[News] Quebec & Students - The Government Has Gone Too Far

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 23 15:24:15 EDT 2012

Government Has Gone Too 

Le Monde   May 21, 2012
French Text: 

After more than three months of demonstrations 
and student strikes, the government of Quebec 
tabled a bill on Thursday, 17 May, that seeks to 
curb the right to demonstrate. Friday, we asked 
for Quebec residents to send us their accounts of 
what has been happening, to better understand how 
the student movement is seen by the rest of the 
population, and whether this bill has met with approval from Quebeckers.

Among the numerous responses we received, many 
web users­students and others­are outraged by a 
law that they judge to be an attack on democracy. 
Many deplore this law, even as they recognize 
that the strike movement has shown great 
endurance and continues to affect certain 
students, who have been blocked from going to 
their classes. Others, however, are delighted at 
the magnitude of the mobilisation occurring 
within a generation that is often described as “self-involved”.

Here is a selection of our readers’ stories:
    * Unanimously against the law, by Murielle 
Marchand, 24 years old, doctoral student
I have been studying in Quebec for a year and a 
half, at a university that has not been very 
affected by the strike (hardly a week of general 
striking happened), even if many students on 
campus have been mobilized (by wearing red 
squares just about everywhere, for example, or by 
organizing a burial ceremony for democracy). In 
the research lab where I work, everyone has given 
their opinion on the student conflict at least 
once, and the least that you could  say is that 
opinions are radically divided: some people 
openly support the students by wearing their 
little red squares, others criticise them for 
complaining about nothing even as they use 
exorbitantly expensive telephones. But in any 
case, the most popular opinion is that it’s a 
good thing for young people to understand how 
important it is to be interested in politics. I 
will clarify that the difference of opinion 
between my colleagues disappeared this morning: 
the new law that makes the student strike illegal 
has brought everyone together
 in opposition to Bill 78.
    * A disgraceful law, by Isabelle Poyau, 47 
years old, assistant director of a national 
environmental organization in Montreal
I am appalled. I immigrated to Quebec twenty-five 
years ago because I love this pluralistic, open, 
joyful society. And for weeks I have been proud 
to watch as a generation that people call 
self-involved has been able to  stand up and 
create a civil protest movement for access to 
education with intelligence, pacifism, courage 
and creativity. The government has responded with 
contempt and arrogance, and added fuel to the 
fire by voting in a law that goes against the 
fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly, 
making Quebec into a police state. All around 
me­friends, colleagues, fellow metro users, from 
all generations­I see only people who are 
scandalized, not by student actions, but by the 
government’s attitude and by this disgraceful law.
    * No other choice, by Olivier Dion, computer 
technician, 24 years old, Lévis (Quebec)
This law is unfortunately the only possible 
solution for the moment, its goal being above all 
to stop protestors from blocking access to 
schools to the users who would like to continue 
going to class and finish their studies. It’s not 
the best solution, but faced with the 
demonstrators’ lack of maturity and their lack of 
motivation to negotiate, we have no other choice. [
    * In Ottawa, “I pay much more,” by Esther 
Lacasse, 34 years old, Cantley, civil law student 
at University of Ottawa in Ontario
Let’s be clear: Here in Quebec, the majority of 
Quebeckers are for an increase in tuition fees 
and against the strike. Let’s not take the fact 
that a minority is making a lot of noise as an 
indication of public opinion. We are far from 
being oppressed; we are very well treated. The 
debate is expanding; unions are getting involved; 
it’s becoming a bit ridiculous. A minority is 
blocking access to school for the majority of 
students who want to study. It is false to say 
that 300, 000 students are on strike, because a 
minority, even one that calls for democracy, has 
decided for the others. Those who simply want to 
study are not going to go into the streets to 
protest: they’re peaceful and for real. There is 
no police violence. On the contrary. The police 
have proven themselves extremely patient, but 
they cannot let people break down doors and smash 
windows. They have a thankless job. The Liberals 
have even gained popularity, because they have 
stuck to the hardline approach
. I’m a student at 
U of O, where I pay much more, and with a job, I 
can  pay what I have to. Quebeckers are tired of 
protests and violence; an emergency law 
might  change something, now that all other options have been exhausted.
    * Quebec is tired, by Bruno Guérin, 20 years old, student
Quebeckers are tired of the student strike 
movement that has been on-going for a long time 
throughout the province, but primarily in 
Montreal. Student leaders have lamented the 
government’s lack of openness regarding the 
tuition fee increase. But the government has 
sweetened its offer three times already, 
attempting to calm this social crisis. The 
student leaders have not wanted to make the best 
