched, even arrested, for wearing a political symbol. You may be beaten in the street for no reason, as happened to two tourists a few days ago. You may end up with a concussion, broken ribs, bones and lacerations from batons. You may lose an eye, as has happened twice, or an ear. If you’re media, especially CUTV which has been broadcasting live from all the demonstrations, you may be specifically targeted, and have your camera broken repeatedly.

You no longer need do anything to find yourself a target of police violence and arrest. Simply expressing your dissent, through peaceful protest, or even the wearing of a symbol, is now enough to make you a target.

In the streets of Quebec our people bleed for the dream of a better world, or simply one where governments defend the common good, instead of selling it to the highest bidder. They are tired, dog tired, after almost fifty straight nights of marching. They are scared, reasonably so, of arrest, injury or worse.

But they continue. They do not give an inch. They fight this battle for themselves, but also for all of us. Quebec is the front line of a global struggle.

The brave souls here in Quebec need your solidarity. Can you spare an hour to give it to them?

This Wednesday night at 8 p.m., for the third straight week, people across Canada and around the world will join together and bang their pots and pans in the joyous exercise known here as casseroles. Last week over 125 communities participated, from Brussels to Montevideo, New York to Saltspring Island, Tatamagouche to Dawson City.

Go to the national Casseroles Night in Canada Facebook page and find your community! If you’re not on the list, start your own casseroles. Simply pick a central location, create a Facebook event, post it on the national page and share it with your friends. Then post your photos and videos on the national page so we can keep track of what happened where.

Beyond Wednesday, our next big Casseroles Night in Canada will take place on Friday the 22nd of June. Timed to coincide with the largest rally yet in Quebec, which may exceed half a million people, we are asking everyone to build toward large rallies on that day to send a strong message of support to Quebec.

Wednesday also marks the 13 Heroes national day of action against the federal budget. With the terrifying omnibus budget expected to pass early Thursday, LeadNow.ca has organized rallies at Conservative MP offices and support locations across the country at 5:30 p.m. They are calling on 13 Conservative MPs to break ranks and vote against the budget. Visit the 13 Heroes website to find your local action, or sign up to host one in your community.

As Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Brigette DePape, union leader Louis Roy and others said at a conference in Montreal this weekend, we need a common front against governments which are dismantling our democracy across the country.

So please, bring your casseroles to the 13 Heroes rallies, and bring your friends from 13 Heroes to the casseroles. Together we are strong, but as Raul Berbano of Latin American NGO Common Frontiers said this weekend: “We can’t start the revolution from Starbucks.”

So start by sharing this article, the Casseroles Facebook page and the 13 Heroes website far and wide. Then take your love and solidarity into the streets.

You won’t only be helping Quebec’s social movement, or taking a stand against an unjust budget, you’ll be helping to build your community, and strengthening your ties to your neighbors.

I’ll see you there!

 

I’m occasionally witty, but more often outraged, @EthanCoxMTL on twitter. Follow me!

protests Casseroles
Casseroles

As a student living in Ontario, I pay more for tuition than Quebec students. I don’t have any scholarships. I pay full price. If I was told I would be paying around $450+ more a year, I honestly wouldn’t care. I really fail to see why students in Quebec are taking this so difficultly.

And why is that? Why does Quebec seemingly expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter filled with cheese curds? Why? Keep in mind, this is the same province that got its panties in a bunch when the Montreal Canadiens hired a coach who couldn’t speak French. Everything has to be a certain way in Quebec. And if it’s not done “right”, or different, then everyone goes bonkers. Can’t turn right on a red light either. Gah.

I have heard numerous attempts by Quebec students and their supporters to make the protests (riots) seem acceptable. Things such as claiming that the Quebec students are doing it for all of Canada, or that the real issue is debt. If you don’t want debt, don’t pay for something you can’t afford. It’s that simple. But such is the issue with the left-wing ideology. Even NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair can’t handle his affairs. But that’s besides the point. The thing is, in the real world, things are not just handed to you. I’ve learned this throughout my life. I would have hoped others would have too.

