What the hell is going on in Quebec?

(Photo by Philip Miresco)

Quebec is in the throes of mass protests. A prolonged student strike over tuition hikes triggered a law placing broad restrictions on the freedom to protest, and giving the police the power to arbitrarily declare even "approved" protests to be illegal. Over 500 were arrested in a single Montreal protest, after a prolonged and totally unjustifiable kettling incident. Kate McDonnell of the Montreal City Weblog was on that march, and she's graciously written us a piece on the experience:

Downtown Montreal midday Tuesday, thousands upon thousands of people poured into Place des Festivals and the surrounding areas to begin a march. Montrealers march more readily than most Canadians, but this was a special day – the 100th day of the student strike against the tuition increase ordained by the Quebec government under Jean Charest.

Charest has been premier of Quebec since 2003. A Conservative at the federal level, he jumped for the chance when the Quebec Liberal Party needed a new leader. He has nudged the party steadily rightward ever since. In recent years his government has been rocked by multiple charges of corruption and collusion, but it was the party's planned increase in university tuition fees that sparked the real furor in Quebec.

Early 2011, Charest announced his intention to end a tuition freeze with an increase of $325 per year until a university year (two terms) ends up costing $3,793 in 2017. Sporadic protests were held, but the demo of February 17, 2012 was the beginning of daily protests, mostly in the evenings, most peaceful but with occasional outbreaks by "casseurs" breaking windows, throwing rocks and bottles at police, painting things red.

Concerns about access to education were foremost: yes, Quebec still has some of the lowest tuition fees around, but Quebec taxes are very high, a fact that's tolerated because Quebecers have nearly European expectations for collective health care, education and other services. Statistics show that fewer Quebecers progress to higher education than other Canadians, probably the legacy of a time when the Catholic Church dominated the culture (a hegemony that only ended with the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s). Pundits are in disagreement whether rising tuition rates will lower university attendance.

The most recent ratcheting of tension was last week's passage of a new law, Bill 78, the loi spéciale which limits freedom of assembly, protest, or picketing on or near university grounds, or anywhere in Quebec without prior police approval. A more vaguely worded part of the bill would criminalize the act of encouraging people to demonstrate.

At the same time, Montreal adopted a new bylaw banning face coverings at demonstrations – a prohibition the mayor had attempted before but had not been able to squeeze past freedom-of-expression rules. This time the bylaw passed like butter – but it was Bill 78 that put the public's back up. Newspapers printed legal opinions that it would never withstand a rights challenge. Protesters announced immediate intention to flout the new law. Websites tauntingly demanded arrest for civil disobedience.

Tuesday's march was technically illegal from the top, because the marchers immediately broke the new rule about sticking to a route previously vetted by police. Most wore some red, as the photo shows, but it was striking how tuition wasn't the issue on the minds of the crowd: Charest's dereliction of duty and disgust with his government was the theme of the day. The presence of many people older than the usual student age was also an indicator that this is no longer simply a student revolt. Charest's failure to resolve the tuition issue by bringing in a "loi matraque" (bludgeon law), was mocked and derided with chants and signs.

This "illegal" segment of the march circulated peacefully through the heart of Montreal's downtown and business district, passing by the gates of McGill University, the headquarters of SNC-Lavalin, federal government buildings, Hydro-Quebec. There was a festival ambiance with drumming and intermittent chanting: La loi spéciale, on s'en câlisse!

The march made its way to Lafontaine Park – the goal of the initial route submitted to police – but the crowd pushed along through the park and was clearly going to keep going even as the rain started in earnest. Evening demos have started around 8:30 every day for a month, and this demonstration looked set to meld directly into it.

Later, after dark, while most of the demo remained peaceful, the usual incidents of police charges, cat-and-mouse chases and arrests that have accompanied the night demonstrations for a month came back into play. By the end of the night, 100 demonstrators had been arrested.

Now a new kind of protest has popped up: the cacerolazo or casserole demo. This is a very old grassroots form of protest, also known as rough music, the charivari – in which people come out of their homes banging on pots and pans to make a racket. At 8 p.m. Wednesday, people all over town were banging away on metal bowls and pots in their back alleys, on major street corners, coalescing into marches that moved noisily through the neighbourhoods.

Wednesday night's downtown demo was estimated at 3000 people and was peaceful but, based on Bill 78's ban against any demo not cleared with police, it was declared illegal and 400 people were rounded up and arrested.

As I write, 1:30 a.m. Friday, the Thursday evening demo that arose from a combination of the "traditional" downtown march and the neighbourhood casserole protests, is winding down peacefully. It's a lovely warm night in Montreal.

There's both a feeling that this is the end of a régime, and a tacit understanding that something drastic may happen to end the demonstrations before June 8 – Grand Prix weekend, the biggest tourism event of the year and the beginning of the city's summer festival season. As I write, news media are saying talks will reopen between the government and the student leaders early next week if both sides can clear away conditions that would make talks futile.


