In Quebec It’s Official: Mass Movement Leads to Victory for Students September 22, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis, Education, Quebec.
Tags: jean charest, maple spring, naomi klein, parti quebecois, pauline marois, quebec, quebec election, quebec strike, roger hollander, student protest, student strike, student tuition, students
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Published on Friday, September 21, 2012 by Common Dreams
Naomi Klein: ‘This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win.’
Students protesting the rise in tuition fees demonstrate in Montreal Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
After a year of revolt which became known as the “Maple Spring”—including massive street protests that received global attention—university students across Quebec were celebrating victory on Thursday night following the announcement from newly elected Premier Pauline Marois that the government was cancelling the proposed tuition hike that led to the student uprising and nullifying the contentious Bill 78 law which was introduced to curb the powerful protests.
“It’s a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which is the largest student association with about 125,000 students. “It’s a new era of collaboration instead of confrontation.”
“Together we’ve written a chapter in the history of Quebec,” she added. “It’s a triumph of justice and equity.”
Well-known Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, responded to the news by tweeting:
And, “Bravo to the striking students,” tweeted Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for the Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) during the most tumultous and pitched episodes of the student mobilization, in French:
Marois’ announcement followed her very first cabinet meeting and was a fulfillment of promises she made during her recent campaign against the former premier, Jean Charest. For his part, Charest became the prime target of ire for students during their fight against the tuition hikes and following the passage of Bill 78, which he signed. The most odious sections of Bill 78, which later became Law 12, will be nullified by decree, said Marois.
The Montreal Gazette reports:
Whichever side of the debate you were on, there was no denying the significance of the moment. Marois, who was criticized by the Liberals for wearing a symbolic red square in solidarity with students for much of the conflict, made a promise to cancel the tuition increase — and she moved quickly to fulfill that commitment.
Students, who organized countless marches and clanged pots and never wavered from their goal of keeping education accessible with a tuition freeze, seemed at last to have triumphed definitively.
The various student groups, which range from the more radical CLASSE to the less strident FEUQ, do not share all the same political goals or tactics, but it is unquestionable that their shared movement helped lead to the downfall of the Charest government, paved the path for Marois victory, and culminated in yesterday’s victory.
As CBC News reports:
“It’s certain that we were very present[...] during the election to make sure that Charest, who was elected with a weak majority vote in 2008, was not reelected,” said Desjardins.
Another more militant student association, CLASSE — the Coalition Large des Association pour une Solidarite Syndicale Étudiante — has as its central mandate a goal to keep fighting for free tuition. But Desjardins said FEUQ plans a calmer approach on pressure tactics.
Desjardins said she does not believe CLASSE’s campaign for free tuition will negatively impact the FEUQ’s plans. She pointed out that both groups had clearly outlined their differences during the student crisis.
The FEUQ president also said a consensus between the government and all student associations is possible.
Tags: benjamin shingler, graham hughes, michael moore, mick jagger, montreal police, montreal protest, police brutality, quebec, quebec liberals, quebec strike, roger hollander, snl, student strike, student tuition
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Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS
For the second night in a row, police clashed with protesters repeatedly into the late hours Sunday in a chaotic scene that left at least 300 arrested and 20 injured, including 11 police officers. At least one person was taken to hospital with what emergency services called “non-life threatening injuries.”
Windows were smashed, construction cones and signs tossed into the streets, and there were reports a fire hydrant was burst open at the same spot where a bonfire was lit a night earlier.
Riot police used tear gas and sound grenades to try to break up the protest, which was deemed illegal moments after it began for not complying with the new law. The result was a series of violent exchanges between small groups of protesters and police in pockets throughout the downtown core.
One video circulated online captured what appeared to be a police cruiser moving forward briefly with a protester on the hood, before the protester jumped off to the side and the cruiser sped away. Police later denied a rumour that a person had been run over.
Two journalists from local newspapers also reported being arrested and later released.
The legislation passed Friday was intended to put an end to three months of student protests, but it appears only to have given the movement momentum.
