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Quebec’s student protests: righteous anger, shame about the execution

Perversely, they add legitimacy to the government’s argument for a special law to end the strike


 

Paul Chiasson/CP Images

At last, it's come true!

About a year and a half ago, sister mag L’Actualité published a rebuttal issue to our fun and frameable Bonhomme cover entitled Quebec: The Most Corrupt Province In Canada. Their cover picture depicted a pack of righteously outraged Bonhommes armed with (I think) vuvuzelas, marching in the street against corruption. The idea, of course, was that Quebecers were furious with corruption-addled Liberal government, and weren’t going to take it anymore.

I thought it was a neat-o picture. My friend/colleague Patrick Lagacé, not so much. “Bah,” he said when he saw the cover. “Quebecers don’t protest in the streets unless it’s over a hockey team.”

Ouch.

And yet, he’s right, isn’t he? Despite being in power for nearly 10 years, most of which in the doldrums of public opinion, there has been no large-scale, grassroots protest against the Charest government. This is even more incredible given the numerous scandals (here, here, here and most recently here, for starters) over the last three or so years.

In fact, far from protesting the government, Quebecers keep re-electing it to office: Jean Charest’s Liberals are the only government since Duplessis to win three consecutive terms. If, as the polls suggest, Quebecers aren’t happy with the Charest government, they certainly haven’t done much about it. Meanwhile, the only blue march we’ve seen was a festive affair to (playfully) cajole the NHL into anointing Quebec City with a hockey team. Several thousands attended. And yes, there were plenty of vuvuzelas.

Which brings us to the current protest over tuition fees waging in the streets, Metros and, in an exceptionally unclassy episode today, in the classrooms of the province. I’m not sure when, exactly, it happened, but at some point the scope of the strike became larger even as those remaining on the street diminished. It’s at the point where CLASSE, the more radical of the four groups representing striking students, had its legitimacy challenged by Force étudiante critique, which counts among its members at least one of the alleged Metro smoke bombers.

The anti-capitalist group known as CLAC has incorporated “the fighting students” into its ranks of  “radical feminists”, “anti-capitalists, anarchists, communists” and “those who are pissed off, and are at the end of their rope.” There are huge problems with their tactics and their rhetoric, but it remains that those students (and many non-students, surely) are the only ones to wear their discontent with the current government on their sleeve. Everyone else has stayed on the couch.

Of course, their boorish tactics and yawn-inducing nihilist spiel have only alienated these noyau dur protesters from a population that might otherwise feel a certain kinship to their cause. They aren’t humanitarians, freedom fighters or anything approaching such romantic connotations. At best, they are discontents; at their worst, thugs. Perversely, they add legitimacy to the government’s argument for a special law to end the strike. Yet there isn’t an ounce of apathy to their cause. The same can’t be said for the people watching them.

There is a much better outlet for their energies: work to vote the bums out. There are two political parties that at the very least support the broad strokes of the student movement. One of them, the Parti Québécois, stands a good chance of forming the next government—and its MNAs wear the red square on their lapels! Both these parties—the other is Québec solidaire—have histories of advocating broad social change, and together occupy a huge chunk of Quebec’s left political flank. Conveniently enough, there has to be an election within the next year and a half.

Marois and company, who know a thing or three about electoral pandering, need to be held to account on their pro-student rhetoric; meanwhile, Québec solidaire needs to elect more than one MNA. The low voter turnout, fueled largely by younger people staying home on election day, only helps the incumbent Liberals.

But no. There are injunctions to break, and windows that need smashing.


 

Quebec’s student protests: righteous anger, shame about the execution

  1. There was a 250,000-signature petition to ask Charest to step down. I hear a lot of complaints against Harper, but Canadians are the last to ever mobilize against ANYTHING, in typical monarchist-cultured-anglo fashion. When we don’t protest or march, we at least talk about what is happening, about the scandals, about how things should change. And when we march, we march. Where were your hundreds of thousands of people marching on April 22nd? Do Canadians not care about the environment? Nah, the last march I heard of in Canada was for abortion!

    How did we force John Charest Inc. to make a open a public investigation commission that he kept stonewalling for months? It’s not the first time he had to change his tune, just like when he wanted to make us pay for running water.

