[News] 10 Things You Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 23 12:02:53 EDT 2012


May 23, 2012
http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/23/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-quebec-student-movement/ 



10 Things You Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

by ANDREW GAVIN MARSHALL

The student strikes in Quebec, which began in 
February and have lasted for three months, 
involving roughly 175,000 students in the mostly 
French-speaking Canadian province, have been 
subjected to a massive provincial and national 
media propaganda campaign to demonize and dismiss 
the students and their struggle. The following is 
a list of ten points that everyone should know 
about the student movement in Quebec to help 
place their struggle in its proper global context.
    * The issue is debt, not tuition
    * Striking students in Quebec are setting an 
example for youth across the continent
    * The student strike was organized through 
democratic means and with democratic aims
    * This is not an exclusively Quebecois phenomenon
    * Government officials and the media have 
been openly calling for violence and “fascist” 
tactics to be used against the students
    * Excessive state violence has been used against the students
    * The government supports organized crime and opposes organized students
    * Canada’s elites punish the people and oppose the students
    * The student strike is being subjected to a 
massive and highly successful propaganda campaign 
to discredit, dismiss, and demonize the students
    * The student movement is part of a much 
larger emerging global movement of resistance 
against austerity, neoliberalism, and corrupt power

1) The issue is debt, not tuition: In dismissing 
the students, who are striking against a 75% 
increase in the cost of tuition over the next 
five years, the most common argument used is in 
pointing out that Quebec students pay the lowest 
tuition in North America, and therefore, they 
should not be complaining. Even with the 75% 
increase, they will still be paying substantially 
lower than most other provinces. Quebec students 
pay on average $2,500 per year in tuition, while 
the rest of Canada’s students pay on average 
$5,000 per year. With the tuition increase of 
$1,625 spread out over five years, the total 
tuition cost for Quebec students would be roughly 
$4,000. The premise here is that since the rest 
of Canada has it worse, Quebec students should 
shut up, sit down, and accept “reality.” THIS IS 
FALSE. In playing the “numbers game,” 
commentators and their parroting public repeat 
the tuition costs but fail to add in the numbers 
which represent the core issue: DEBT. So, Quebec 
students pay half the average national tuition. 
True. But they also graduate with half the 
average national student debt. With the average 
tuition at $5,000/year, the average student debt 
for an undergraduate in Canada is $27,000, while 
the average debt for an undergraduate in Quebec 
is $13,000. With interest rates expected to 
increase, in the midst of a hopeless job 
situation for Canadian youth, Canada’s youth face 
a future of debt that “is bankrupting a 
generation of students.” The notion, therefore, 
that Quebec students should not struggle against 
a bankrupt future is a bankrupted argument.

2) Striking students in Quebec are setting an 
example for youth across the continent: Nearly 
60% of Canadian students graduate with debt, on 
average at $27,000 for an undergraduate degree. 
Total student debt now stands at about $20 
billion in Canada($15 billion from Federal 
Government loans programs, and the rest from 
provincial and commercial bank loans). In Quebec, 
the average student debt is $15,000, whereas Nova 
Scotia and Newfoundland have an average student 
debt of $35,000, British Columbia at nearly 
$30,000 and Ontario at nearly $27,000. Roughly 
70% of new jobs in Canada require a 
post-secondary education. Half of students in 
their 20s live at home with their parents, 
including 73 per cent of those aged 20 to 24 and 
nearly a third of 25- to 29-year-olds. On 
average, a four-year degree for a student living 
at home in Canada costs $55,000, and those costs 
are expected to increase in coming years at a 
rate faster than inflation. It has been estimated 
that in 18 years, a four-year degree for Canadian 
students will cost $102,000. Defaults on 
government student loans are at roughly 14%. The 
Chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students 
warned in June of 2011 that, “We are on the verge 
of bankrupting a generation before they even 
enter the workplace.” This immense student debt 
affects every decision made in the lives of young 
graduates. With few jobs, enormous housing costs, 
the cutting of future benefits and social 
security, students are entering an economy which 
holds very little for them in opportunities. 
Women, minorities, and other marginalized groups 
are in an even more disadvantaged position. 
Canadian students are increasingly moving back 
home and relying more and more upon their parents 
for support. An informal Globe and Mail poll in 
early May of 2012 (surveying 2,200 students), 
“shows that students across Canada share a 
similar anxiety over rising tuition fees” as that 
felt in Quebec. Roughly 62% of post-secondary 
students said they would join a similar strike in 
their own province, while 32% said they would 
not, and 5.9% were undecided. In Ontario, where 
tuition is the highest in Canada, 69% said they 
would support a strike against increasing 
tuition. A Quebec research institution released a 
report in late March of 2012 indicating that 
increasing the cost of tuition for students is 
creating a “student debt bubble” akin to the 
housing bubble in the United States, and with 
interest rates set to increase, “today’s students 
may well find themselves in the same situation of 
not being able to pay off their student loans.” 
The authors of the report from the Institut de 
recherche et d’informations socio-economique 
explained that, “Since governments underwrite 
those loans, if students default it could be 
catastrophic for public finances,” and that, “If 
the bubble explodes, it could be just like the 
mortgage crisis.” In the United States, the 
situation is even worse. In March of 2012, the 
Federal Reserve reported that 27 percent of 
student borrowers whose loans have gone into 
repayment are now delinquent on their debt.” 
Student debt in the United States has reached $1 
trillion, “passing total credit card debt along 
the way.” It has become a threat to the entire 
existence of the middle class in America. 
Bankruptcy lawyers in the US are “seeing the 
telltale signs of a student loan debt bubble.” A 
recent survey from the National Association of 
Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) indicated, 
“more than 80 percent of bankruptcy lawyers have 
seen a substantial increase in the number of 
clients seeking relief from student loans in 
recent years.” The head of the NACBA stated, 
“This could very well be the next debt bomb for 
the U.S. economy.” In 1993, 45% of students who 
earn a bachelor’s degree had to go into debt; 
today, it is 94%. The average student debt in the 
United States in 2011 was $23,300, with 10% 
owning more than $54,000 and 3% owing more than 
$100,000. President Obama has addressed the 
situation by simply providing more loans to 
students. A recent survey of graduates revealed 
that 40% of them “had delayed making a major 
purchase, like a home or car, because of college 
debt, while slightly more than a quarter had put 
off continuing their education or had moved in 
with relatives to save money,” and 50% of those 
surveyed had full-time jobs. Between 2001 and 
2011, “state and local financing per student 
declined by 24 percent nationally.” In the same 
period of time,“tuition and fees at state schools 
increased 72 percent.” It would appear that 
whether in the United States, Canada, or even 
beyond, the decisions made by schools, banks, and 
the government, are geared toward increasing the 
financial burden on students and families, and 
increasing profits for themselves. The effect 
will be to plunge the student and youth 
population into poverty over the coming years. 
Thus, the student movement in Quebec, instead of 
being portrayed as “entitled brats” elsewhere, 
are actually setting an example for students and 
youth across the continent and beyond. Since 
Quebec tuition is the lowest on the continent, it 
gives all the more reason that other students 
should follow Quebec’s example, instead of Quebec 
students being told to follow the rest of the 
country (and continent) into debt bondage.