“I think the government put the police in a difficult situation,” said protester Nino Gabrielli, who got his Master’s last fall at a Montreal university. “I think the population is mobilizing around this thing.”
As the scenes of unrest played out in the city the movement also gained some celebrity support.
Montreal’s Arcade Fire wore the movement’s iconic red squares during an appearance with Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live. Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore also gave his support to the students, featuring links about the issue prominently on his website.
“Their uprising is inspiring,” he tweeted to over a million followers. “One of the most amazing mass protests of the year.”
The global hacker collective Anonymous took an interest as well, releasing two videos denouncing the legislation and the planned tuition increases. The group, which regularly hacks into government websites around the world, warned of future actions in Quebec.
“Resistance is futile,” a computer-modulated voice stated in one video. “The hour of war has come.”
The website for the Quebec Liberal party and the province’s Education Ministry were down for portions of the weekend in an apparent cyber attack. Anonymous, however, did not claim responsibility.
The newfound support came during a weekend marked by violence and vandalism. The unrest reached a climax with a blaze of plastic traffic cones and construction materials lit Saturday during a melee on a busy downtown street.
Meanwhile, police came under criticism on Sunday over an altercation caught on video that shows patrons on a bar patio getting pepper sprayed.
Surveillance footage, played in a loop on one of Quebec’s all-news stations, shows several people sprayed by riot police at close range. Customers are seen scrambling to get inside the bar as a police officer knocks over tables and chairs.
Another video from a local TV station shows the officers took action after one was hit by a flying chair. The chair was then flung back toward the patio. The bar owner said police went too far and he’s considering taking legal action.
“People were falling on each other running inside to get away from the pepper spray, breaking things, and then people left by the back exit,” said Martin Guimond, who runs the Saint Bock brasserie in the city’s lively Latin Quarter. His waitress was initially going to call 911 after it happened.
“And then she said, ‘But wait, it’s the police that are doing this,’” Guimond recalled. “That’s when you realize there’s a total loss of security.”
Police didn’t return a request Sunday for comment about the incident, which occurred only steps from where the fires were set.
Police were newly armed on the weekend with Bill 78, which lays out regulations governing demonstrations of over 50 people. It includes requiring organizers to give eight hours’ notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they’re being held.
The City of Montreal also adopted a new bylaw that threatens protesters who wear masks with heavy fines. But it failed to deter dozens of protesters from wearing masks Saturday or Sunday night, and police said they would use the new law with discretion.
Montreal police took a tougher stance on the weekend than previously seen during the nightly marches. The march was almost immediately declared illegal on both Saturday and Sunday because, police said, they weren’t provided with a protest route and bottles and rocks were thrown at police.
In appreciation of the Quebec student strike May 8, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
Tags: anne lagace-dowson, Canada, education, elise moser, quebec, quebec government, quebec strike, roger hollander, student protest, student strike, student tuition, students, tuition hikes, youth unemployment
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| May 8, 2012
Like sap rising in spring, the printemps érable showcases the talents and humour of Quebec students. Here are some examples:
Red-clad students board subway cars during the morning rush hour on the orange line of the metro. One per car, they stand silently looking straight ahead. When the car stops they get out, position themselves at equal intervals along the platform so that when the metro pulls out of the station passengers see a blur of red.
Red, the colour of radical movements, has been taken over by the students, who wear red knitted or crocheted squares, or squares of red felt, attached with a safety pin. Or just a plain old square of red duct tape.
Music students perform a professional calibre “Sacre du printemps” by Igor Stravinsky to cheer the protesters, a piece that sent the Paris establishment into paroxysms of rage when it was first played in the spring of 1913.
Students build red cubes, using them as part of a piece of street theatre at the Earth Day demonstration, the biggest demonstration in the history of Canada and Quebec.
Videos, installation art, signs brandished by philosophy students in Latin and Greek. Fine arts students make picket signs with wonderfully detailed portraits of Quebec politicians.