    No, we don’t always have to march in the street to protest, but don’t point your condescending finger at us. When David Suzuki came here to tell us that he was disappointed in us for having voted for Harper, it was really a minority who had done so. But as always, anglos love to give us morale lessons, so any opportunity to do so is fair play. But in the last election, who was it that actually tried to prevent Harper from getting a majority, even if it meant losing the only party that actually directly represented us in parliament (and don’t pretend that wasn’t our aim, the Bloc is already back to the same level of support it used to enjoy)? We did voted against Harper, while the rest of David Suzuki’s compatriots voted massively for Harper. He never passed by to thank us for our effort. Typical.

    Don’t be jelly, just look away.

    • Solving things through protests is a profoundly undemocratic way of enacting change. Why should the angry few marching in the streets outweigh the great silent majority of the public (sure, sometimes the public agrees with the protesters, but more often such tactics are chosen precisely because the groups behind them know they don’t have the votes)? It is also a terrible way to conduct public policy. Instead of governments serving the median voter, you get governments that are beholden to the cranks that can yell the loudest.

      Show me a polity with a protest culture, and I’ll show you an ill-governed country. So in conclusion, God save the Queen and the Maple Leaf Forever (sorry, as a monarchist anglo-Canadian I couldn’t resist).

      • Know your history. It was always a minority who brought about positive changes for the majority, always! There was no majority protesting for free health care, free education, unemployment insurance. It was not the majority protesting for African-Americans and women’s right to vote and for equality. It was not a majority that protested to give independence to India! Yes, as a monarchist, you don’t get it, you are a conformist by nature.

        And another point, to the article writer: money keeps Charest Inc. in power, which funds ignorance and buys influence. Money has made our political system undemocratic, as the rich gain more influence than an individual should have in a democratic society.

        • I’m very well-versed in history. The most important changes – indeed, all of the ones you list, involved evolutionary steps by which activists carefully built up a broad base of support. Organic changes, characterized by compromise, have been far more durable throughout history than those fostered by angry revolution.

          1. In 1965 a majority of Canadians (58%) voted for two parties that advocated universal healthcare in their platforms (the Liberals and the NDP). This in turn was an evolution of earlier cost-sharing program implemented by the Diefenbaker Tories.

          2. Unemployment insurance was enacted by the Bennett Tories in 1935, but thrown out by the supreme court. After a constitutional amendment, UI was implemented in 1940. It is hard to attribute UI to mass protests – the On to Ottawa trek, for instance, weren’t fighting for it. Heck, even if you go back to the origins of the welfare state, it came out of Bismarck trying to buy off the working class, not a bunch of proles humming the internationale.

          3. Even before Brown v. the Board of Education, the groundwork, was laid by a gradual legal case established by the civil rights movement through the courts in order to discredit the doctrine of “separate, but equal”. For instance civil rights advocates strategically chose the case of a black law student who was the sole student in a segregated law school, knowing that the judges (having been to law school) would understand why separate was not equal in this case. By the time the Civil Rights act was enacted, it had broad support in America ( http://www.gallup.com/poll/3427/most-important-events-century-from-viewpoint-people.aspx ). Moreover, what was crucial to the success of Civil Rights protests was that – like the civil rights movement – they were broad-based.

          4. Peaceful protest is also overrated as a cause of the end of British rule in India. First, I note that virtually every British colony became independent, so it was going to happen anyway. Second, as early as the 1930s Winston Churchill confronted regular groans from the rest of parliament for his insistence on maintaining a presence in India. Gandhis willingness to cooperate with the British in WWII also helped further a deal. Moreover, Gandhi’s peaceful protests would never have succeeded without building a broad base of support for independence.

          • dude, you rock!

        • And I forgot about women, but there too you see the importance of compromise. The best predictor of when women got the right to vote in most western countries is when that country participated in a world war (it took till 1971 in Switzerland). The need for more “womanpower” on the home front forced governments to cut a deal. Of course that women’s groups existed in the first place was the result of a slow movement aimed at building a broad base of support – such as the NAWSA in the US, which had won voting rights in many states (illustrating that allowing women to vote wouldn’t cause the sky to fall). Radical groups such as the NWP (National Women’s Party) gained headlines, but undermined the cause.

          • You lost credibility with your “God save the Queen”, which at best is a reminder of our wolrd’s colonial past. It’s also good to attraction tourists to the U.K.

          • You lost your credibility when you illustrated your inability to write a coherent sentence. Although your tribal bigotry is duly noted.

          • You were just aching to make a rebuttal, and came up with the empty `typo`criticism . Nazism…nice, cheap,trendy cliché. Bigotry? Where? Go to school!