The issue I have with a lot of these students is what they think they’re going to get with a pointless degree. Majoring in 17th century art history sounds interesting, but you’re not going to get a job with that major. You’re wasting your time. And wanting the government – the tax payer – to waste our money, your time, and not accomplish anything just isn’t how the world works. I was taking film of all things. Film. Then I dropped out because I realized no one is going to care whether or not I know three characters from an old Mexican film no one has ever heard of, wants to see, or wishes to read about on IMDb. There’s just too many basket-weaving courses out there and there aren’t enough baskets that need weaving in the world for everyone. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.

The whole argument that it’s all of Canada Quebec is fighting for is utter lunacy. I have not seen a single Canadian flag at any of these protests. Instead, I constantly see the blue and white symbol of entitlement. The flag that resembles a province that doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the rest of Canada. A province of xenophobia and bills far worse than Bill 78. How about before Bill 78 gets shredded, a certain other bill is destroyed first? That’s what I want. And I could give you 101 reasons why too, but I’m not going to. At least, if such an event were to occur, it would make me nod in approval to my neighbouring province. Maybe not in respect. But just a friendly nod. You know, like when you see your neighbor take out the trash every garbage day?

The point is, Quebec should suck it up. If you don’t want to pay anything, work hard, and get a scholarship. If you are going to accumulate debt, make sure you know what you’re doing with your life so you can actually pay it back. Grow some balls (they don’t have to be large, just visible), and do something with your life other than acting like the big bad government is out to get you, because it’s not. The fact is, I find this utterly pathetic. There’s no revolution happening. There’s nothing worth fighting for. There is just so much more you can be doing right now than marching in the street, screaming and rioting. I’ll leave you with this…

The following is an open letter signed by 109 Chilean student leaders and academics:

The undersigned Chilean academics and student leaders denounce before the national and international public opinion the persecution of the Quebec student movement in Canada, as expressed in Bill 78, enacted on Thursday May 19 by the Provincial Government of Premier Jean Charest.

Bill 78, the “truncheon law”, is the most severe piece of legislation since the War Measures Act was used during the October Crisis in 1970, and has been denounced by the President of the Quebec Bar Association, Amnesty International, the League for Human Rights, four major unions, and various academic bodies.

The bill infringes on Quebec citizens’ freedoms by restricting fundamental aspects of their freedoms of expression, protest, and association, consecrated in the Canadian Constitution and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

This bill not only affects the students who have been on strike protesting against the tuition hike for the past 15 weeks; it also severely affects the rights of all citizens – especially professors, academics, and workers – whose rights to expression and association are also being affected.

Among the measures, we denounce those that prevent the spontaneous demonstrations of any group of more than fifty people, the prohibition of protests within fifty meters of any academic institution, strengthening the power of police forces by allowing them to decide whether a protest is legal or not at any moment, or whether an individual is an instigator.

Similarly, it punishes all public expressions of support for these mobilizations. For example, no one may restrict students’ entry to schools and universities during times of conflict under penalty of heavy fines for individuals, the student associations to which they may belong, as well as for workers’ and student union leaders. These fines vary from $1,000 to $125,000.

The leaders of student associations have announced that they will file legal motions against Bill 78 for its unconstitutional nature and they have called for the solidarity of all citizens.

The people of Quebec have supported the Chilean people for many long years through their active solidarity. Today, we feel compelled to express and demonstrate our full solidarity with their student associations and leaders, unions, and citizens’ movement. We do this not only in solidarity, but also because we understand that any attack against freedoms in any part of this globalized world, is an attack against our own freedoms. The Chilean government’s so-called “Hinzpeter law” adopts the same repressive and undemocratic measures as Bill 78.

The struggles of Quebec students, academics and workers are also our struggles.

Santiago, Chile, May 24, 2012

 