    1. Or you know, the whole world. Seems like everyone’s mad about something right now!

      Perhaps more significantly, mad enough to take to the streets about it.

      1. Yeah, everyone is mad about something but we (the USA) seem to have short attention spans and seem to want to put the same people we were mad at back into office all over again.

          1. Not really. I turned 21 around 1970, and have not once since voted for a Republican or Democrat. It’s very easy to push another buton two inches over from the other two, but it seems to be too much work for the vast majority of Americans, who seem determined to elect the ones that fuck them, over and over.  Americans are being fucked, and we deserve it.

            Have no doubt that, just as my radical generation did, in ten or twenty years those same young Canadians will have their cushy jobs and be voting for the same type of elected officials who are giving them the finger now.

            Collectively, then, we have the government we deserve, as do the apparently equally stupid Canadians. Human beings, as a class, appear to be unable to separate scam from truth, so when things go wrong, they have no one to blame but themselves.

            No one. But, then, humans love to whine, too, don’t they?

          2. Canada does a wayyyy better job of switching power between parties far more diverse than the US.

            If history is any tell, Harper will push his crazy too far and get swept out. Since the Liberals had a go recently and now can’t seem to get over it and with the NDP no longer able to legitimately be called socialists, when Harper and his crazy Reform sidekicks are kicked to the curb it may be a minority NDP. 

            Otherwise, it may be that the PC, which are the majority within the conservative party, will reassert themselves and kick Harper in the head along with his Cabinet, and there will be a not-crazy minority conservative option. Though I can’t see a leader at this time among them, I bet there is one.

          3. If we had a viable third party in the US, we’d be bitching that there wasn’t a fourth and that it ruined the last election (think 2000).  If we had a fourth party, we’d want a fifth.  Etc.  Basically, we are retarded.

          4. @twitter-263295344:disqus  Good for you, you’ve never voted Rublican or Democrat just like the millions of American’s that never vote you’ve made not an iota of difference.

            The US Electoral system makes it virtually impossible for 3rd parties to get anywhere at the State or Federal levels. First Past the Post is just a stupid way to elect governments.

            Australia’s system doesn’t allow much in the way of meaningful 3rd parties or independents in the lower house, but thankfully our upper house is elected in a manor that allows smaller parties to get into positions of some power, and from time to time (like now) smaller parties get a real say in both houses.

            @awjt:disqus Perhaps, but it’s not so much smaller parties faults, but instead that the FPTP electoral system makes it virtually impossible for smaller parties to win seats anywhere.

        1. It must be true, because that’s what the voting machines say.

          Too bad we can’t audit those machines.

        2. In the States, we operate under the delusion that a Tweet or Facebook post is equivalent to real world protest and voices that can be heard (and may involve more than 140 characters).

      2. There are a lot of students globally whose fees got jacked, in what seems almost like multi-national coordination. God help us if students begin coordinating internationally too. Democracy could break out.

      1. It’s true, but Provincial taxes alone don’t cover the budget. Part of the reason people are so mad at the Charest Government is that they are a wealthy province, and get much federal support, and the corruption and inept leadership of the Quebec liberals still makes their debt grow. 

    1. I’ve seen this statement made repeatedly as an argument against the students, and I read it that you are using it that way too. But I’ve never understood why “other people have it even worse” is a good reason not to protest.

          1. Ohhh man.  As a student in Alberta I can’t begin to tell you how angry this makes me.  Hey Quebec, if you want to be so independent, how about you stop taking OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY to support your cushy social programs.

            If you think we don’t have a right to tell you that hey, my tuition in Alberta is about $7,000 a year, which will still be DOUBLE what Quebec students’ will be AFTER the increases they are protesting.  (I also should mention that I pay for my education myself, by working, and that I haven’t needed any student loans, so it IS manageable)

            But back to the point. I’m begging Quebec to seperate.  Please do! Give up the 14ish billion in transfer payments that you recieve.  See how self sufficient you really are.  Learn about fiscal responsibility the hard way.

            Because clearly, responsibility isn’t something that Quebecois have an abundance of…

          2. Funk Daddy! I am a born, raised, and university educated Albertan. I agree with you.
            Rhombus: you may be a ‘student’, but your response certainly doesn’t indicate that you are learning anything.
            That troll rant seems to be copied and pasted from the Herald or Sun’s ‘comment’ sections. You know, those places that are covered in astro-turf.

          3. Rhombus:

            I sympathize with your frustration over the perequation that seems to disadvantage Alberta. But please keep in mind:

            The Quebecois students don’t want the financial burden of the tuition freeze to be taken care of by the tax payers.

            Right now the universities are subsidized per capita, and that encourages the universities to build new campuses, for instance. The students ask for an instance, a forum in which they would participate, where the management of the universities would be discussed. It’s quite clear substantial economies can be made there.

            The student associations suggest that a tax we use to collect on capital gains (0,4%) is reinstated in Quebec, wich would cover the expect of freezing the tuition rates.

