Quebec's 'truncheon law' rebounds as student strike spreads

s_lone

Council Member
Feb 16, 2005
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Montreal
Quebec's 'truncheon law' rebounds as student strike spreads
A draconian law to quell demonstrations has only galvanised public support for young Quebecois protesting tuition fee hikes

Martin Lukacs
guardian.co.uk

At a tiny church tucked away in a working-class neighbourhood in Montreal's east end, Quebec's new outlaws gathered on Sunday for a day of deliberations. Aged mostly between 18 and 22, their membership in a progressive student union has made them a target of government scorn and scrutiny. And they have been branded a menace to society because of their weapons: ideas of social justice and equal opportunity in education, alongside the ability to persuade hundreds of thousands to join them in the streets.

Under a draconian law passed by the Quebec government on Friday, their very meeting could be considered a criminal act. Law 78 – unprecedented in recent Canadian history – is the latest, most desperate manoeuvre of a provincial government that is afraid it has lost control over a conflict that began as a student strike against tuition hikes but has since spread into a protest movement with wide-ranging social and environmental demands.

Labelled a "truncheon law" by its critics, it imposes severe restrictions on the right to protest. Any group of 50 or more protesters must submit plans to police eight hours ahead of time; they can be denied the right to proceed. Picket lines at universities and colleges are forbidden, and illegal protests are punishable by fines from $5,000 to $125,000 for individuals and unions – as well as by the seizure of union dues and the dissolution of their associations.

In other words, the government has decided to smash the student movement by force.

The government quickly launched a public relations offensive to defend itself. Full-page ads in local newspapers ran with the headline: "For the sake of democracy and citizenship." Quebec's minister of public security, Robert Dutil, prattled about the many countries that have passed similar laws:

"Other societies with rights and freedoms to protect have found it reasonable to impose certain constraints – first of all to protect protesters, and also to protect the public."

Such language is designed to make violence sound benevolent and infamy honourable. But it did nothing to mask reality for those who have flooded the streets since the weekend and encountered police emboldened by the new legislation. Riot squads beat and tear-gassed people indiscriminately, targeted journalists, pepper-sprayed bystanders in restaurants, and mass-arrested hundreds, including more than 500 Wednesday night – bringing the tally from the last three months of protest to a record Canadian high of more than 2,500. The endless night-time drone of helicopters has become the serenade song of a police state.

In its contempt for students and citizens, the government has riled a population with strong, bitter memories of harsh measures against social unrest – whether the dark days of the iron-fisted Duplessis era, the martial law enforced by the Canadian army in 1970, or years of labour battles marred by the jailing of union leaders. These and other occasions have shown Québécois how the political elite has no qualms about trampling human rights to maintain a grip on power.

Which is why those with experience of struggle fresh and old have answered Premier Jean Charest with unanimity and collective power. There are now legal challenges in the works, broad appeals for civil disobedience, and a brilliant website created by the progressive CLASSE student union, on which thousands have posted photos of themselves opposing the law. (The website's title is "Somebody arrest me" but also puns on a phrase to shake a person out of a crazed mental spell.)

And Wednesday, on the 100th day of the student strike, Québécois from every walk of life offered a rejoinder to the claim that "marginals" were directing and dominating the protests: an estimated 300,000-400,000 people marched in the streets, another Canadian record, and in full violation of the new law. They brandished the iconic red squares that have now transformed into a symbol not just of accessible education but the defence of basic freedoms of assembly and protest. Late into the night, a spirit of jubilant defiance spread through the city. On balconies along entire streets, and on intersections occupied by young and old, the sound of banging pots and pans rang out, a practice used under Latin American regimes.

The clarity that has fired the students' protest has, until now, conspicuously eluded most of English-speaking Canada. This is because the image of the movement has been skewed and distorted by the establishment media. Sent into paroxysms of bafflement and contempt by the striking students, they have painted them as spoiled kids or crazed radicals out of touch with society, who should give up their supposed entitlements and accept the stark economic realities of the age.

All this is said with a straight face. But young people in Quebec, followed now by many others, have not been fooled. They know the global economic crisis of 2008 exposed as never before the abuses of corporate finance, and that those responsible were bailed out rather than held to account. They know that meetings of international leaders at the G20 end by dispatching ministers home to pay the bills on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable, with tuition hikes and a toxic combination of neoliberal economic policies. And with every baton blow and tear-gas blast, they perceive with ever greater lucidity that their government will turn ultimately to brute violence to impose such programs and frighten those who dissent.

