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Montreal Simon: The Quebec Students and the Road Ahead

There are fewer of them these days. The long hot days of July have quietened things down.

But the Quebec students are still marching through the streets of Montreal.

Tonight was their 83rd nightly demo in a row. And next month they will have to make a choice that could determine the future . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Quebec Students and the Road Ahead

Drive-by Planet: Quebec protests June 22: crisis far from over

There were large rallies in Montreal and Quebec City June 22. Students and supporters demonstrated against fee hikes, against Bill-78 and held the banners of social and political activism high.

The term “student protest” needs to be revised to some extent because these protests now involve Quebeckers from all walks of life, as witnessed . . . → Read More: Drive-by Planet: Quebec protests June 22: crisis far from over

Montreal Simon: The Quebec Students and the Magic Moment

Like so many things in Quebec these days it was an amazing sight.

Eighty thousand people in downtown Montreal watching an outdoor show by Loco Locass, a very popular and very political hip hop group.

The group was dressed in red and waving a Quebec flag with a red square sewn on it to . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Quebec Students and the Magic Moment

Montreal Simon: Montreal and the Grand Prix Circus

It's Saturday night in Montreal, and the Grand Prix party is just warming up. Thousands of people are milling around on Ste Catherine street.

Demonstrators, racing fans, tourists, party kids, riot police.

And I'm watching the live feed on CUTV and can't believe what I'm seeing. So I can understand why some tourists . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Montreal and the Grand Prix Circus

NEW MEDIA AND POLITICS CANADA: An Attack On Progress

Here in Quebec, amidst the nightly demonstrations against the tuition increases and Bill 78, the bill that gave the movement oxygen, we hear a constant drumbeat from media sources that the kids are “spoiled,” or have a sense of “entitlement,” and are perhaps communists. Seriously. It’s tiresome.

Students protest in the downtown streets of Montreal against tuition hikes on May 16, 2012 (AFP Photo/Rogerio Barbosa)
Students protest in the downtown streets of Montreal against tuition hikes on May 16, 2012 (AFP Photo/Rogerio Barbosa)

Erica Shaker of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has written a terrific piece about this “scapegoating” of the kids involved and begins by asking a question that should be the starting point for any discussion about the issues at the center of the protests:

Why is it still, for some, a newsflash that reality for today’s youth is a solar system away from the world of just 25 or 30 years ago?

She then outlines what she calls the “toxic socioeconomic brew” that led here: Wages stagnating since the late ’80’s, the infamous 1995 Paul Martin budget which oversaw massive cuts to and restructuring of social programs, and the reduction of transfer payments which has reinforced the trend to greater income inequality.

Now, add to that…

…the fallout from declining levels of government support for higher education in Canada which has resulted in a number of new realities: over the past 30 years, government grants as a share of university operating revenue plummeted from 84% to 58%, and the share funded by tuition fees rose from 12% to 35%.

Suddenly a University education in Canada is a lot more expensive than people appreciate and students get saddled with more debt on the way out the door than their parents ever knew ($37,000 on average – somewhat less in Quebec), and there are less good employment opportunities. Remember, unpaid internships are all the rage.

More to the point, Ms. Shaker reminds us of the benefits of education to all of us:

We know the vast benefits of accessible higher education—and not just physical accessibility. Societies that make this a priority tend to be healthier, have a more politically-active citizenry, enjoy greater levels of community and family involvement, and have more social mobility. There are economic returns as well, all of which means that the demand for public education—or public health care, or public child care—is not a request for “free” anything, or even not wanting to pay one’s “fair share.”

For wanting more and easier access to education the student protestors have been vilified endlessly by the media. This of itself is simply sad but it illustrates the lack of understanding and the unwillingness of the supposed adults to engage in a constructive dialogue. But it’s not the name calling she wants to bring our attention to in all of this:

To be clear, I don’t think what we’re experiencing is so much an attack on youth, though it often feels that way, as it is an attack on progress.

Attacks on progress are something we’ve seen far too much of in this transitional era – one that seems to be marked by greed and stupidity. It’s time to try and put a stop to it by not giving in to media propaganda and opinion writers who regularly make a habit of not only being wrong but of always siding with the corporations, the banks and other arms of the establishment. Maybe we could all try and do what we’re always telling our kids to do, think for yourselves.