            If you pay more than we for your tuition, I see a few reasons. Quebecois pay three times the sales tax than Albertans do, and twice the personal income tax Albertans do. Keep in mind we had far more generous social measures in the past than we have now, that we funded ourselves, far before the shift in the perequation deals.

            I find it shocking that -if thing are what they appear to me- you don’t get your share of the revenue generated by your province. If you think that, for the future of your province, the RESPONSIBLE thing to do is support a system that subside oil companies over you, vote for the Conservative party who choose fucking f35s over social measures (including keeping your tuition low)… Well go for it man.

            The students sacrificed a school term so far, which will diminish their revenue for life as they enter the workplace six months to a year later than planned. A lot more costly and RESPONSIBLE than just shoving it and paying the few damn thousands more, like you do.

          1. And this is the way the plutocrats keep ripping off the people, taking all the money and leaving y’all to fight over the scraps.  Its fascinating to me to watch everyone fight over money as if its anything but paper.  Somehow, when the rich are threatened with bankruptcy governments can’t seem to print money fast enough to backstop their corrupt “businesses” and “banks”, but when it comes to educating, feeding, housing and providing healthcare for the people there is simply not enough money, sorry folks — you’ll have to fight each other and hate each other over each penny one gets that the other doesn’t.  And we never learn, no matter how many times the plutocrats steal from us and print trillions to save their asses, that money is in unlimited supply, and is only constrained by things one can buy with it.  If we begin to run out of professors, food, etc., then we need to start worrying about the dreaded “inflation”.  Otherwise, there is always money for everything we need.  But the superstitious supposedly intelligent species needs its myths and illusions:  there isn’t enough money!! We can’t all have good education or healthcare!  OMG the sky will fall if we print money to pay our professors with!  So you all continue fighting and bickering with each other.  That’s exactly what the billionaires and power mad scumbags want you to do.  Artificial scarcity is the only thing that gives them their power, and they will do anything to keep that.  Fools.

          2. qatzelok:

            In the link below, deputy Bernard Drainville melts your claim like the oil industry melts the ice caps.

            He enumerates important changes that would be made in an independent Quebec. The Senate, Monarchy, F35s, the Queen’s rifle, the redevelopment of the gun registry we did’nt want to thrash , the judiciarisation of the political relationship between provincial and federal instances, the Conservatives forcing us into building prison we don’t want, the Governor General position,the numerous service overlapping are a few things of those we would gladly stop paying for.

          3. Those equalization payments equate to a fraction of what tariffs and trade would garner, making it a silly argument against sovereignty. 

            There are far and away better reasons to remain a part of Canada besides the simpleton, easily thrashed falsehood that Conservatives like to spread. 

            Being associated with Alberta’s tailings ponds is not one of them.

      1.  It’s not a reason not to protest, but it’s not an invalid point to bring up, either. One of the way that we get context in our lives and expectations is seeing how our experience compares to the experience of others. Tuitions are lower. Taxes are higher. Those are both valid points to bring into the discussion.

        If we craft our expectations from whole cloth we can get into a situation where they aren’t as informed as they otherwise could be.

      2. Yes, it’s the same people who bitch about so and so union getting a 4% raise for their members and how awful that is. No realization at all that a high tide lifts all boats eventually.

        1. Ah, “The best way for you to get more money is to give us more money first”.  Where have I heard that before?

          1. How about you unionize and strike for the same goal, then? Don’t bitch because they had the balls to do it.

      3. Specially when you know that Brazil has excellent free, public universities — which are, for the most part, better than the handful of private ones. If Brazil can have free higher education, why can’t Québec have a cheap tuition? (I am not even going to discuss the US, because it is not even fair to them)

    2. And why is this relevant to a discussion of the police conducting mass arrests to shut down the protests? Do you believe that the freedom of petition is conditioned upon having a grievance that you, personally, agree with? Or that those in power agree with?  If that’s the case, the freedom is meaningless – there’s never an issue with being free to espouse a cause that’s popular in the halls of power.

    3. The position of the student movement is free tuition. Any increase is unacceptable. Tuition freeze was the uneasy compromise that kept the detente between students and government, and now Charest spits upon it. I call that ‘a political miscalculation’. Somehow it hasn’t registered with the provincial Liberals that they’re in the middle of a province that went overwhelmingly for the NDP. They’re dead men walking until the next election and they haven’t yet noticed it.

  1. Jean Charest has been trying to establish some fiscal discipline in a province that has never known it. Their tuitions are ridiculously low especially considering the high quality of the education. This tuition increase merely compensates for the higher cost which should be borne by those who enjoy the heavily subsidized education and not by tax payers at large. Kudos to the Quebec government on not bowing out despite the pressure.

    1. High quality? It’s not even in English, for Chrissakes.

      I’m joking. My god, I swear I am.