Signed
1. Sergio Grez Toso, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
2. María Eugenia Domínguez, journalist, faculty member of the University of Chile.
3. Gabriel Boric, President, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
4. Camila Vallejo Dowling, Vice-President, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
5. Felipe Ramírez, General Secretary, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
6. Andrés Fielbaum, Communications Secretary, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
7. Pablo Soto Arrate, Executive Director of the Learning Centre of the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
8. Rodrigo Cárdenas Cabezas, General Secretary, University of Magallanes Student Federation, Punta Arenas.
9. Sebastián Aylwin Correa, Vice-President, Law School Student Centre, University of Chile.
10. Francisco Figueroa, former Vice-President, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
11. Loreto Fernández, former President, Faculty of Social Science Student Centre, University of Chile (2011); current Delegate for Well-being, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH).
12. Health Students Council, University of Chile.
13. Eloisa González Dominguez, Spokesperson, Manuel de Salas High School Student Assembly;Spokesperson, Secondary-School Students of Santiago, Coordination Assembly (ACES).
14. Gabriel González, President, National Institute Alumni Centre (CAIN) 2012, Santiago.
15. Álvaro Fernández, President, Vocational High School Student Government (GELA), 2011-2012, Santiago.
16. Matías Cárdenas, former Spokesperson (2011),Vocational High School; current Executive Secretary, Vocational High School Student Government (GELA), 2011-2012, Santiago.
17. Tamara Castro, President, Carmela Carvajal de Prat High School Student Centre, Providencia, Santiago.
18. Diego Bautista Cubillos Polo, Executive Secretary, Barros Arana Internado Nacional Student Centre, Santiago.
19. Jorge Silva, President, José Victorino Lastarria High School Student Centre, Providencia, Santiago.
20. Camila Hernández, President, Tajamar High School Student Centre, Providencia, Santiago.
21. Moisés Paredes, former Spokesperson, Arturo Alessandri Palma High School, Providencia, Santiago; current representative of students who have been expelled and have lost their scholarship to this high school.
22. Camila Fuentes, President, Providencia 7 High School Student Centre (CELIS) 2012, Santiago.
23. Sebastián Vielmas, former General Secretary (2011), Catholic University of Chile Student Federation (FEUC).
24. Pablo Oyarzún Robles, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
25. Eduardo Flores Retamal, President, University of Chile Veterinary School Student Centre.
26. Carlos Ruiz Encina, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Chile.
27. José Aylwin, lawyer, faculty member of the University Austral of Chile, Valdivia.
28. Manuel Loyola, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
29. Ariel Russel García, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH) from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.
30. Diego Corvalán, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH); former General Secretary of the University of Chile Social Sciences Student Centre.
31. Faride Zerán, journalist, faculty member of the University of Chile, winner of the National Award for Journalism (2007).
32. Felipe Portales Cifuentes, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Chile.
33. Alexis Meza Sánchez, historian, former leader of the University of Concepción Student Federation.
34. Carlos Ossandón Buljevic, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
35. Pedro Rosas Aravena, historian, Director of the University ARCIS School of History and Social Sciences.
36. Jonás Chnaidemann, biologist, faculty member and university senator of the University of Chile.
37. Marcelo Santos, social communications, educator and consultant in communications and democracy.
38. Pierina Ferretti, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
39. Luis Casado, engineer with CESI (France), advisor of the Mining Confederation of Chile.
40. Mario Matus González, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
41. Jorge Pinto Rodríguez, historian, faculty member of the University of la Frontera, Temuco.
42. Ignacio Díaz Concha, General Secretary, University of Chile Baccalaureate Student Centre.
43. Víctor de la Fuente, journalist, Director of the Chilean edition of Le Monde Diplomatique.
44. Carlos Sandoval Ambiado, historian, faculty member of the University of Los Lagos and of the University Viña del Mar.
45. Germán F. Westphal, linguist, Chilean-Canadian citizen.
46. Isabel Cassigoli, sociologist, faculty member of the University ARCIS.
47. Margarita Iglesias Saldaña, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
48. Ángela Vergara, historian, faculty member of California State University, Los Angeles, USA.
49. Jorge Chuaqui K., sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso, President of the National Association of Mental Health Services Beneficiaries (ANUSSAM).
50. Félix J. Aguirre D., sociologist and political scientist, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso.
51. Julio Pinto Vallejos, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
52. Mauricio Barría Jara, playwright, faculty member of the University of Chile.
53. Darcie Doll Castillo, PhD in Literature, faculty member of the University of Chile.
54. Carlos Molina Bustos, surgeon and historian, faculty member of history in the School of Public Health in the University of Chile and the University of Viña del Mar.