3) The student strike was organized through 
democratic means and with democratic aims: The 
decision to strike was made through student 
associations and organizations that uniquely 
operate through direct-democracy. While most 
student associations at schools across Canada 
hold elections where students choose the members 
of the associations, the democratic 
accountability ends there (just like with 
government). Among the Francophone schools in 
Quebec, the leaders are not only elected by the 
students, but decisions are made through general 
assemblies, debate and discussion, and through 
the votes of the actual constituents, the members 
of the student associations, not just the 
leaders. This means that the student associations 
that voted to strike are more democratically 
accountable and participatory than most other 
student associations, and certainly the 
government. It represents a more profound and 
meaningful working definition of democracy that 
is lacking across the rest of the country. The 
Anglophone student associations that went on 
strike – from Concordia and McGill – did so 
because, for the first time ever, they began to 
operate through direct-democracy. This of course, 
has resulted in insults and derision from the 
media. The national media in Canada – most 
especially the National Post – complain that the 
student “tactics are anything but democratic,” 
and that the students aren’t acting in a 
democratic way, but that “it’s really mob rule.” 
Obviously, it is naïve to assume that the 
National Post has any sort of understanding of democracy.

4) This is not an exclusively Quebecois 
phenomenon: I am an Anglophone, I don’t even 
speak French, I have only lived in Montreal for 
under two years, but the strikers are struggling 
as much for me as for any other student, 
Francophone or Anglophone. Typically, when others 
across Canada see what is taking place here, they 
frame it along the lines of, “Oh those Quebecois, 
always yelling about something.” But I’m yelling 
too
 in English. Many people here are yelling
 in 
English. It is true that the majority of the 
students protesting are Francophone, and the 
majority of the schools on strike are 
Francophone, but it is not exclusionary. In fact, 
the participation in the strike from the 
Anglophone schools (while a minority within the 
schools) is unprecedented in Quebec history. This 
was undertaken because students began mobilizing 
at the grassroots and emulating the French 
student groups in how they make decisions (i.e., 
through direct-democracy). The participation of 
Anglophone students in the open-ended strike is 
unprecedented in Quebec history.

5) Government officials and the media have been 
openly calling for violence and “fascist” tactics 
to be used against the students: With all the 
focus on student violence at protests, breaking 
bank windows, throwing rocks at riot police, and 
other acts of vandalism, student leaders have 
never called for violence against the government 
or vandalism against property, and have, in fact, 
denounced it and spoken out for calm, stating: 
“The student movement wants to fight alongside 
the populace and not against it.” On the other 
hand, it has been government officials and the 
national media which have been openly calling for 
violence to be used against students. On May 11, 
Michael Den Tandt, writing for the National Post, 
stated that, “It’s time for tough treatment of 
Quebec student strikers,” and recommended to 
Quebec Premier Jean Charest that, “He must bring 
down the hammer.” Tandt claimed that there was “a 
better way” to deal with student protesters: 
“Dispersal with massive use of tear gas; then 
arrest, public humiliation, and some pain.” He 
even went on to suggest that, “caning is more 
merciful than incarceration,” or perhaps even 
re-imagining the medieval punishment in which 
“miscreants and ne’er-do-wells were placed in the 
stockade, in the public square, and pelted with 
rotten cabbages. That might not be a bad idea, 
either.” This, Tandt claimed, would be the only 
way to preserve “peace, order, and good 
government.” Kelly McParland, writing the for 
National Post on May 11, suggested that it was 
now time for Charest to “empower the police to 
use the full extent of the law against those who 
condone or pursue further disruption,” and that 
the government must make a “show of strength” 
against the students. If this was not bad enough, 
get ready for this: A member of the Quebec 
Liberal Party, head of the tax office in the 
Municipal Affairs Department, Bernard Guay, wrote 
an article for a French-language newspaper in 
Quebec in mid-April advocating a strategy to “end 
the student strikes.” In the article, the 
government official recommended using the fascist 
movements of the 1920s and 1930s as an example in 
how to deal with “leftists” in giving them “their 
own medicine.” He suggested organizing a 
political “cabal” to handle the “wasteful and 
anti-social” situation, which would mobilize 
students to not only cross picket lines, but to 
confront and assault students who wear the little 
red square (the symbol of the student strike). 
This, Guay suggested, would help society 
“overcome the tyranny of Leftist agitators,” no 
doubt by emulating fascist tyranny. The article 
was eventually pulled and an apology was issued, 
while a government superior supposedly 
reprimanded Guay, though the government refused 
to elaborate on what that consisted of. Just 
contemplate this for a moment: A Quebec Liberal 
government official recommended using 
“inspiration” from fascist movements to attack 
the striking students. Imagine if one of the 
student associations had openly called for 
violence, let alone for the emulation of fascism. 
It would be national news, and likely lead to 
arrests and charges. But since it was a 
government official, barely a peep was heard.