    2. >>>Jean Charest has been trying to establish some fiscal discipline in a province that has never known it

      Please. Some of us are old enough to remember that ‘fiscal discipline’ has been the only words coming out of the PM’s mouth from even before Charest. Some of us actually had family working in the healthcare system that the PQ slashed and burn to get to Deficit Zero back in the mid-90s. It’s been a non-stop bulldozer of fiscal discipline ever since.People who think this will blow over seem to forget that Quebec almost by its lonesome was responsible for putting a social democratic party in the official opposition (“la Vague Orange”). The students are backed by the population. At some point people have to say ‘enough!’ to the neoliberal austerity measures imposed by international capital here, in Greece, in Argentina, etc.

      1. Genius!

        “Let’s spend money we don’t have on things we can’t afford!  How could that go wrong??!”

        1.  Genius!

          “Let’s cut spending on social welfare programs (on a purely ideological basis) while we simultaneously spend trillions on defense and haemorrhage public money into the private sector in the form of bailouts because we, as taxpayers, can’t afford to continue supporting the neediest sectors of society because the most privileged sectors need our money so it can eventually trickle back to us! What could possibly go wrong??!”


    3.  Wrong. Charest is trying to hand banks more corporate welfare…more fat student loan profits to be paid for the rest of their lives by working people. Banks acting like they have the right to keep people in debt to them for the rest of their lives just for a college education.

      1. Wait, isn’t it like $4000 a year? The interest rate had better be about 200% to make that worthwhile.

        I think the more sympathetic point is the Draconian law fuzzy references below.

        1.  I think good smart use of power of governance would be keep taking money from the WalMart heirs to pay for all our tuition and health care. Just like Norway and Sweden.

      2.  I go to school in Alberta.  I pay about triple their current tuition, will still be paying more than double their tuition AFTER all the increases, and I currently have zero student loan debt (two years in).  I pay for my own education, by working. 

        In all honesty I will probably need to eventually get 5-10 grand in loans, but I will have that paid off before I graduate.

        Now if you want to tell me that paying tuition 2 to 3 times lower than what I pay is impossible without going into massive debt, I can tell you that’s absolute horsesh*t.

        It’s more than manageable if you’re just a little bit responsible….

        1. You’re in a province with a lot of money flowing through it — now more than ever.  Your ability to pay such high tuition and to pay off such large loans within a short time span is a testament to how little you know about the economic situations in the rest of Canada.  Massive debt has become a way of life for graduates and not by their own negligence.  Familiarize yourself,  kid!

    4. And what of the alarmingly draconian police powers they’ve rolled out to deal with the terrifying spectacle of some students chanting about stuff?

      You have to be pretty damn right indeed to justify disproportionate force…

    5. It’s quite clear to me education is a profitable investment for society. Ya know, surgeons are expensive to train, but we do need a few. And lets do not forget they pay a lot of taxes around here.

      Instead of having Universities that accentuates the gap between economic classes, lets have a system wich reduces them, for the benefit of all.

    6. I think it’s past time we stopped being idiots, and recognized the benefits of highly subsidized education are enjoyed by taxpayers at large.

      So are the detriments of Charest’s attempts to clamp down on its supporters. I find it hard to see how reacting to the abuse of authority with complaints about protester entitlement is anything other than victim blaming.

    7. Low tuition isn’t ridiculous. It’s something all governments should strive for. Investment in youth is a lot smarter than say the 300 million Quebec gave to a private diamond mining consortium to build a private road, the 100 million increase in funding to the provincial lottery last year… etc etc. I agree that fiscal responsibility is important but when you’re making cuts, the first place you look shouldn’t be education. How about the diamond mine pay for its own road, or Loto Quebec (doing very well) make do with the ample funding they already receive?

      1.  Or giving Pierre Karl Peladeau the richest man in the province) $400 million to build an arena in Quebec City in hopes that it will help him land an NHL team.

      2.  This!!!
        Its nice to see people doing their research instead of being ignorant and calling striking students spoiled cry babies!

    8.  Are you joking?  How exactly is constantly blocking the inquiry into the corruption in the construction industry which plagues Quebec (development costs roughly 40-60% more expensive than anywhere else in Canada) “trying to establish some fiscal discipline”?!

      He and his government are the hugest peddlers of pork in the country.  The reason he’s allowing these protests to take centre stage is because he thinks it will distract the general populace from the endemic corruption and crumbling infrastructure, which he has only encouraged in his tenure as leader.  He has gotten away with it because the opposition is so fractured and weak.

    9. BS on your Charest with his fake austerity and very real corruption.

      Austerity done right, if necessary, Begins at the Top and never reaches the Bottom.

      If Charest wants austerity he needs to start with his rich buddies.

    1. I saw that, and it wasn’t lost on me the fact that it came from the National Post. 

      Are they trying a diff tack at that paper, since the G&M is trying so hard to shoe it’s nose up Harper’s wazoo?