To those who marched Wednesday, and the great numbers who cheered them on, the fault-lines of justice are evident. This is a government that has refused to sit down and negotiate with student leaders in good faith, but invites an organised crime boss to a fundraising breakfast; a government that has claimed free education is an idea not even worth dreaming about, when it would cost only 1% of Quebec's budget and could be paid for simply by reversing the regressive tax reforms, corporate give-aways, or capital tax phase-outs of the last decade; a government whose turn to authoritarian tactics has now triggered a sharp decline in support, and which has clumsily accelerated a social crisis that may now only begin to be resolved by meeting the students' demands.

As the debate went on at the CLASSE meeting in the church last Sunday, the students' foresight proved wise beyond their years. "History doesn't get made in a day," one argued into the microphone. Not in a day, no doubt, but in Quebec, over this spring and the summer, history is indeed being made.

Quebec's 'truncheon law' rebounds as student strike spreads | Martin Lukacs | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
 

Ron in Regina

"Voice of the West" Party
Apr 9, 2008
18,515
4,241
113
Regina, Saskatchewan
I "get" what the Quebec Gov't is try'n to do, but they're sure going about
it the wrong way. With this new infliction of law, it'll actually garner
sympathy for these students that are protesting, and with their
protests while they're infringing on the rights of others who
are still try'n to live their lives, get back & forth to work or
school, etc...

This law gives these protesting students a cross to martyr
themselves upon, instead of just having the rest of the
population just shake their heads when they see them when
try'n to go about their day. This is bad politics on the part of
the provincial gov't...at best.
 

s_lone

Council Member
Feb 16, 2005
2,233
30
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Montreal
How bout Alberta shuts off the paybec welfare tap, and it's border to all paybec ID? That may not be completely original but it would work.

What are you waiting for?

I "get" what the Quebec Gov't is try'n to do, but they're sure going about
it the wrong way. With this new infliction of law, it'll actually garner
sympathy for these students that are protesting, and with their
protests while they're infringing on the rights of others who
are still try'n to live their lives, get back & forth to work or
school, etc...

This law gives these protesting students a cross to martyr
themselves upon, instead of just having the rest of the
population just shake their heads when they see them when
try'n to go about their day. This is bad politics on the part of
the provincial gov't...at best.

I can only wonder how Charest thought this law would be a good idea. It's now been almost a week since they've passed the law and all it has achieved beyond the arrests is to gather more and more people against the government. The mood is crazy in Montreal. People are HAPPY to go out in the streets and it's becoming a party.

May 19th:

Manifestation de casseroles - rue Fabre - 19 mai 2012 - YouTube

May 22nd:

Grand tintamarre 22 mai 2012 - Beaubien 2/2 - YouTube

Oh and don't forget this minor gathering...

Manifestation étudiante Déroulement de la banderole 22 Mai 2012 montréal - YouTube

May 23rd:

Grand tintamarre du 23 mai 2012, rue Saint-Denis - quartier Villeray - Montréal. - YouTube

May 24th:

Grand tintamarre de casseroles devant l'église rue Masson dans Rosemont, Montréal - 24 mai 2012 - YouTube

Casseroles Villeray 24 mai. #3 - YouTube

In the end, this law has mostly managed to give a boost to protesters and gather more international attention for what's going on.
 
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Cliffy

Standing Member
Nov 19, 2008
44,850
191
63
Nakusp, BC
I love it! Only in Montreal can they turn a protest into a party. Montreal has a long history of telling the establishment where to go. Compared to Quebec, the rest of Canada has terminal apathy. "Must maintain the status quo at all costs". LOL! All I can say is the nay sayers on here have been taking up the ass so long that they are numb to it.

George Carlin - Why You Are In Debt - YouTube

Just substitute Canadians whenever he says Americans. Same things going on here. You can tell because of all the people on here who spew hate towards those fighting for our rights.
 

WLDB

Senate Member
Jun 24, 2011
6,182
0
36
Ottawa
How bout Alberta shuts off the paybec welfare tap, and it's border to all paybec ID? That may not be completely original but it would work.

Closing a province to prevent people from other provinces getting in? Sure, why not. It worked so well in the Soviet Union and China.
 

mentalfloss

Prickly Curmudgeon Smiter
Jun 28, 2010
39,777
452
83
2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today


All young adults who think they’re getting a raw deal in today’s economy, let me tell you about how it was back in my day.

In 1984, my final undergraduate year of university, tuition cost more or less $1,000. I earned that much in a summer without breaking a sweat.