55. Francisco de Torres, General Spokesperson for the Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities Postgraduate Student Assembly at the University of Chile.
56. Isabel Jara, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
57. Pedro Bravo Elizondo, PhD in Literature, faculty member of Wichita State University, Kansas,USA.
58. José del Pozo, historian, faculty member of the Université de Québec à Montreal, Canada.
59. Marco Rodríguez W., sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso.
60. Igor Goicovic Donoso, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
61. Gabriel Muñoz, Coordinator, History Students Assembly of the University of Chile.
62. Bárbara Brito, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH), Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities.
63. Benjamín Infante, Advisor, University of Chile Student Federation (FECH), Faculty of Philosophy and Humanities.
64. Manuel Jesús Hidalgo Valdivia, economist.
65. Juan Carlos Gómez Leyton, political scientist, faculty member of the University ARCIS.
66. Iván Ljubetic Vargas, historian, former faculty member of the University of Chile campus in Temuco.
67. Rodrigo Contreras Molina, anthropologist, faculty member of the University of la Frontera, Temuco.
68. Marcelo Garrido Pereira, geographer, Head of the Geography Department at the University Academy of Christian Humanism.
69. Javier Sandoval Ojeda, former President of the University of Concepción Student Federation,(1996-1997).
70. Mario Valdés Vera, historian, faculty member of the University of Concepción.
71. Pablo Aravena Núñez, faculty member of the University of Valparaiso.
72. César Cerda Albarracín, historian, faculty member of the Metropolitan Technological University.
73. Paz López, Academic Coordinator, Masters in Cultural Studies, University ARCIS.
74. María Soledad Jiménez, historian, faculty member of the University Academy of Christian Humanism.
75. Mario Garcés Durán, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile, Director of ECO Communications.
76. Rodrigo Zúñiga Contreras, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
77. Sergio Rojas Contreras, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
78. Carmen Gloria Bravo Quezada, historian, faculty member of the University of Santiago de Chile.
79. Miguel Valderrama, historian, faculty member of the University ARCIS.
80. Kevin Villegas, sociologist, faculty member of the University Pedro de Valdivia campus in Chillán.
81. Alonso Serradell Díaz, Master in Citizenship and Human Rights: Ethics and Policy, University of Barcelona.
82. Catherine Valenzuela Marchant, profesor, doctoral student in History at the University of Chile.
83. Viviana Bravo Vargas, historian, doctoral student in Latin American Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
84. Enrique Fernández Darraz, sociologist and historian.
85. Florencia Velasco, BA in Literature and masters student in Literature at the University of Chile, Universidad de Chile, editor of Lom Editions.
86. Blaise Pantel, faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Political Science, Catholic University of Temuco.
87. Sebastián Ríos Labbé, lawyer, faculty member of the University of Chile.
88. Oscar Zapata Cabello, student delegate for the School of Chemistry, Faculty of Sciences at the University of Chile.
89. Evelin Ledesma Cruz, volunteer and activist with the Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
90. Laureano Checa, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) of the University of Chile.
91. Lorena Antezana Barrios, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) ofthe University of Chile.
92. Milton Godoy Orellana, historian, faculty member of the University Academy of Christian Humanism.
93. José Miguel Labrín, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) of the University of Chile.
94. Ximena Poo Figueroa, faculty member of the Communication and Image Institute (ICEI) of the University of Chile.
95. José Alberto de la Fuente, PhD in Literature, faculty member of the Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez Catholic University.
96. Jorge Gonzalorena Döll, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
97. Sandra Oyarzo Torres, matron, faculty member of the University of Chile.
98. Luis Castro, historian, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
99. Patricio Troncoso Ovando, production engineer, former President of the Federico Santa María Technical University Student Federation (FEUTFSM) at the Talcahuano campus (2001-2003).
100.Gonzalo Ojeda Urzúa, sociologist, faculty member of the University of Valparaíso.
101.Valentina Saavedra, former President of the Architecture Students’ Centre, current Advisor for the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH) Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism.
102.Cristián Pozo, sociologist.
103.Francisco Herrera, philosopher, faculty member of the University of Chile.
104.Eleonora Reyes, historian, faculty member of the University of Chile.
105.Jorge Weil, economist, faculty member of the University of Los Lagos, Osorno.
106.Aldo González Becerra, biologist, faculty member of the Autonomous University of Madrid, researcher with the Superior Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Spain.
107.Luis Mundaca, union leader of the Heineken Union Federation – CCU Chile, General Secretary of the Vocational High School Parents and Guardians Centre, Santiago.
108.Rodrigo Roco, former President of the University of Chile Student Federation (FECH), (1997).
109.Virginia Vidal, author.