  2. I graduated from a French language university in Quebec – the quality of education was terrible, as is the medical care we get – the upper class go abroad or to private schools and clinics – if you notice, nearly all of the protesters are white and there’s a reason lots are in their 30s – what happens is people spend their lives in universities waiting for a teaching job to open up – and you often see the jobs going to people who had the right political connections, and so you get professors who don’t know their subject teaching students without much hope for the future.
    It’s noticeable that the politicians that support these protests also support blocking people from going to English language primary, secondary and even post-secondary schools.

    1. I never studied or got medical attention abroad, but I got plenty of it here, and I can’t relate to anything you said.

      As a regular protester, I can’t agree with your claim that nearly every protester are white. Watch the feed on CUTV.

      And actually, bill 101 that forces non-anglo immigrants to attend French schools for the sake of keeping French culture in existence in America is supported by the totality of the political landscape, including Jean Charest.

      1. It looks like more than 19 out of 20 are white – there are more black police than protesters – If you were educated in Quebec,  you’d know that Bill 101 bans most people from going to school in English – including the children of immigrants from the USA – doesn’t matter what language they speak. When Quebec had freedom of choice in schools, the percentage of French speakers increased – by taking away people’s freedom, it also meant that the quality of education in French dropped – I also went to French primary school in Ontario and it was a lot better than those in Quebec, because they had to be, otherwise their parents would send them to English ones.

        1. Keep in mind that there’s a higher proportion of whites in Quebec than in the states because Canada didn’t have slavery. Montreal is nowhere near as cosmopolitan as NYC.

          1. Also, Toronto has absorbed the vast majority of non-Caucasian ‘refugees’ and immigrants, so Quebecers are less ethnically diverse.

        2. I have a feeling we are drifting  off topic, but please let me reply.

          Yesterday the Montrealer of Italian descent that I participated in a kettle demo in the Hochelaga neighborhood  of Montreal. The group was composed of at least 25% of non-Caucasian people of rather diverse origins.

          Another non-visible minority protesting with me was my friend Anna, that teaches French lit in College in Quebec City. She immigrated here from Poland 15 years back. Her country faced considerable tentatives of germanization and russification, so she understands the importance of protecting language minorities if we want them to survive assimilation. She is involved in political action to ban the recent increase of English teaching time in elementary schools. I don’t agree with her on this topic, but I still think legal protective measures are necessary in Québec.

          When I studied pedagogy at the University of Ottawa, my Franco Ontarian teachers spent some time demonstrating how their language group is statistically extinct in a 50 years perspective.

          I teached in four elementary schools in Ontario, a dozen in Quebec. On both sides of the border, I found some schools fantastic, some schools absolutely awful. But that’s just me. Different schools for different folks.

          Same thing for universities of course. I can’t say I would rate the university of Ottawa higher than the university of Quebec. But studying in Ontario cost me a whole lot more.

    2. Wow! What an ignorant comment it was.

      As everywhere else around the world, you need to do some research before applying to an university  program. Some universities offer degrees with better quality than others. You might find the Art History degree at Universite Laval to be shitty but the one at Université de Montréal to be fantastic. Same apply to all degrees: some universities are better than others.

      As for your statement about the quality of medical care, I believe you make that statement only because of the waiting period. There is no data which shows the quality is worse than everywhere else.

      Protesters are all white?! Where did you get that from? Watch CUTV and you will see with your own eyes: protesters are not “whiter” than the population in general.

      Bill 101 was such a mess that now in 2012, 80% of all anglophones in Quebec now can speak French contrary to only 4% in 1956. Unless you believe French shouldn’t exist; it shows how great it worked. If immigrants wanted to speak English, they just had to move to Ontario. The language of the majority is French, why is it such a bad thing to learn it if you come from abroad? If I move to Italy, you bet I am going to learn Italian! It’s called respect.

      The upper-class go abroad… I still haven’t found a politician from Quebec who did not earned a degree in Quebec. The upper-class from all countries go abroad (“abroad” as in the US and the UK mainly). The same applies to English-speaking Canadian provinces. I have yet to find someone who chose UBC over Harvard for their doctorate…

  3. I smell a repeat of the FLQ Crisis on the way in Quebec, albeit for different reasons this time.

    And to be honest… I can’t say I blame them.
    It makes me sick to listen to these old farts who took full advantage of the social safety net their whole lives and will be able to retire to a nice pension tell youth that they’re “entitled” or to “suck it up”.

    This isn’t going to end in la Belle Province until it burns.

    VIVE LE QUEBEC LIBRE! (and I ain’t talkin’ ’bout separation.)

    1. I’d be very, very displeasingly surprised if the movement resorted to terrorism. I don’t feel it coming at all, and I hope the smoke bombs in the metro will be the worst we have.

      Anyways, I wouldn’t want to be the one having to stuff pudgy Jean Charest in the trunk of a car.

    2. Yeah not going to happen. 

      When 78 was signed it became the death certificate of that administration. 

      Quebecers of any stripe don’t play that shit, they don’t clear shit with cops when it comes to expression. I don’t mean just the students, just like Bill 78 doesn’t mean just the students, a detail that no one missed.

      The question now is when the election will be and who will form the next government.