When I went looking for a new car in 1986, the average cost was roughly half of what it is now. It was totally affordable.

The average price of a house in Toronto back in 1984 was just over $96,000. I wasn’t buying just then, but it’s worth noting that the average family after-tax income back then was close to $50,000. Buy a first home? Easy to imagine for new graduates of the day.

I had it easier than today’s twentysomethings, and I have no problem saying so. But quite a few others can’t see what all the fuss is about when it comes to the financial concerns of today’s young adults.

This became clear as responses poured in to last week’s column tying the Quebec student protests to the financial challenges faced by people who are trying to make the jump from college and university into the work force.

Some responses were heartfelt, like the one from a 78-year-old gentleman who said he grew up “in abject poverty on a farm” and worked to pay for his education. But other comments reflected a view that today’s young adults should just grow up.

My sense is that’s what they’re trying to do. But it’s tougher out there than some of you might know.

After earning a three-year BA (majoring in political science) at York University in Toronto back in 1984, I landed a summer job as a copy editor at The Canadian Press, the national wire service. I earned enough to spend a year in Ottawa earning a bachelor of journalism degree at Carleton University. I had to work the Christmas holidays at CP to top up my savings, but I was financially self-sufficient and incurred zero debt.

Today, financial self-sufficiency is impossible without taking breaks from school to work. The Bank of Canada’s handy inflation calculator tells us that my $1,000 tuition back in 1984 would cost $2,028 today if it increased just by the inflation rate annually. But according to Statistics Canada, the latest read on average tuition fees is $5,366.

In Ontario, the minimum wage is $10.25. A student who puts in a 40-hour work week for 12 weeks would stand to make about $4,900. That’s a sizable shortfall on tuition, never mind the cost of student fees, books and living expenses. As a parent of an 18-year-old heading to university out of town next year, I can tell you that budgeting $18,000 to $20,000 per year is prudent.

Buying a house is another point where the experience of older Canadians is unlike what today’s younger generation faces. Canadian Real Estate Association data show the average national price of a home in mid-1984 was $76,214. If houses kept up with inflation – and that would be a pretty good result all on its own – the average house would now cost $154,587. In April, the actual average was $369,677.

That’s an annualized gain of 5.8 per cent across the country. In cities like Toronto and Vancouver, the yearly increases are even more pronounced.

House prices themselves are an abstract number – the real question is how affordable a home is. Data from a 2011 Conference Board of Canada study on income inequality shows the average family after-tax income in 1984 was $48,500. In 2009, the latest date included in the study, income levels had risen to $60,000. In 1984, a house might have cost a family 1.6 times its annual income. Today, we’re looking at a multiple of something around six.

Not everything is more expensive for today’s young adults – mortgage rates were in double digits back in 1984 (but then again so were savings rates), and cars have pretty well risen in price along with inflation. And not everything is worse, at least on the surface. Today’s headline unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent beats the rate of almost 12 per cent back in the mid-1980s. Look deeper into those numbers and you find a youth unemployment rate of 18 per cent back then and 13.9 per cent today. Young adults haven’t benefited nearly as much as the overall population from declining unemployment trends.

Back in my day? Economically speaking, life was easier for the young adult.

2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today - The Globe and Mail
 

Nuggler

kind and gentle
Feb 27, 2006
11,596
140
63
Backwater, Ontario.
I "get" what the Quebec Gov't is try'n to do, but they're sure going about
it the wrong way. With this new infliction of law, it'll actually garner
sympathy for these students that are protesting, and with their
protests while they're infringing on the rights of others who
are still try'n to live their lives, get back & forth to work or
school, etc...

This law gives these protesting students a cross to martyr
themselves upon, instead of just having the rest of the
population just shake their heads when they see them when
try'n to go about their day. This is bad politics on the part of
the provincial gov't...at best.


PQ has never been famous for good politics...............if in fact, there is such a thing.

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""""In other words, the government has decided to smash the student movement by force."""

Worked well in Egypt, eh.

Didn't do too well against working folks in the dirty thirties either.
 

Bar Sinister

Executive Branch Member
Jan 17, 2010
8,252
19
38
Edmonton
PQ has never been famous for good politics...............if in fact, there is such a thing.

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""""In other words, the government has decided to smash the student movement by force."""

Worked well in Egypt, eh.

Didn't do too well against working folks in the dirty thirties either.

Didn't work worth a dam during the anti-war protests of the 1960s and 1970 either. In fact laws forbidding protests rarely achieve anything if protestors are willing to ignore the penalties and there are enough of them.