6) Excessive state violence has been used against 
the students:Throughout the three months of 
protests from students in Quebec, the violence 
has almost exclusively been blamed on the 
students. Images of protesters throwing rocks and 
breaking bank windows inundate the media and 
‘inform’ the discourse, demonizing the students 
as violent, vandals, and destructive. Meanwhile, 
the reality of state violence being used against 
the students far exceeds any of the violent 
reactions from protesters, but receives far less 
coverage. Riot police meet students with pepper 
spray, tear gas, concussion grenades, smoke 
bombs, beating them with batons, shoot them with 
rubber bullets, and have even been driving police 
cars and trucks into groups of students. On May 
4, on the 42nd anniversary of the Kent State 
massacre in which the U.S. National Guard 
murdered four protesting students, Quebec almost 
experienced its own Kent State, when several 
students were critically injured by police, shot 
with rubber bullets in the face. One student lost 
an eye, and another remains in the hospital with 
serious head injuries, including a skull fracture 
and brain contusion. The Quebec provincial police 
– the SQ – have not only been involved in violent 
repression of student protests in Quebec, but 
have also (along with the RCMP) been involved 
intraining foreign police forces how to violently 
repress their own populations, such as in Haiti. 
Roughly 12,000 people in Quebec have signed a 
petition against the police reaction to student 
protests, stipulating that the police actions 
have been far too violent.  In late April, even 
before the Quebec police almost killed a couple 
students, Amnesty International “asked the 
government to call for a toning down of police 
measures that
 are unduly aggressive and might 
potentially smother students’ right to free 
expression.” The Quebec government, of course, 
defends police violenceagainst students and 
youths. The Canadian Security Intelligence 
Service (CSIS) – Canada’s spy agency – has 
recently announced its interest in “gathering 
intelligence” on Quebec student protesters and 
related groups as “possible threats to national 
security.” Coincidentally, Prime Minister Stephen 
Harper dismantled the government agency 
responsible for oversight of CSIS, making the 
agency essentially unaccountable. In reaction to 
student protests, the City of Montreal is 
considering banning masks being worn at protests 
in a new bylaw which is being voted on without 
public consultation. Thus, apparently it is fine 
for police to wear gas masks as they shoot 
chemical agents at Quebec’s youth, but students 
cannot attempt to even meagerly protect 
themselves by covering their faces. The federal 
Conservative government of Stephen Harper is 
attempting to pass a law that bans masks at 
protests, which includes a ten-year sentence for 
“rioters who wear masks.” Quebec has even 
established a secretive police unit called the 
GAMMA squad to monitor political groups in the 
province, which has already targeted and arrested 
members of the leading student organization 
behind the strike. The police unit is designed to 
monitor “anarchists” and “marginal political 
groups.” Some political groups have acknowledged 
this as “a declaration of war” by the government 
against such groups. Spokesperson for the largest 
student group, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, stated 
that, “This squad is really a new kind of 
political police to fight against social 
movements.” The situation of police repression 
has become so prevalent that even the U.S. State 
Department has warned Americans to stay away from 
student protests in the city, “as bystanders can 
quickly be caught up in unforeseen violence and 
in some cases, detained by the local police.”

Click here to watch a video compilation of police brutality against students.

