Thursday, May 24, 2012

Solidarité Avec Le Québec!

Depending on where you are, geographically speaking, you may or may not be aware of what is happening here in Canada. More specifically, the daily protests and demonstrations happening in Montreal, Québec. To bring you up to speed, I will give you a brief update of what has been happening there over the last few months now.

The first thing you should know is that Québec has a long history of social activism and protest. They are very organized and very determined people who will not take injustice or perceived injustice sitting down. The student population is particularly organized in this manner and as such, the students of Québec have had the lowest tuition rates in Canada for...well, for as long as I am aware. If I recall, the tuition there has been frozen for almost a decade (have to check that for accuracy). A few months ago, the government decided it was time to unfreeze the tuition and announced a 75% increase over a 5 year period.

As you can imagine, this did not go over well with the students. So, 102 days ago today, they called for a general strike and followed through on it (again, this is day 102). The government eventually responded with a new counteroffer of an 82% increase over a 7 year period. Still the students were not satisfied and the protests continued; growing larger in size and momentum. Then, last weekend, the Québec government passed bill 78; essentially making it a crime to exercise rights covered under the Charter. It limits the manner in which, the location of, the direction of, the size of any protests or demonstrations. They have told students when and how they are able to use their freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. It is not much of a surprise to now tell you that following the weekend the students and citizens of Montreal let their government know this would not stand. Over 200 000 took to the streets on Tuesday and protests continue daily and nightly.

Many people look at this situation and bark snide remarks about how spoiled the students there are; how much like little brats they are behaving. This is both untrue and unfair. As I mentioned, the student union in Québec has a long history of political activism. They have (and continue obviously) fought long and hard to enjoy the low cost of education they enjoy (a lesson we could learn here in Nova Scotia). They have put in the work and earned the right to their low tuition costs. As education should be free anyway, when their hard work was threatened, they did as anyone would do: stood up to defend it. If the government had been thinking, they would have worked more democratically and tried to find a solution. Instead of this, they have made things worse by outlawing Charter rights. This protest has moved beyond mere tuition costs and into something far greater.

What the Charest government did when it passed bill 78 was move this from a student issue to not just a Québec issue, but a Canadian issue. They have made some of your fundamental rights illegal. I have seen the many exaggerated contrasting relations between Nazi Germany and many present day governments and leaders and always scoffed. Today, I scoff no more and I use the comparison with absolute sincerity and concern. They took away your rights Canada; at least in Québec and while 200 000+ took to the streets in Montreal, the rest of Canada barely knew it was happening; some not at all. After 100+ days of protest, there were still Canadians who don't know what's going on; troubling indeed.

So I want to make it well know that I stand with the students and citizens of Montreal. I support them in every protest; in every demonstration. What they are fighting for there is much more than money or education; they are fighting for the guaranteed fundamental rights and freedoms that our veterans and soldiers fight, fought and die, died for. I am ever the more fearful of our own federal Harper Régime now. If the provincial government can erase our rights in the swift signing of a document, how long before Harper does it? Well, I mean more than he's doing now? 

Canadians, it is time to open your eyes and open your minds to what is happening all around you. I know how disturbing and scary it is; I've been watching for years but you must. Support the people of Québec; they need to know you're behind them. They aren't in the streets because they are spoiled; they are there for each one of us; the least we can do is let them know we're grateful. 

Solidarité Avec Le Québec!
 Solidarity With Québec!