          • Clearly, your supremacist nature and tribal indoctrination have left you blinded to your own blatant, inherent anti English bigotry, a condition that renders your opinion irrelevant and your “arguments” impotent. Your lack of an education may excuse your colossal ignorance, but it’s a sorry excuse for your lack of self awareness with your own obvious intolerance.

      • Your point is well taken.

        I would suggest that all interested readers in today’s events read “1969” by Rob Fitzgerald. It’s about how a few leftist college protesters in the U.S. screamed the loudest and made college deans weak in the knees and paved the way for the radical right today. Among other things. There’s also the “Miracle Mets,” the Tate-La Bianca Murders, the Apollo 11 mission, and everything else we associate with the ’60s in the US (as well as Neil Young).

      • To every action there is a reaction: many people had to protest against being the forced subjects of the English Empire, Mr. God Save the Queen.

  2. Bill 101 is coming home to roost, people!

    These bully children of the pure laine are the legacy of the Parti Québécois, which instilled a generations with “proper” nationalist/social-democratic values rather than prepare them to assume their roles in the workplace and industry.

    It’s all about collectivity, entitlement and self-imposed isolation, all in the name of being a distinct soon-to-be independent country.

    Meanwhile, most francophones and all immigrants and anglos have been plugging away, attending school and working. Who is ahead? The spoiled brats who terrorized a law class or the students who’ve been in school for the last 3 months and are about to attain a higher level of education?

    • The ones that gave up. As always, profits today, problems later.

    • Grace Slick: “Why should I die for my country? I’ve never had a country die for me.”

      The United States is dying for the Baby Boomers, Grace Slick’s generation. While at least 30 years behind the curve, Canada is next.

      • In 30 years most of the boomers will be dead so, by your thinking, Canada will have to die for Gen X?

        • No Gen X and Gen Y will be trying to pick up the pieces of after the destruction sewn by self-indulgence of the boomers manifests. It’s unfortunate that the boomers won’t have to face the the consequence of their actions and probably won’t acknowledge responsibly for the hardships they place on their children, many won’t even be around to see it.
          Oh and the massive economic earthquake that will strike the US will have extremely destructive aftershocks in Canada, we are too closely tied for it to be otherwise.

          “May you live in interesting times”

          (Ancient Chinese curse)

          • …we should separate from planet earth…it appears somewhere in the galaxy a planet named KEPLER 22-b…looks free actually !!!

    • And also of a distant legacy of FLN Marxists who contaminated Quebec, encouraging the formation of the FLQ, and introducing this whole Marxian nonsense to Young Quebecers.

      • Yeah, there’s one of these Marxians and marxists on this very forum.

    • …and to prove it, make a racial visual profiling with the videos online, how many protesters are not caucasian and francophones????

    • What’s wrong with social democracy? It supports legal entitlements in social rights for citizens such as universal access to health care, chid care and advocates freedom from discrimination based on differences of: ability/ disability,
      age, class, ethnicity, gender, language, race, religion, and sexual orientation
      … Sounds pretty good to me. As for the students protesting, I haven’t figured that one out yet. Maybe it’s because of their youth, they want to change things according to their idealistinc view of society. It’s a generational thing, I would say. I think they make good points on a number of issues.
      Oh-Oh latest news, last night 69 protesters were arrested… Hate the fines. thought. We’re turning into a fine society indeed.

      • Years ago Prime Minister Uncle Louis said, to paraphrase, ‘we will have social programs when we can afford them.’ But they are not an entitlements but spin-offs from a prosperous period which the 50s and 60s were. These may temporarily be “legal entitlements’ but they are a by-product of a vibrant capitalist mixed economy, a privilege of being a Canadian, not an inalienable right.

        That’s the trouble with whatever that protesting generation is called, they are privileges not permanent rights regardless of what the left wing says. Even the soviets found out that the essence of economics operates no matter what the politics.

        Yes we are turning into a fine society where elected officials finally call the bluff of these spoiled children and bring them into line.

  3. These wannabe anarchists are protesting the rising cost of tuition in La Belle Province because it’s the issue du jour. Kids just gotta have something to protest. Several years down the line, when their own kids are ready for university, they’re going to balk at having to pay for their own kids’ college. Why? Because they aren’t used to paying their way now and they won’t be 10 or 20 years down the line when they finally have to be adults. When these so-called socialists run out of other people’s money, they won’t want to come up with their own. Today’s leftists are tomorrow’s libertarians.

    • i don’t agree with your sweeping generalization about libertarians. It makes you look right-wing.