7) The government supports organized crime and 
opposes organized students: The government claims 
that it must increase the cost of tuition in 
order to balance the budget and to increase the 
“competitiveness” of schools. The government has 
ignored, belittled, undermined, attempted to 
divide, and outright oppress the student 
movement. The Liberal Government of Quebec, in 
short, has declared organized students to be 
enemies of the state. Meanwhile, that same 
government has no problem of working with and 
supporting organized crime, namely, the Montreal 
Mafia. In 2010, Quebec, under Premier Jean 
Charest, was declared to be “the most corrupt 
province” in Canada. A former opposition leader 
in the Montreal city hall reported that, “the 
Italian mafia controls about 80 per cent of city 
hall.” The mafia is a “big player” in the Quebec 
economy, and “is deeply entrenched in city 
affairs” of Montreal, as “more than 600 
businesses pay Mafia protection money in Montreal 
alone, handing organized crime leaders an 
unprecedented degree of control of Quebec’s 
economy.” The construction industry, especially, 
is heavily linked to the mafia. The Montreal 
Mafia is as influential as their Sicilian 
counterparts, where “all of the major 
infrastructure work in Sicily is under Mafia 
control.” In 2009, a government official stated 
that, “It’s Montreal’s Italian Mafia that 
controls what is going on in road construction. 
They control, from what we can tell, 80 per cent 
of the contracts.” In the fall of 2011, an 
internal report written by the former Montreal 
police chief for the government was leaked, 
stating, “We have discovered a firmly rooted, 
clandestine universe on an unexpected scale, 
harmful to our society on the level of safety and 
economics and of justice and democracy.” The 
report added, “Suspicions are persistent that an 
evil empire is taking form in the highway 
construction domain,” and that, “If there were to 
be an intensification of influence-peddling in 
the political sphere, we would no longer simply 
be talking about marginal, or even parallel 
criminal activities: we could suspect an 
infiltration or even a takeover of certain 
functions of the state.” Quebec Premier Jean 
Charest, for several years,rejected calls for a 
public inquiry into corruption in the 
construction industry, even as the head of 
Quebec’s anti-collusion squad called for such an 
inquiry. An opposition party in Quebec stated 
that Jean Charest “is protecting the (Quebec) 
Liberal party – and in protecting the Liberal 
party, Mr. Charest is protecting the Mafia, 
organized crime.” After the leaked report 
revealed “cost overruns totaling hundreds of 
millions of dollars, kickbacks and illegal 
donations to political parties,” Charest had to – 
after two years of refusing – open a public 
inquiry into corruption. The Quebec mafia have 
not only “run gambling and prostitution and 
imported stupefying amounts of illegal drugs into 
Canada, but they have extended their influence to 
elected civic and provincial governments, and to 
Liberal and Conservative federal governments 
through bribery and other ‘illustrious 
relations’.” The Federal Conservative Party of 
Canada, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as its 
leader, received dozens of donations from 
Mafia-connected construction and engineering firm 
employees. The Mafia-industry has also donated to 
the Federal Liberal Party, but less so than the 
Conservatives, who hold power. In Quebec, 
government officials have helped the Mafia charge 
far more for public-works contracts than they 
were worth. These Mafia companies would then use 
a lot of that extra money to fund political 
parties, most notably, the Liberals, who have 
been in power for nine years. A former Montreal 
police officer who worked in the intelligence 
unit with access to the police’s confidential 
list of informants was suspected of selling 
information to the mafia. In January of 2012, he 
was found dead, reportedly of a suicide. In April 
of 2012, fifteen arrests were made in Montreal by 
the police in relation to corruption charges 
linked to the Mafia. Among them were one of the 
biggest names in the construction industry, with 
14 individual facing conspiracy charges 
“involving municipal contracts associated with 
the Mascouche water-treatment plants [that] are 
connected to big construction, engineering and 
law firms that have been involved in municipal 
contracts and politics across the Montreal region 
for decades. And the individuals have been around 
the municipal world for years.” One Quebec mayor 
has even been charged. The Montreal police force 
has “not been very interested, and it should be,” 
in helping the anti-corruption investigation. Two 
of those who were arrested included Quebec 
Liberal Party fundraisers, one of whom Charest 
personally delivered an award to in 2010 for his 
“years of service as an organizer.” All three of 
Quebec’s main political parties were connected to 
individuals arrested in the raids. Canada’s 
federal police force,the RCMP, have refused to 
cooperate with the Mafia-corruption inquiry in 
handing over their massive amounts of information 
to the judge leading the inquiry. Quebec 
Education Minister Line Beauchamp, who has been 
leading the government assault against the 
students, attended a political fundraiser for 
herself which was attended by a notorious Mafia 
figure who personally “donated generously to the 
minister’s Liberal riding association.” As these 
revelations emerged, Beauchamp stated, “I don’t 
know the individual in question and even today I 
wouldn’t be able to recognize him.” At the time, 
Beauchamp was the Environment Minister, and was 
responsible for granting the Mafia figure’s 
company a favourable certificate to expand its 
business. Beauchamp claimed she did not know 
about the deal, but as head of the Ministry which 
handled it, either she is utterly incompetent or 
a liar. Either way, she is clearly not fit for 
“public service” if it amounts to nothing more 
than “service to the Mafia.” The fact that she is 
now responsible for increasing tuition and 
leading the attack on students speaks 
volumes.  Line Beauchamp, when questioned about 
taking political contributions from the Mafia, 
stated, “Now that the information is public and 
the links well established, I would not put 
myself in that position again.” Well isn’t that 
reassuring? Now that it’s public, she wouldn’t do 
it again. That’s sort of like saying, “I wouldn’t 
have committed the crime if I knew I was going to 
be caught.” The notion that Beauchamp didn’t know 
whom this Mafia figure was who was giving her 
money is absurd. It’s even more absurd when you 
note that one of Beauchamp’s political attaches 
was a 30-year veteran of the Montreal police 
force. As one Quebec political figure commented 
about the Liberal Government’s Mafia links: “They 
refuse to sit down with a student leader but they 
have breakfast with a mafioso 
 where is the 
logic in that?” Indeed. It’s clear that the 
Quebec government has no problem working with, 
handing out contracts to, and taking money from 
the Mafia and organized crime. In fact, they are 
so integrated that the government itself is a 
form of organized crime. But for that government, 
and for the media boot-lickers who follow the 
government line, organized students are the true 
threat to Quebec. National newspapers declare 
Quebec students following “mob rule” when it’s 
actually the government that is closely connected 
to “mob rule.” The students are challenging and 
being repressed by a Mafioso-government alliance 
of industrialists, politicians, financiers and 
police
 yet it is the students who are blamed for 
everything. The government gives the Mafia public 
contracts double or triple their actual value, 
wasting hundreds of millions of dollars (if not 
more), while students are being asked to pay 
nearly double their current tuition. There’s 
money for the mob, but scraps for the students.