      Charest was a fucking moron to try that, he’s got shit for brains because I’m no Quebecer and I coulda told him that.

      Personally I hope the NDP forms a party besides QS and gets in the game rather than PQ being the only viable option, but whatevs as long as there’s a regime change. Quebec deserves an NDPish party that’s viable, if Liberals, PQ and Conservatives can’t cut it. I don’t hold out much hope for QS :(

      As for tuition, the tuition hikes are a stupid form of austerity and don’t really garner enough dough to address budgetary issues at the provincial or university level. 

      An equal or greater difference could be made budget wise by tweaking or establishing better streaming programs. Hell, if they continue to charge foreign students what they do, and give a hard look at having fewer spots for Quebecers, (reduce overall, no more spots for foreigners, or go ahead, have more foreigners paying the high tuition) thereby directing some who really belong in college instead of academia, university can be free to Quebecers, as it should be. 

      That’s a path to sound budgeting that actually addresses Quebec’s powerful need for trades and non-univeristy educated at the same time. Without hitting education with BS austerity measures.

      1. OMG. Why does autocorrect think I am talking about Quebecor Inc? I don’t recall ever typing that. I’m talking about people in Quebec, not Quebecor!

  4. The tuition debate is one thing and the province is divided on the subject. However, at present time the bulk of the people are protesting the special law (loi 78).

  5. What I don’;t get is why they’re militarizing the conflict. He could let the students strike, and risk delaying graduation, and they will blink. 

    1. Bill 78 was introduced to stop the intimidation of students who wanted to attend classes by the protestors. It was also a reaction to CLASSE’s refusal to denounce the violent acts of some of their members.

      I support the idea of fully subsidized education. It’s something that needs to be discussed, especially in changing economic times where well paying jobs are not easily found after graduation.

      The issue that I disagree with is the violence and intimidation that the protestors were using to get their way. I think that their message and energy would be better put to use by supporting parties who support their cause and to get out and vote for them.

      1. Yeah, sure. Forbidding pickets and gathering in or near campuses, requiring police authorizations for all demonstrations and allowing police to arbitrarily withdraw the permits or change locations or dates without justifications, prohibiting the education employees from striking, it’s all for the good of the students.

        Old Benito would have loved this Bill… wait, I’m pretty sure he had a couple of similar ones approved.

        1. I may be wrong but I believe that the students are still allowed to protest on campuses but they are not allowed to prevent other students from attending classes.

          As for obtaining authorization to protest they simply need to announce their route 8 hours in advance and if the police see a problem with the route, then change it. The general populace should be free to move about their city without getting caught up in a protest march. Also it can help to prevent a situation where two opposing marches would run head on into one another. Can you imagine what might happen if the student protestors marched right into another group of protestors who opposed them?

          The police are tasked with keeping the peace and I don’t believe the Montreal police have used Bill 78 to make any arrests yet.

          1. “The police are tasked with keeping the peace and I don’t believe the Montreal police have used Bill 78 to make any arrests yet.”

            Over 500 arrests in the past 36 hours.

          2. Wrong. Bill 78 allows the police to declare any protest with over 50 participants illegal, and due to the vagary of the written law, it may be interpreted that any protest occurring within 200 yards of an educational institution is in violation of the provision against picketing at university campuses, classes in session or not. Accepting the reality of daily protests, many of which grow spontaneously in numbers, it is unrealistic (and not to mention against fundamental charter rights) to have to declare the schedule, route and level of participation of a protest within an eight hour timeframe to the police, especially when they have been given the legal right to denial under nearly any circumstance.

            Over 500 kettle arrests were made in Montreal on Thursday, allegedly over the violation of municipal bylaws, and the infraction of none of these laws merits this kind of response from the SPVM. This is soft and irresponsible enforcement of an unconstitutional law, and victims of its application are faced with $650 tickets in lieu of criminal charges. This may seem easier to resist in the short and even long term, but these tickets are issued in a hasty attempt to refund the money spent on police presence.

            While recipients of these tickets may not be faced with criminal records, they are faced with the exigent reality of inordinate fines for lesser crimes against city ordinance. Measured against the threat of a 75% increase in university tuition, which most students are currently able to pay for with part-time jobs, it is a matter of disrespect for the burgeoning debt load of a young population working to support not only themselves, but an older generation that counted accessible education and employment among its benefits, and counts Medicare, earlier retirement and tax bonuses among its desserts. I don’t think either side is “right” or “wrong”, but it is clear that in even the most socially democratic of North American communities, the fair distribution of wealth and resources is under review.

      1. Okay, so let them risk their academic careers. Again, there is nothing preventing the Province from playng hardball with these students without getting out the billy clubs. 

    2.  They tried. The Quebec criminal justice system is on the verge of collapse. Montreal police tried arresting 500 student protesters Wednesday. By Thursday they were incapable of enforcement of the protest ban. They haven’t got the facilities or the budget to incarcerate the entire student population of Quebec.