Go read the entire piece here for yourself, form you own opinion and just try not to be that guy or gal yelling at the kids to get off your lawn! . . . → Read More: NEW MEDIA AND POLITICS CANADA: An Attack On Progress

NEW MEDIA AND POLITICS CANADA: An Attack On Progress

Here in Quebec, amidst the nightly demonstrations against the tuition increases and Bill 78, the bill that gave the movement oxygen, we hear a constant drumbeat from media sources that the kids are “spoiled,” or have a sense of “entitlement,” and are perhaps communists. Seriously. It’s tiresome.

Students protest in the downtown streets . . . → Read More: NEW MEDIA AND POLITICS CANADA: An Attack On Progress

Montreal Simon: Jean Charest and the Grand Prix Panic

Oh no. Somebody please stop him. It looks as if Jean Charest has finally, as we say in Québec, perdu ses pédales, or lost his pedals.

He's so eager to discredit the students, so he can run against them in a snap election, he's accusing them of plotting to sabotage the Montreal Grand Prix. . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Jean Charest and the Grand Prix Panic

Montreal Simon: Quebec: When a Society Wakes Up

It was wet and miserable in Montreal today. But that didn't stop thousands of people from attending a rally to support the Quebec students.

Thousands of people clad in raincoats and carrying umbrellas gathered in Montreal's Jeanne-Mance park Saturday afternoon for what was billed as a family-friendly protest in support of Quebec's students . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Quebec: When a Society Wakes Up

Dead Wild Roses: Quebec Protesters – Doing Canada Proud

Democracy in Action – Look and Learn my sleeping obedient country.

The protests in Quebec are an example to the rest of Canada to what an active citizenry is like and how people can affect change in the political spectrum. At the time of this writing, 39 days of protest are on record. . . . → Read More: Dead Wild Roses: Quebec Protesters – Doing Canada Proud

Montreal Simon: Quebec’s Mad Emperor Strikes Again

They don't call Jean Charest the Mad Emperor of Quebec for nothing eh?

For this is madness.

Four days of negotiations ended in an impasse on Thursday when Premier Jean Charest’s government refused to budge on its plan to increase tuition fees.

It was likely the last chance for an immediate resolution to . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Quebec’s Mad Emperor Strikes Again

Montreal Simon: The Quebec Students and the Occupy Movement

On my way home today I visited the park where Occupy Toronto once lived. And I could hardly recognize the place.

The old gazebo where so many passionate speeches were made, and so many dreamed of a better world, was quiet now.

And where there were once tents huddled together in the cold…Read . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Quebec Students and the Occupy Movement

From Orangutan: Photos of Montreal lawyers marching against Law 78,

On Monday evening in Montreal, hundreds of lawyers donned their professional black robes and took to the streets on a silent march to protest Law 78 (also known as the “loi spéciale”), the legislation that the Jean Charest government recently passed in an attempt to put a stop to the Quebec student movement towards accessible post-secondary education. The Quebec Bar has expressed serious concerns over Law 78 for, among other things, its limitations imposed on student associations, its judicialization of debates, its use of the criminal justice system, and its granting of increased powers to the Minister of Education, Michelle Courchesne, who in effect, is able to amend laws in Quebec without consulting the people, members of the National Assembly, or even colleagues. Here are some of my photos of the march, which began at 6:30 p.m. at the Palais de justice (courthouse) and made its way through Old Montreal, Chinatown, the Quartier des spectacles (entertainment quarter), and finally to Place Emilie-Gamelin, the usual starting point of the nightly student movement demonstrations that begin at 8:30 p.m.

Palais de justice de Montréal

. . . → Read More: From Orangutan: Photos of Montreal lawyers marching against Law 78,

From Orangutan: Photos of Montreal lawyers marching against Law 78,

On Monday evening in Montreal, hundreds of lawyers donned their professional black robes and took to the streets on a silent march to protest Law 78 (also known as the “loi spéciale”), the legislation that the Jean Charest government recently passed in an attempt to put a stop to the Quebec student movement towards accessible post-secondary . . . → Read More: From Orangutan: Photos of Montreal lawyers marching against Law 78,

Montreal Simon: Quebec, the Con Media, and the Greek Obsession

It's funny eh? When I see pictures like this one I see people standing up for their rights, telling a corrupt government to take their fascist bill and shove it, or just joining others to demand a better world.

But most of the Con media only seem to see a mob, dangerous terrorists, and . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Quebec, the Con Media, and the Greek Obsession

Montreal Simon: Quebec and the Not So Quiet Revolution

There was another amazing freedom party in Montreal tonight.

Thousands and thousands of people marched peacefully through the streets, beating pots and pans. Defying the police to arrest them for taking part in an illegal demonstration.