8)
  Canada’s elites punish the people and oppose 
the students: It’s not simply the government of 
Quebec which has set itself against the students, 
sought to increase their tuition and repress 
their resistance, often with violent means, but a 
wide sector of elite society in Quebec and Canada 
propose tuition increases and blind faith to the 
state in managing its repression of a growing 
social movement. As such, the student movement 
should recognize that not simply are Jean Charest 
and his Liberal-Mafia government the antagonists 
of social justice, but the whole elite society 
itself. As early as 2007, TD Bank, one of 
Canada’s big five banks, outlined a “plan for 
prosperity” for the province of Quebec, and 
directly recommended Quebec to raise tuition 
costs for students. Naturally, the Quebec 
government is more likely to listen to a bank 
than the youth of the province. Banks of course, 
have an interest in increasing tuition costs for 
students, as they provide student loans and lines 
of credit which they charge interest on and make 
profits. The Royal Bank of Canada acknowledged 
that student lines of credit are “very popular 
products.” Elites of all sorts support the 
tuition increases. In February of 2010, a group 
of “prominent” (i.e., elitist) Quebecers signed a 
letter proposing to increase Quebec’s tuition 
costs. Among the signatories were the former 
Premier of Quebec for the Parti Quebecois, Lucien 
Bouchard.  In early May, a letter was published 
in the Montreal Gazette which stated that 
students need to pay more for their education in 
Quebec, signed by the same elitists who proposed 
the tuition increase back in February of 2010. 
Initially, this group of elitists had proposed an 
increase of $1,000 every year for three years. 
The letter then calls for the application of 
state power to be employed against the student 
movement: “It is time that we react. We must 
reinstate order; the students have to return to 
class
 This is a situation when, regardless of 
political allegiances, the population must 
support the state, which is ultimately 
responsible for public order, the safety of 
individuals and the integrity of our 
institutions.” The “integrity” of institutions 
which cooperate with the Mafia, I might add. What 
incredible integrity! The letter was signed by 
Lucien Bouchard, former Premier of Quebec; Michel 
Audet, an economist and former Finance Minister 
in the first Charest government in Quebec; 
Françoise Bertrand, the President and chief 
executive officer of the Fédération des chambres 
de commerce du Québec (The Quebec Federation of 
Chambers of Commerce), where she sits alongside 
the presidents and executives of major Canadian 
corporations, banks, and business interests. She 
also sits on the board of directors of Quebecor 
Inc., a major media conglomerate, with former 
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on its board. 
Another signatory was Yves-Thomas Dorval, 
President of the Quebec Employers’ Council, who 
formerly worked for British American Tobacco 
Group, former Vice President at Edelman Canada, 
an international public relations firm, was a 
director at a pharmaceutical corporation, head of 
strategic planning at an insurance company, and 
previously worked for the Government of Quebec 
and Hydro-Quebec. Joseph Facal, another signatory 
to the letter demanding higher tuition and state 
repression of students, is former president of 
the Quebec Treasury Board, and was a cabinet 
minister in the Quebec government of Lucien 
Bouchard. Other signatories include Pierre 
Fortin, a professor emeritus at the Université du 
Québec à Montréal; Michel Gervais, the former 
rector of Université Laval; Monique 
Jérôme-Forget, former finance minister of Quebec 
and former president of the Quebec Treasury 
Board, member of the Quebec Liberal Party between 
1998 and 2009, was responsible for introducing 
public-private partnerships in Quebec’s 
infrastructure development (which saw enormous 
cooperation with the Mafia), and is on the board 
of directors of Astral Media. Robert Lacroix, 
another co-signer, was former rector of the 
Université de Montréal is also a fellow at 
CIRANO, a Montreal-based think tank which is 
governed by a collection of university heads, 
business executives, and bankers, including 
representatives from Power Corporation (owned by 
the Desmarais family). Another signatory is 
Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of 
Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, a prominent 
business organization in Montreal, of which the 
board of directors includes a number of corporate 
executives, mining company representatives, 
university board members, bankers and Hélène 
Desmarais, who married into the Desmarais family. 
Another signatory is Claude Montmarquette, 
professor emeritus at the Université de Montréal, 
who is also a member of the elitist CIRANO think 
tank, which as a “research institution” (for 
elites) has recommended increasing Quebec’s 
tuition costs for several years. Another 
signatory was Marcel Boyer, a Bell Canada 
Professor of industrial economics at the 
Université de Montréal, Vice-president and chief 
economist at the Montreal Economic Institute, is 
the C.D. Howe Scholar in Economic Policy at the 
C.D. Howe Institute, Member of the Board of the 
Agency for Public-Private Partnerships of Québec, 
and Visiting Senior Research Advisor for 