  6. I can’t support the protest – I think their tuition should probably go up – but I support the protesters. Better that we all pay their tuition than we allow police and the government to treat it’s own citizens this way.

    1. Currently the tuition they pay covers about 10-12% of the costs per student.

      And, they have way too many university students despite a real need for trades and college graduates.

      Correct teh causal by addressing the need and tuition could easily be free.

  7. Why cite Anglo-Canadian newspapers about things happening in French-speaking Quebec?

    Volunteers have been translating articles from Montreal’s francophone newspapers into English, offering Anglophones a look into what Quebecers are actually saying about their ongoing and dramatic social movement.


    Some highlights include:

    A short overview of the current political situation (from Le Devoir)


    Short description of Tuesday’s massive (200,000-250,000 people) protest, old and young, 100% peaceful, in the rain (from La Presse).


    Concerning the repressive special Law 78 (from Le Soleil)


    From their home page:
    “Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English”.

  8. You want to know what’s sad?

    Trudeau handled the October Crisis with less heavy-handedness than the Montreal Police are displaying toward these protestors.

    Kidnappers and murderers who targeted duly elected representatives of the people elicited less draconian violence than students exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

    1. i agree. but then who should we vote for? personally i’d probably vote NDP, but it all tends to boil down to the same thing regardless which party we vote for: the rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor.

  9. as a montrealer, trying not to take a side here just because i dont agree with either side(students or government). i cant agree with nightly protests, paralyzing downtown montreal that just arent going anywhere, call it a mass temper tantrum or right to free speech. meanwhile the government has done NOTHING as of yet besides passing that piss poor “law” to try and deter the protests, that we can all see, its just working out so well(really not). Talks between student leaders and government are supposed to resume next week, from what ive been hearing, 2 of the 3 groups are ready to compromise somewhat on the hike, CLASSE(the militant one everyone worries about) isnt saying much yet. I just hope to god this will be over soon. Like the flu its spreading, it’s not just about paying more for university anymore, it’s about dissolving the government, how? well..now one really knows, they just keep clanging away on their pots n’ pans till 2-3 AM every night. Facebook activism that just spilled over into the real world, or a real mouvement that might just change something. It’s no secret that corruption is rampant in montreal, the mob, bikers, street gangs, the mayor…they all have their hand in it.

    anyways what a rant. go free speech, just please, dont keep me up all night and please vote during the next election…unlike the last one…

    1. Your current gridlock is due to Bill 78, not the student/govt clash.

      Bill 78 applies to you regardless of your relation or lack thereof to the tuition debate.

      You are correct that it has evolved into a call for the dissolution of the Charest government, as well it should. 

      The student compromise might just be something along the lines of 

      “Revoke Bill 78 and call for free tuition, and in response we will support your government. Do otherwise and you will be thrown out of office.”

      That would be a compromise, because of how severely Charest disrespected his constituency with Bill 78. 

      Tuition would stand pat and negotiations, if any, would continue with a completely new government.

      As it stands, that is compromise.

  10.  Most of you people get it wrong and don’t understand the context.

    There a minority of students that were ok with this protest (the one about tuitions, not the one about the law). Behind the protesters are the big Quebec Unions, that are
    against the Liberal Government. (I am also againt it, but I am more against Partie Quebecois who is friend with these unions).

    If Quebec goes along the lines of the protesters, Quebec is going the way of Greece. Government spending must be lowered.

  11. I find it interesting that the relative amount of tuition gets so much attention. It’s already a compromise between the ideals of the two different groups. One thinks education should be free to the student, the other wants the student to pay the full free-market cost. Last time the issue came up a compromise was established so that it’s not free but it’s also not free-market for the student. Now, by trying to unilaterally change the balance, the government has upset the established compromise while also upsetting the student because of the lack of up-front communication and negotiation. 

    But none of that helps someone who thinks they are an outsider to these weird foreign students and wants to understand their perspective. To better understand, think about how your own community deals with the costs and benefits of tuition-free education for a student who is between 5 and 17 years old. 

    Would there be protests in your community if tuition increased by $300 for students who are between 5 and 12 years old?

    I’m going to guess that some of you who support free education for students who are 5-17 years old, do not support free education for the students at this protest. If that’s the case, I’m sure that the reason your political views and the views of these students are slightly different is complex, nuanced and personal. 

    It sucks that most of the attention and coverage these students are getting suggests they have absurdly radical ideological views that are rooted in foreign language and cultural traditions. It’s not really true, it’s dismissive and it perpetuates the idea that people who come to slightly different conclusions cannot be understood because they are just weird and wrong.

  12. If we had a viable third party in the US, we’d be bitching that there wasn’t a fourth and that it ruined the last election (think 2000).  If we had a fourth party, we’d want a fifth.  Etc.  Basically, we are retarded.

    @awjit – I think the US should have 30 viable political parties. Or more. Yeah, a lot of things wouldn’t get done, but neither would monstrosities like the USA PATRIOT Act pass both houses of congress like greased lightning.