And what struck me the most apart from the incredible energy, was the diversity of the protesters. Now . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Quebec and the Not So Quiet Revolution

Tattered Sleeve: Paint It, Red

But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

Reports are the casserole protests continued tonight. Thousands marching up St-Laurent Blvd earlier this fine evening. Good for them. “That’s the spirit,” as my eight-year-old son likes to say.

You know, for months I was reluctant to get behind this particular student-led movement. It really left a bad taste in my mouth every time I heard about “striking” students thwarting others from attending classes. And like many others I spoke with, “strike” (or its french equivalent, “grève”, rhymes with Bev) seemed a misnomer. If anything, these guys were boycotting their classes, or at the very least, “protesting”. But calling it a strike seemed disingenuous.

I am however, a tolerant Canadian, so I did not quibble with them throwing bricks on subway tracks to get attention when the hardline Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest refused to even meet with them and hear their grievances. It was not very becoming of Charest, but then again, he is a pompous ass, and when you knowingly elect a pompous ass, you have to expect to live with that devil you knew and know. He was, after all, merely a young pup when learning the tricks of the trade within Mulroney’s cabinet.

But once he had had enough of these unwavering protesters, his pomposity grew to such outbound proportions with his Bill 78 that I knew in a heartbeat that rather than making a Swift, Decisive, Strong Leader decision, he had instead impetuously shat the provincial bed.

I look on it now as my Grinch moment. It awakened me.

There I was, hand cocked to ear, sitting atop Mount Crumpet with all the self-righteousness of the many people like me, feeling unlawfully hindered from wending our little ways through the workings of life to get to our woefully underpaid jobs. I was fully (gosh, naively) expecting to hear the mea culpas from CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois and the others. And like all those who’d poo-pooed the movement and quietly categorized them as uber-brats, I had expected them to back down and accept that they were about to be firmly screwed again. The way I got screwed. The way we all have been getting screwed by the untenable but nonetheless well-embraced mantra of neo-liberalism that doesn’t know anything other than sucking every ounce of life from the 99.9% to feed the self-important point-0-one.

But this generation of students? Nuh-uh. They wouldn’t – and won’t – have any of it, even though Bill 78 meant these students had just had their whole semesters scuppered.

But just like the Whos in Whoville who had been robbed of all their worldly possessions, the “entitled” young buggers came right back out into the commons anyway. They came out in numbers much greater than what wept for Maurice Richard’s passing, and they sang their protest song on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012. Over a hundred thousand people marched in bold defiance of a law that so obviously contravenes our utmost rights (bestowed by the people to those that rule us, remember, not the other way around), even the dimmest of voters could not help but see it.

We all heard them; me from the 8th floor office on de Maisonneuve Blvd where I earn subsistence wages for an American company that constantly insists none of us may take a sick day without later furnishing a Doctor’s note, never mind that it’s against Quebec law to ask for that for absences of less than three days.

I went down to the street on my break and watched the marchers head down Peel Street. They were joyously defiant. They had all the violence of a John Lennon or Ghandi.

They were on the right side of history, I figured.

For what I had heretofore failed to see was that the tuition increase wasn’t all they were protesting. The increase, or “Hausse” was more like the straw that broke the camel’s back – the camel that the mass media was always looking beyond because it figured nobody cared so much about camels as about Kardashians. And if it’s sad that they are right in that assumption, it’s also true that they had a big hand in making it so.

I guess I didn’t relate because my own experience in university was that tuition kept going up each year, but my parents (what foresight!) had been saving for me and my sister since we were tots to make sure we had money to get a degree. And they had expected it to be a lot more expensive than it turned out to be.

My first year at Concordia University was also the last year of a long-standing tuition fee freeze (1988), and my contract for a full year’s study, including extra administrative costs, was all of $750. After that, there was books and living expenses of course. And I did my bit. I toiled unrewarded as a volunteer student journalist; I paid my way and switched to studying part-time once the $350-a-year increases kicked-in in 1989, working minimum wage at McDonald’s – a real Flaherty job if ever there was one.

Since graduation, I have found the market for my writing, my reporting, indeed the sum of my skills learned within the two departments of Journalism and Communications, to be drier than a James Bond martini. The jobs just haven’t been there, and when they were, I jumped at them, only to find myself jammed-up with numerous others, like the hammers of an old manual typewriter all struck at once, with none eventually hitting the ribbon, but left with no recourse save full retreat.

I am 43 years old, with two dependants and an ex-wife. I had to start over last year, grateful as hell to find employment that provides good family benefits and a measure of security (not maternity-leave replacement or fixed-term contract work, but permanent, full-time with vacation), despite the fact it pays less than I made twelve years ago as a McDonald’s manager.