industrial economics at Industry Canada. At the 
Montreal Economic Institute, Boyer sits alongside 
notable elitists, bankers, and corporate 
executives, including Hélène Desmarais, who 
married into the Desmarais family (the most 
powerful family in Canada). At the C.D. Howe 
Institute, Boyer works for even more elitists, as 
the board of directors is made up of some of 
Canada’s top bankers, corporate executives, and 
again includes Hélène Desmarais. The Desmarais 
family, who own Power Corporation and its many 
subsidiaries, as well as a number of foreign 
corporations in Europe and China, are Canada’s 
most powerful family. The patriarch, Paul 
Desmarais Sr., has had extremely close business 
and even family ties to every Canadian Prime 
Minister since Pierre Trudeau, and all Quebec 
premiers (save two) in the past several decades. 
The Desmarais’ have strong links to the Parti 
Quebecois, the Liberals, Conservatives, and even 
the NDP, and socialize with presidents and prime 
ministers around the world, as well as the 
Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and even Spanish 
royalty. Paul Desmarais Sr. has “a 
disproportionate influence on politics and the 
economy in Quebec and Canada,” and he especially 
“has a lot of influence on Premier Jean Charest.” 
When former French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave 
Desmarais the French Legion of Honour, Desmarais 
brought Jean Charest with him. Quebec author 
Robin Philpot commented that Desmarais “took him 
along like a poodle,” referring to Charest. The 
Desmarais family has extensive ties to Canadian 
and especially Quebec politicians, have extensive 
interests in Canadian and international 
corporations and banks, are closely tied to major 
national and international think tanks (including 
the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral 
Commission, and the Bilderberg Group), and even 
host an annual international think tank 
conference in Montreal, the Conference of 
Montreal. The Desmarais family have had very 
close ties to Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, 
Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and 
even Stephen Harper, and to Quebec premiers, 
including Lucien Bouchard, who co-authored the 
article in the Gazette advocating increased 
tuition. The Desmarais empire also includes 
ownership of seven of the ten French newspapers 
in Quebec, including La Presse. The Desmarais 
family stand atop a parasitic Canadian oligarchy, 
which has bankers and corporate executives 
controlling the entire economy, political 
parties, the media, think tanks which set policy, 
and even our educational institutions, with the 
chancellors of both Concordia and McGill 
universities serving on the boards of the Bank of 
Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada, 
respectively, as well as both schools having 
extensive leadership ties to Power Corporation 
and the Desmarais family. It is this very 
oligarchy which demands the people pay more, go 
further into debt, suffer and descend into 
poverty, while they make record profits. In March 
of 2012, Power Corporation reported fourth 
quarter profits of $314 million, with yearly 
earnings at over $1.1 billion. Canada’s banks 
last yearmade record profits, and then decided to 
increase bank fees. At the end of April, it was 
reported that Canada’s banks had received a 
“secret bailout” back in 2008/09, from both the 
Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve, 
amounting to roughly $114 billion, or $3,400 for 
every Canadian man, woman, and child (more than 
the cost of yearly tuition in Quebec). And yet 
Quebec youth are told we suffer from 
“entitlement.” And now banks are expected to be 
making even more profits, as reported in early 
May. As banks make more record profits, Canadians 
are going deeper into debt. The big Canadian 
banks, along with the federal government, have 
colluded to create a massive housing bubble in 
Canada, most especially in Toronto and Vancouver, 
and with average Canadian household debt at 
$103,000, most of which is held in mortgages, and 
with the Bank of Canada announcing its intent to 
raise interest rates, Canada is set for a housing 
crisis like that seen in the United States in 
2008, forcing the people to suffer while the 
banks make a profit. The head of the Bank of 
Canada (a former Goldman Sachs executive) said 
that Canadian household debt is the biggest 
threat to the Canadian economy, but don’t worry, 
Canada’s Finance Minister said he is working in 
close cooperation with the big banks to intervene 
in the housing market if necessary, which would 
likely mean another bailout for the big banks, 
and of course, hand the check to you! So, Canada 
has its priorities: every single Canadian man, 
woman, and child owes $3,400 for a secret bank 
bailout to banks that are now making record 
profits and increasing their fees, while 
simultaneously explaining that there is no money 
for education, so we will have to pay more for 
that, too, which is something those same banks 
demand our governments do to us. When the 
students stand up, they are said to be “brats” 
and whining about “entitlements.” But then, what 
does that make the banks? This is why I argue 
that Canada’s elites are parasitic in their very 
nature, slowly draining the host (that’s us!) of 
its life until there is nothing left the extract.