Poems, songs, videos and music clips. If the purpose of an education is to learn how to think creatively, then the education system is working.
For 40 years, older people have lamented self-absorbed, apolitical youth. Now that so many have taken their ideas to the streets, many of those same observers are outraged, calling them spoiled, pointing to their iPads and Starbucks coffees as evidence.
The unemployment rate for young people is at 14 percent and most of them end up burdened with huge debt when they graduate. Many students work while studying — 20 or more hours per week. They may have a Starbucks coffee from time to time. So what?
Supporters of the Occupy movement in New York speak admiringly of the Quebec student mobilization.
The Occupied Wall Street Journal, the newspaper of the movement, writes: “A deep democratic movement, something most of us have never seen and scarcely imagined, turned a small park near Wall Street into the centre of a global storm. Everybody knows the deck is stacked. But it turns out not everyone is willing to put up with it.”
Beautifully written, and who would have thought that the Quebec branch of this worldwide mobilization, with 300,000 people in the streets, would have become the most stupendous of all? Quebecers in the streets are united, with the world marching. Everyone knows something is profoundly wrong — with the economy, with the environment, with the political system, corrupted with cash.
André Pratte, chief editorialist of La Presse, who is in favour of the tuition fee increase, compares the upheaval to May 1968. Students around the world protested against the war in Vietnam and demanded a voice in their education. In 1970, four students were shot down and killed at Kent State University in Ohio. You have probably heard the song by Canadian Neil Young that starts with the line, “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming…”
When it was all over, students had a say in the running of educational institutions.
Quebec’s student strike perplexes, annoys, thrills. Montreal writer Elise Moser says she supports it for three reasons:
a) The more accessible education is, the fairer, more stable and richer a society is, because we can develop the resources of all our people, not just the thin layer of entitled wealthy who can pay for education. That seems obvious, doesn’t it?
b) The strike is not just against a tuition hike, it’s for a much broader vision of an equitable society.
c) The investment in an undergrad degree produces much higher economic returns to the state than an equal amount in subsidies to industry.
On March 22, at least 100,000 people protested peacefully in the streets of Montreal against the tuition fee hike. That was the first sign that something really big was underway. In another song of the 60s, Bob Dylan sang, “Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”
The tuition fee hike amounts to a 75 per cent increase over five years – $325 per year for five years. About $325-million in all. The cost of the fiasco of a new building constructed by the Université du Québec à Montréal called L’Îlot Voyageur: $500-million. So why the insistence on the fee hike?
Ideology. An election promise. The need to be seen to be fiscally responsible.
After the World Trade Center attacks, social activism declined. The gap between the 1 per cent and the 99 per cent grew. Now over ten years later a new generation of activists is looking around and saying, ‘Wait a minute, this system is not so great. The neo-liberal model led to a worldwide financial crisis that brought the world economy almost to its knees. Just what is so great about the status quo?’
It has always been easier to stand back, cross your arms and do nothing. To go along with things as they are. But the reason we have public education, votes for women, public healthcare, libraries and paved roads is because people who didn’t just go along with the status quo built systems that defended the interests of the people.
They were called names too — “communists,” “anarchists,” “agitators.”
I was struck by an interview I saw with a government minister who said she doesn’t like demonstrations. No one likes demonstrations, Minister. It’s just that sometimes demonstrations are the only tool people have to make themselves heard.
Let the last word go to filmmaker Hugo Latulippe, excerpted from the poem he wrote called Nous sommes des millions, published in Voir:
“Puis, raillé nos enfants insurgés.
Minimisé l’envergure du geste, la largeur des idées.
Minimisé les milliers d’entre eux dans la rue.
“Nous sommes arrivés à ce qui commence.
Le feu a pris pour de bon.
Nous sommes des millions.”
Anne Lagacé-Dowson is director general of the anti-bullying Tolerance Foundation. She is an award winning broadcast journalist and political analyst.
This article was originally published in The Hour and is reprinted here with permission.