So if the greater message is that this society is just not providing opportunity for the average Joe and Josephine, yeah, I get it.

And as someone who is squarely in the red, living in a tiny apartment with no money to go on vacations and unable to set aside anything for my kids’ education, let alone my own retirement (which I imagine won’t come before I am 70, if not 67 – unlike the tsk-tsk-ing well-heeled Boomer generation that is so disgusted by all this protesting), you bet I get it. Even Arcade Fire and Mick Jagger get it.

So I am with you. Sorry I wasn’t listening earlier. That’s what happens when you’re working for the clampdown. I always loved that song. Now I’ve lived it.

Not the way I’d hoped.

*Photo: thanks, Aly Neumann! . . . → Read More: Tattered Sleeve: Paint It, Red

Tattered Sleeve: Paint It, Red

But the sound wasn’t sad!Why, this sound sounded merry!It couldn’t be so!But it WAS merry! VERY!

Reports are the casserole protests continued tonight. Thousands marching up St-Laurent Blvd earlier this fine evening. Good for them. “That’s the spirit,” as my eight-year-old son likes to say.

You know, for months I was reluctant to . . . → Read More: Tattered Sleeve: Paint It, Red

Montreal Simon: Quebec and the Spirit of Resistance

A massive thunderstorm hit Montreal this evening. The heavens really opened up.

But that didn't stop thousands of people from parading through the streets, beating their pots and pans.

Even though in a city full of riot cops armed with a fascist bill, anything could happen.

More than 2,500 people have been arrested in . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Quebec and the Spirit of Resistance

Montreal Simon: Quebec: The Mad Emperor and the Klown Media

They were out in the streets of Montreal again tonight, for another casserole protest or cazerolazo

The 31st night protest comes as a growing number of Montrealers join a neighbourhood-wide cazerolazo – casserole protest.

Since the weekend, hundreds of people in the island's central neighbourhoods have taken to their balconies, porches and . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: Quebec: The Mad Emperor and the Klown Media

Montreal Simon: The Casserole Symphony and the Royal Canadians

In many Montreal neighbourhoods this evening people were banging pots and pans in another casserole symphony of protest. The latest tactic in this awesome struggle.

It's a nightly ritual known as les manifs aux casseroles, that sees hundreds of people step out of their homes, armed with pots and pans. At the stroke . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Casserole Symphony and the Royal Canadians

Drive-by Planet: 100th day of protest in Quebec: Charest’s tactics backfire

On May 18, in an effort to quell protest the National Assembly in Quebec passed Bill 78 – emergency legislation that includes a number of repressive measures. It’s an unwise move that is showing every sign of backfiring. Léo Bureau-Blouin, president of the association of junior colleges said “We deplore that the government chose . . . → Read More: Drive-by Planet: 100th day of protest in Quebec: Charest’s tactics backfire

Bill 78: four constitutional questions

A caveat: I haven’t taken constitutional politics in over a decade, though I was fortunate enough to have Peter Russell as a professor and had issues with Ted Morton eons before his political career.

Still, Québec’s Bill 78 raises some interesting constitutional questions for the layperson with a passing interest. Here’s my take, and another . . . → Read More: Bill 78: four constitutional questions

Montreal Simon: The Day They Turned Montreal Red

And so it came to pass. On the 100th day of their amazing struggle, they refused to be intimidated by a totalitarian bill, and turned Montreal RED.

A sea of students, their numbers swollen by trade unionists, teachers and other supporters, flooded through the streets of Montreal in a massive turnout marking the 100th . . . → Read More: Montreal Simon: The Day They Turned Montreal Red

From Orangutan: Photos of the Peaceful Protest, May 22, 2012, Montreal,

Just a few of my photos of Tuesday’s protest in Montreal, the single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Estimates of crowd numbers run from the tens of thousands all the way up to 500,000. The protest marked the 100th day of the Quebec student strike.

Jeanne Reynolds and Gabriel . . . → Read More: From Orangutan: Photos of the Peaceful Protest, May 22, 2012, Montreal,

From Orangutan: Photos of the Peaceful Protest, May 22, 2012, Montreal,

Just a few of my photos of Tuesday’s protest in Montreal, the single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Estimates of crowd numbers run from the tens of thousands all the way up to 500,000. The protest marked the 100th day of the Que… . . . → Read More: From Orangutan: Photos of the Peaceful Protest, May 22, 2012, Montreal,