9) The student strike is being subjected to a 
massive and highly successful propaganda campaign 
to discredit, dismiss, and demonize the students: 
In the vast majority of coverage on the student 
strike and protests in Quebec, the media and its 
many talking heads have undertaken a major 
propaganda campaign against the students. The 
students have been consistently ignored, 
dismissed, derided, insulted and attacked. One 
Canadian newspaper said it was “hard to feel 
sorry” for Quebec students, who were “whining and 
crying” and “kicking up a fuss,” treating 
Canada’s young generation like ungrateful 
children throwing a collective tantrum. In almost 
every article about the student strike, the main 
point brought up to dismiss the students is that 
Quebec has the lowest tuition costs in North 
America. The National Post published a column 
written by a third-year political science student 
at McGill University in Montreal stating that, 
“Quebec students must pay their share,” and 
advised people to “ignore the overheated rhetoric 
from student strikers,” and that, “Jean Charest 
must go full steam ahead.” The student author, 
Brendan Steven, is co-founder of McGill’s 
Moderate Political Action Committee (ModPAC), 
which is an organizing mobilizing McGill students 
inopposition to the strike. Steven’s organization 
attacked striking student associations as 
“illegitimate, unconstitutional shams” and 
attacked the democratic functioning of other 
student associations holding general assemblies. 
Steven complained that the democratic general 
assemblies “are being invented on a whim.” 
Brendan Steven not only gets to write columns for 
the National Post, but getsinterviewed on CBC. 
Steven’s anti-strike group sent a letter to the 
McGill administration complaining about 
pro-strike students on the campus, writing, “This 
group violates our democratic right to access an 
education without fear of harm,” and added: “We 
are demanding the McGill administration take 
action against this minority group before the 
current conflicts escalate into disasters. They 
have proven they will not remain peaceful.” As a 
lap-dog boot-licking power worshipper, Brendan 
Steven has a future for himself in politics, 
that’s for sure! Back in January, Steven wrote an 
article for the Huffington Post in which he 
explained that the reason why CEOs get paid so 
much is because “they’re worth it.” He referred 
to Milton Friedman – the father of neoliberalism 
– as a “great economic thinker.” Back in November 
of 2011, Steven wrote an article for the McGill 
Daily entitled, “Do not demonize authorities,” 
and then went on to justify police violence 
against protesting students engaged in an 
occupation of a school building, which he 
characterized as “an inherently hostile act.” 
Steven later got an opportunity to appear on 
CBC’s The Current. Margaret Wente, writing for 
the Globe and Mail, wrote that, “It’s a little 
hard for the rest of us to muster sympathy for 
Quebec’s downtrodden students, who pay the lowest 
tuition fees in all of North America.” She then 
referred to the striking students as “the 
baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know 
it.” Wente then attempted to explain the Quebec 
students by writing: “Now I get it: The kids are 
on another planet.” Interesting how she used the 
word “kids” to just add a little extra 
condescension. But it seems clear that Wente 
“gets” very little. In an August 2011 column, 
Wente tried to explain why poor black communities 
in Britain and America were experiencing riots 
and gang activity, placing blame on 
“single-mothers” and “family breakdown,” and 
explained that, “Rootless, unmoored young men 
with no stake in society are a major threat to 
social order.” Explaining this demographic in 
economic terms, Wente wrote: “They are, quite 
simply, surplus to requirements.” In another 
column, Wente argued that helping deliver 
much-needed humanitarian supplies to Gaza would 
“enable terrorists.” Wente also wrote an article 
entitled, “The poor are doing better than you 
think,” suggesting that it’s not so bad for poor 
people because they have air conditioning, DVD 
players, and cable TV. Wente has been 
consistently critical of the Occupy movement, and 
suggested in another article that, “the biggest 
economic challenge we face today is not income 
inequality, greedy corporations, Wall Street 
corruption or the concentration of wealth among 
the top 1 per cent. It’s the increasing failure 
of young men with high-school degrees or less to 
latch on to the world of work.” Of course, in 
Wente’s world, the inability of young men to get 
a job has nothing to do with income inequality, 
greedy corporations, Wall Street corruption or 
the concentration of wealth. In another article 
criticizing the Occupy movement, Wente managed to 
argue that it was not Wall Street and bankers 
that have destroyed the economy and left people 
without jobs, but rather what she refers to as 
the “virtueocracy,” blaming unions, single 
mothers who gets masters degrees in social 
sciences, and people who want to work at NGOs and 
non-profits, doing “transformational, 
world-saving work.” So it’s Wente’s “insightful” 
voice which is “informing” Canadians about the 
student movement in Quebec. Other Canadian 
publications writing about the Quebec student 
strike have headlines like, “Reality check for 
the entitled,” repeating the idiotic argument 
that because Quebec students pay less than the 
rest of Canada, they shouldn’t be “complaining” 
about the hikes. Andrew Coyne wrote a syndicated 
column in which he claimed that, “Quebec students 
know violence works,” framing the protest at 
which police almost killed two students as an 
action “of general rage the students had 
promised.” With no mention of the student who 
lost an eye, or the other student who ended up in 
the hospital with critical head injuries, Coyne 
talked about a cop who “was beaten savagely” and 
“lay helpless on the ground.” No mention, of 
course, of the police truck that drove into a 
group of students moments later, or the fact that 
the cop who was “beaten savagely” got away with 
minor injuries, unlike the students who were shot 
in the face with rubber bullets. By simply 
omitting police brutality and violence, Coyne 
presented the student movement as itself 
inherently violent, instead of at times erupting 
in violent reactions to state violence, which is 
far more extreme in every case. The Toronto Sun 
even had an article which claimed that the 
students have employed tactics of “thuggery” and 
“violent criminal behaviour.” Publications 
regularly ask their readers if Quebec students 
have “legitimate” grievances, if they are 
fighting for “social justice,” or if they are 
just “spoiled brats.” A syndicated column from 
theVancouver Sun by Licia Corbella was titled, 
“How rioting students help make me grateful.” She 
discussed her latest visit to church where the 
pastor advised: “Parents, do not provoke your 
children to anger by the way you treat them,” and 
mentioned how parents anger their children by 
“belittling them, underestimating them and not 
treating them as individuals.” Corbella then took 
particular note of how parents provoke and enrage 
children “when we give them a sense of 
entitlement.” With the word “entitlement,” 
Corbella naturally then began thinking about 
Quebec students, as according to Corbella’s 
pastor, “entitlement leads to rage.” Corbella 
wrote that rioting “is, in essence, what a 
spoiled two-year-old would do if they had the 
ability.” She further wrote: “In Quebec, these 
entitled youth, who believe the rest of society 
MUST provide them with an almost free education 
or else, have blocked other students from 
accessing the educations they paid for, burned 
vehicles, smashed shop windows, looted property 
and severely beaten up a police officer who got 
separated from the rest of his colleagues.” 
Again, no mention of the two students who were 
almost killed by police at the same event. 
Corbella quoted someone interviewed on TV, 
endorsing the claim that the student protests are 
“starting to resemble terrorism,” though she took 
issue with the word “starting.” This is the 
result of creating, according to Corbell, “an 
entitlement society.” Apparently, the pastor’s 
lesson about not “belittling” the young did not 
sink in with Corbella. An article in the 
Chronicle Heraldasked, “What planet are these 
kids on?” The author then wrote that, “the irony 
is that these students now want the system to 
accommodate their desires and for someone else to 
pay the bill,” and that, “students should stop 
making foolish demands.” Other articles claim 
that students “need a lesson in economics.” After 
all, the fact that the majority of economists, 
fully armed with “lessons in economics,” were 
unable to predict the massive global economic 
crisis in 2008, should obviously not lead to any 
questioning of the ideology of modern economic 
theory. No, it would be better for students to 
learn about the ocean from those who couldn’t see 
a tsunami as it approached the beach. Another 
article, written by a former speechwriter to the 
Prime Minister of Canada, wrote that the student 
arguments were vacuous and that the youth were in 
a “state of complete denial.” Rex Murphy, a 
commentator with the National Post and CBC, 
referred to the student strike as “short-sighted” 
and that student actions were “crude attempts at 
precipitating a crisis.” Student actions, he 
claimed, were the “actions of a mob” and were 
“simply wrong,” and thus, should be “condemned.” 
The CBC has been particularly terrible in their 
coverage of the student movement. With few 
exceptions, the Canadian media have established a 
consensus in opposition to the student protests, 
and use techniques of omission, distortion, or 
outright condemnation in order to promote a distinctly anti-student stance.