      • You don’t have to be right-wing to laugh at your ‘libertarians’. Go south young man/woman; they’ll love you down there.

        • “Go south (…)” ?? Makes no sense to me.

    • I partly agree because it is used to the provincial government as a distraction away from bigger corrupt plans such as Le Plan Nord which is to sell off the northern natural resources for personal gain.

  4. ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’
    JFK 1962

    • Lawless are they that make their wills their law.
      William Shakespeare

      • Well law does stem from the will of the people. It all depends on whether to majority will see things the same way.

  5. There is NOTHING whatever righteous about the students’ anger. They are pampered, spoiled, lawless, thuggish, and a disgrace to their parents, their province and themselves.

    • They may be pampered and the like, but if you dig a bit, you may find some interesting food for thought different from Tim Hortons fare.

  6. I’m still mystified as to how a Province that has been under the rule of National Socialism for the last 40 years could produce so many Marxists. What happened to National Socialism when it was imposed in 1930’s 40’s Germany ? Oh well… I guess we’ll never know.

    • Fuck off, “Marx”. Nothing nazi about Quebec.

      • Good comeback 14th fart, and convincing too !

        • No convincing needed. Ignorant comments like ‘nazi’ do not need to be dignified with any other response. You figure that your utter lack of debating skills is adequalty compensated by your use of simplistic soundbites and clichés..which happened to be a favourite technique used by your friends the Nazis and Co.

          • So, 14th fart believes that drooling “Fuck Off” is an example of accomplished debating skills… LOL… Thats funny 14th fart… You’re instinctual use of profanity and your inexplicable self importance are clear examples of you’re inherent supremacist nature, but ultimately irrelevant. If imposed tribal supremacy, ethnic cleansing, isolationism, mob rule, historical revisionism and intolerance of other cultures are not all examples of National Socialism then perhaps you’re supremacist nature also renders you historically, and conveniently ignorant.

          • ?? nazism ?? You poor sole soul, you must have been attacked by some very vicious French words; you need help.

          • Heh, I appreciate your concern 14th fart, but I can assure you that I couldn’t care less what language you force others to speak, however I do think it “vicious” to force others to pay for it.

          • Oh, the histrionics!… “tribal supremacy, (…) ethnic cleansing”??? Easy, cheap shots from the cheap tabloids. Do you really have to confuse this term with preserving a language for the purposes of blah, blah, blah?? If it were indeed ethnic cleansing as you say, the United Nations would have passed resolutions regarding humans rights in Quebec blah, blah, blah. However, the UN didn’t, because there are no huan rights violations. This, however, connot be said for sure regarding your beloved Israel, there’s a bunch of these human rights violations, and so on, blah, blah. You, as many others, have a convenient scapegoat for dumping your frustrations. You use all the verbal pyrotechnics you want, but at the end of the day, you’re still not thinking straight.

          • Your supremacist nature and tribal indoctrination is showing… again. In fact in 1993 the UN humans rights committee ruled that Bill 101 broke an international covenent on civil and political rights. Legislating “culture’ ( at the expense of others freedom) is NOT the same as having culture. My “beloved Israel ???” What does Israel have to do with this ? Ethnic cleansing… In the last 40+ years hundreds of thousands of English speaking Quebecers have been forced out of that former British Crown Colony through intimidation, neglect and Government legislated bigotry and intolerance. No my friend, it is you that has lost the ability to think straight… however, isolationism does have that effect.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • You say Quebec in a Nazi state (unless you meant sometthing else by National Socialism).
            Funny, so many English speaking Canadians and Americans want to come here…a lot; they love the way of life; they just love it. There was no intimidation in the aftermath ofthe 1976 Parti Québecois election win: the Anglos were pissed off that from henceforth the French Canadians would be able to assert their culture . Everyone has the same civil rights in Quebec. As for the language, well they’re trying to protect it; not everyone agreesI But more importantly, I can’t conceive that you believe in all the trite bullshit you’re dumping here; I hope it’s because you’re trying to wind me up, in which case bring it on.