  13. Here, look at this wonderful video showing a Casserole demo in Montreal. Theses demos are spreading all around Quebec to protest against bill 78. 

    Here’s a translation of the lyrics of the song.
    “You will say, you will say that it is instinct that guided you here, the intuition of a feeling that will never return
    You will say, you will say all your senses were betting on the same side, for the same cause, moved by a strange force
    And this will be your home base and this will be your home base
    You will say, you will say that it is instinct that guided you here, a necessary imprudence from time to time
    And this will be your home base and this will be your home base”

  14.  Statistics show that fewer Quebecers progress to higher education than other Canadians

    This argument is absolutely false, and show a complete lack of knowledge about how the education system works in Quebec. Comparing university attendance in Quebec to other Canadian provinces is comparing apples to oranges, because of the existence of CEGEPs, which are also higher education schools. There are two main reasons ignoring CEGEPs distorts numbers:

    1) Several degrees that require university studies in the rest of Canada require a CEGEP diploma here, which mean that fewer people attend university because they get a CEGEP diploma instead.

    2) undergrad studies are shorter here, because people who want to go to university are required to attend CEGEP first. People spend less time in university = less attendance.

    A better comparison would be in looking at all post-secondary education: CEGEPs + universities. When you consider CEGEPs, attendance of Quebecers is 10% higher than in the rest of Canada, and since the inception of CEGEPs, attendance rates have always dropped when tuition increased. Always. Anybody who is claiming otherwise is ignoring CEGEPs out of ignorance or out of a desire to twist numbers for a political purpose.

    1. agreed completely.

      in my experience traveling through all of Canada’s provinces, Quebec has the highest population of post-secondary students and graduates.

  15. Personally I think Quebec raising tuition fees is stupid, but not because I feel sorry for the poor students. The *ONE* issue that Quebec has long battled, and has a constant battle with, and it is uncertain over the long term if they are wining, is the preservation of the French language and culture within Canada.

    If anything Quebec should be further *lowering* tuition to make Quebec universities more accessible to both Quebec students, and those outside. It is a pretty basic equation, the more English speaking students that come to Quebec schools to learn, will learn more French language skills, increasing one of Quebec’s primary goals. The less Quebec kids that go outside of Quebec for their university education, predominantly in English, the decrease in one of Quebec’s primary goals.

    A perfect analogy of this is “Student Pricing” of software, and large donations of software and computer labs to university’s by large corporations like Microsoft, Sun, IBM, etc… They are *not* doing this out of the goodness if their beating hearts, or for the tears they shed for poor students, it is because of one simple fact. It is proven than the more knowlege and experience one has gained using those tools, the more likely it will be that they will continue to use those in the future. Perhaps making the training, or purchasing decisions for large corporations themselves someday. It is a very long view of things, which is uncharacteristic for both business and politics I know.

    I mean I don’t know if it is just me, but the Quebec government is coming off and completely stupid over this, and their overreaction response by passing a bill making protest illegal is just making things much worse.

    They could have looked like progressive hero’s,  making education a real priority, ensuring inovative Quebec workforce for the future, while at the same time subtly promoting their language laws and cultural identity within Canada, likely more effectively than any other method available.

    As it stands, they come out as being harder on students, increasing student debt, increasing the divide of educational accessibility, and now even worse against civil rights, free speech, and all sorts of negative stuff.

    Really being handled poorly if you ask me, government really dropped the ball and missed an excellent opportunity.

    Disclaimer: Not from Quebec, nor do I live there currently.

  16. @boingboing-66bd939ad7010829ab65a6aaf28c9a96:disqus So you are saying you only make a difference if you vote for the winning party, or the lesser of two evils, and don’t vote for the candidate you believe in, if that is a third party candidate?

    I live in New York State. In the last few elections, it was a given that the Democratic candidate was going to win my state, therefore getting the electoral college votes. Let’s look at the 2000 election. I voted for Nader. If I voted for Gore  it didn’t help him, he was winning NY anyway. If I voted Bush (which I would never have done)it didn’t help him, he was losing New York by a lot anyway. So I voted my conscious rather than voting for the lesser of two evils. That is a much more meaningful vote than my other options.

    How is a 3rd party ever going to get any power if no one ever votes for them? Maybe they get 5% in one national election, and then ten in the next, and win some local offices. That is how we get a 3rd party.

  17. I have to add post-secondary education in Quebec is the highest in Canada because we have an almost free college education system.

    Here in Quebec, we have 1 year less of high school but it is mandatory to do a 2-year college program before being able to attend university.

    Many choose to do a technical college program instead of going all the way to university. Why? Because it’s almost free and the pay outcome isn’t much different. It is why the nursing program is much more popular at the college level than at the university level.

    There are a lot of programs that you can find at both level. Yes, the university program is way better but for a young person who is not that good at school, you will favour the 3-years program over the 5+ years (2 years of pre-university college + 3 or 4 years of undergraduate degree) of the university program.

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