10) The student movement is part of a much larger 
emerging global movement of resistance against 
austerity, neoliberalism, and corrupt power: In 
the coverage and discourse about the student 
movement, very little context is given in placing 
this student movement in a wider global context. 
The British newspaper, The Guardian, acknowledged 
this context, commenting on the red squares worn 
by striking students (a symbol of going squarely 
into the red, into debt), explaining that they 
have “become a symbol of the most powerful 
challenge to neoliberalism on the continent.” The 
article also adopted the term promoted by the 
student movement itself to describe the wider 
social context of the protests, calling it the 
“Maple Spring.” The author placed the fight 
against tuition increases in the context of a 
struggle against austerity measures worldwide, 
writing: “Forcing students to pay more for 
education is part of a transfer of wealth from 
the poor and middle-class to the rich – as with 
privatization and the state’s withdrawal from 
service-provision, tax breaks for corporations 
and deep cuts to social programs.” The article 
noted how the student movement has linked up with 
civic groups against a Quebec government plan to 
subsidize mining companies in exploiting the 
natural resources of Northern Quebec (Plan Nord), 
taking land from indigenous peoples to give to 
multibillion dollar corporations. As one of the 
student leaders stated, the protest was about 
more than tuition and was aimed at the elite 
class itself, “Those people are a single elite, a 
greedy elite, a corrupt elite, a vulgar elite, an 
elite that only sees education as an investment 
in human capital, that only sees a tree as a 
piece of paper and only sees a child as a future 
employee.” The student strike has thus become a 
social movement. The protests aim at economic 
disruption through civil disobedience, and have 
garnered the support of thousands of protesters, 
and 200,000 protesters on March 22, and close to 
300,000 on April 22. Protests have blocked 
entrances to banks, disrupted a conference for 
the Plan Nord exploitation, linking the movement 
with indigenous and environmental groups. It was 
only when the movement began to align with other 
social movements and issues that the government 
even accepted the possibility of speaking to 
students. Unions have also increasingly been 
supporting the student strike, including with 
large financial contributions. Though, the large 
union support for the student movement was also 
involved in attempted co-optation and undermining 
of the students. At the negotiations between the 
government and the students, the union leaders 
convinced the student leaders to accept the deal, 
which met none of the student demands and kept 
the tuition increases intact. There was a risk 
that the major unions were essentially aiming to 
undermine the student movement. But the student 
groups, which had to submit the agreement to 
democratic votes, rejected the horrible 
government offer. Thus the Maple Spring 
continues. Quebec is not the only location with 
student protests taking place. In Chile, a 
massive student movement has emerged and 
developed over the past year, changing the 
politics of the country and challenging the 
elites and the society they have built for their 
own benefit. One of the leaders of the Chilean 
student movement is a 23-year old young woman, 
Camila Vallejo, who has attained celebrity 
status. In Quebec’s student movement, the most 
visible and vocal leader is 21-year old Gabriel 
Nadeau-Dubois, who has also achieved something of 
celebrity status within the province. Just as in 
Quebec, student protests in Chile are met with 
state violence, though in the Latin American 
country, the apparatus of state violence is the 
remnants of a U.S.-supported military 
dictatorship. Still, this does not stop tens of 
thousands of students going out into the streets 
in Santiago, as recently as late April. Protests 
by students have also been emerging elsewhere, 
often in cooperation and solidarity with the 
Occupy movement and other anti-austerity 
protests. Silent protests are emerging at 
American universities where students are 
protesting their massive debts. California 
students have been increasingly protesting 
increased tuition costs. Student protests at UC 
Berkeley ended with 12 citations for trespassing. 
Some students in California have even begun a 
hunger strike against tuition increases. In 
Brooklyn, New York, students protesting against 
tuition increases, many of them wearing the 
Quebec “red square” symbol, were assaulted by 
police officers. Even high school students in New 
York have been protesting. Israeli social 
activists are back on the streets protesting 
against austerity measures. An Occupy group has 
resumed protests in London. The Spanish indignado 
movement, which began in May of 2011, saw a 
resurgence on the one year anniversary, with 
another round of anti-austerity protests in 
Spain, bringing tens of thousands of protesters, 
mostly youths, out into the streets of Madrid, 
and more than 100,000 across the country. Their 
protest was met with police repression. 
Increasingly, students, the Occupy movement, and 
other social groups are uniting in protests 
against the costs of higher education and the 
debts of students. This is indeed the context in 
which the ‘Maple Spring’ – the Quebec student 
movement – should be placed, as part of a much 
broader global anti-austerity movement.

So march on, students. Show Quebec, Canada, and 
the world what it takes to oppose parasitic 
elites, mafia-connected politicians, billionaire 
bankers, and seek to change a social, political, 
and economic system that benefits the few at the expense of the many.

Solidarity, brothers and sisters!

For a comprehensive analysis of the Quebec 
student strike, see: “The Québec Student Strike: 
 From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?”

For up to date news and information of student 
movements around the world, join this Facebook 
page: We Are the Youth Revolution.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent 
researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, 
writing on a number of social, political, 
economic, and historical issues. He is also 
Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He 
also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, 
and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.




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