          • Quebec is a beautiful place, the British, mainly Scottish and Irish, built and payed for a lovely Province. The resemblance of Montreal and Quebec city to Glasgow and Edinburough is remarkable and historic. Your misguided assertion that the English speaking builders of Quebec were “pissed off” because french speakers would be able to assert their “culture” is frankly, delusional. Legislating “culture” is NOT the same as having culture. Anglos had their historic rights taken away by tribal french speakers through the imposition of unjust bigoted laws that virtually outlawed the English language. Restrictions and bans on the use of English are employed primarily to ethnically cleanse the Province of it’s English history and influence. The preposterous excuse that the many bigoted legislated bans on the use of English is a tool of “protection” for french is absurd. In Quebec some tribes are more equal then others, and the least equal is the English speaker. For you to suggest otherwise would indicate that you suffer from some sort of collectivist brain trauma, or a convenient amnesia, or perhaps you are simply lost in a Nationalist, Socialist, Tribal fog where one attempts to rationalize the irrational.

          • In the early 1960s, English was the language of money,
            work and power. That’s the way things were in Quebec just as they were in
            counteless other societies throughout history. It doesn`t matter whether the
            clergy was instrumental in perpetuating this in Quebec. The reality is that the
            francophones wanted to assert themselves, and the way they chose was through
            language. French is immersed in a “sea” of English as it were and so
            the Frenchies decided to politically promote French, The Anglos who left Quebec
            did so because they felt threatened in their way of life. They knew that they
            would have to contend with the French Pes Soups as equals; plain and simple (a
            bit like the whites who opposed the abolition of slavery, then the Black vote
            in the U.S.A.).This attitude is perfectly understandable: people don’t the
            prospect of a drop in their standard of living..so some of them left the
            province…. What’s fascinating, and indicative of your viscerally delusional
            state is that you actually believe, after using all your fancy rhetoric, that
            Quebec has been run for decades by a, or rather a succession of, Nazi
            governments (or to quote you “National Socialist”–another play on
            words to create double entendre?). And you accessorize your Nazi argument with
            convenient little sound bites such as “beautiful place, the British,
            mainly Scottish and Irish, built and payed for a lovely Province–this comment
            would apply to Toronto, though”; “outlawed the English
            language”; “ethnically cleanse”. Oh, and were you trying try to
            cover your tracks by putting a coma between your Nazi argument (“National,
            Socialist”,.while keeping the the caps)-Oh, you area crafty one, but I
            guess you’ll use any trick to keep convincing yourself. ..Oh, I get it! You’re
            a Monarchist. That’s why you butted in in the typo thing.

          • A lot of words to say nothing. Go back to high school, kiddo.

  7. I’m sick of the spin the media is putting on this, we know who your puppet masters are.

  8. Poor babies! Poor Yurks! Has anybody ever told them to get a job, earn money and then go to University. I can’t get over the sense of entitlement these brats have!

    • I couldn’ agree more….They have the lowest university costs in Canada , probably the world and still they bitch….You are right they are “Brats”….George

      • Moreover, a lot of their education and their day care is funded by positive inflows of equalization funded by you and me – the ROC taxpayers – despite their stupid claims that they are paying more and not getting enough back.

      • The world? Have you ever looked up the world’s ‘university cost’ (I think I know what you meant)? I’ll give you a point for writing ‘probably’ which at least shows a snippet of how informed you are about the world…. probably…. try looking up places like (off the top of my head) The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Norway, Denmark, El Salvador, Sweden, Finland, Chile, Peru, Iceland, Austria, Germany… but your comment is probably meant to exclude the simple fact that ‘free’ is ‘probably the lowest university costs in the world’…. I’ll probably inform myself.

    • …come on..let’s finish the diapers period first, then we’ll see….don’t rush anything…be human for heavens sake!!!

  9. I think it’s a reflection of Quebec`s culture: notice how the Liberal government has been using appeasement tactics; it’s as if the authorities don`t dare provoke them under penalty of incurring the wrath of this uncivilized mob of self-righteous, self-centered, fundamentaly iuncultivated and gnorant wanabee revolutionaries.

  10. I think that the cost of education should be covered by the country – with one stipulation – that it be tied to performance. Any student above a certain high level should not have to pay tuition, especially at a rate that leaves them graduating with a debt that would put the average person into bankruptsy. It would certainly give students an incentive to do well.
    It boggles the mind that in a country where we spend approx. $135,000.00 per year to keep a person in a federal jail, that students have to worry about their debtload when they should be worrying about their education. I also think that if governments could even eliminate 10% of the stupid ways they waste our tax dollars, that there would be more than enough ‘found’ money to cover this program.

  11. Please folks, try to stay focused…in Montreal this summer, the economy will be interesting…
    I’ve been told by a glass repair shop that he increased his income more than 200% from just the last 3 months…and what about those corner stores who are selling more RED BULLS than ever since the last 3 months…that’s the generator of an increase don’t you think???

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