of these offers to settle the crisis: they’ve 
remained firm. But at the same time, they 
formally signed one of the agreements proposed by 
the government. Which in the end they didn’t 
respect, claiming in their defence that the 
students didn’t accept the offer at their general 
assemblies. I was on strike for five weeks and 
participated in student general assemblies. 
Misinformation is given to the students; student 
leaders only talk about information that will 
help them  pursue their fight against the hike. 
The restrictions placed on the freedom to 
demonstrate is not a measure that most Quebeckers 
approve of; however, it’s important to 
acknowledge that Bill 78, which tries to control 
demonstrations, will cease to be law in July 
2013. So it’s temporary. It’s a tool that the 
government can use to settle the crisis, when 
they’re dealing with students who have turned a deaf ear to their offers.
    * “The Charest government has gone too far,” 
by Alexandre Turgeon, doctoral candidate in 
history at Université Laval, Québec
I have been on strike since 2 March
. Like many 
others, I’m upset to see that the student strike 
continues and nothing is working. There’s no way 
out of the crisis in sight, and no will­on either 
side­to come up with a compromise that will be 
acceptable for all parties. Faced with the 
opinion polls that claim that Quebeckers approve 
of the government’s decision to increase tuition 
fees, I came to the sad conclusion that the 
students had lost.  Across the board. I’ve seen 
some of my friends, who had proudly worn the red 
square since the beginning, stop wearing it. So I 
was extremely surprised to learn  that the 
Charest government tabled an emergency law, a 
real declaration of war against the students, 
where the freedom of association, the freedom to 
demonstrate  and the right to free expression are 
taken apart, seriously amputated by the measures 
found in this law. As I write these words, Bill 
78 is about to be adopted by the National 
Assembly. Criticism toward this scandalous and 
unjust law are coming from all sides­in the 
street, on social networks. Today, my friends are 
again wearing the red square. Even I plan on 
doing it­and I never have before. The Charest 
government has gone too far, and we plan on making them retreat.
    * “It’s not just students protesting,” by 
Coralie Muroni, 31 years old, executive assistant in Montréal
I am French, a salaried worker living in Quebec 
for three years now, and I totally support the 
demonstrations. I have participated in a number 
of them, on my bike in the rain, on foot at 
night, red square among red squares in the 
streets of Monteal. It’s not just students 
demonstrating: workers, retirees and others have 
swelled the ranks from the very beginning. On the 
social networks, I am surrounded by red. After 
fourteen weeks of strikes, the debate on tuition 
hikes has become a social conflict, a conflict 
that the government has chosen to settle with 
authoritarian measures: Bill 78 clearly impairs 
the freedom of expression. How is it possible for 
this law, which denies a fundamental principle of 
democracy, to be passed? 
 Whether you’re for or 
against the tuition fee hike, the stakes are now 
much higher. And I hope that these people, whom I 
love very much and to whom I may someday belong, will not let this  pass.
    * “The government has let things rot for more 
than three months,” by Fabien Maillé Paulin, 25 
years old, student at Université de Montréal.
I am a student in East Asian studies at UdeM. My 
association was one of the first to vote for the 
strike at the beginning of a mobilization that 
has gone on to be the largest student protest 
movement in Quebec history. I’ll admit that when 
we started out, we got involved a bit carelessly. 
The struggle has not lacked twists and turns. But 
the tremendous work of mobilizing has not even 
proven to be our greatest challenge. It was the 
government’s will not to yield an inch on the 
tuition fee hike that threw many people off. Well 
prepared for this public outcry, the government 
has held a hard-line position, responding to 
student protests with a campaign of 
infantilization and disparagement, preferring, 
for example, to call the student strike a 
“boycott.” After a month and a half of strikes, 
the Minister of Education finally met with 
students and made two successive offers that did 
not have anything to do with the cause of the 
strike. Claiming that students were being too 
rigid, the government finally decided to turn to 
an emergency law, after having let the situation 
rot for more than three months. Of course, 
everyone felt and feels affected. The workers, 
who suffer through these disruptions that seek to 
grab the prime minister’s attention. The 
students, some of whom have completely upended 
their studies to support the student movement. 
And above all, our hope that our government might 
be able to deal with a disagreement with the youth without repressing them.
    * The use of authority to bring things back 
to normal by Matthieu Zouzinc, Montreal
Not a Quebecker but a French person living in 
Quebec for many years now (and an ex-student in 
Quebec), I am mostly struck by the way the 
conflict has played out and the various parties’ 
frozen positions
. I am shocked by the absence of 
real negotiations between the government and the 
student associations. This emergency law is an 
excellent illustration of the climate in which 
opposition to the tuition increase is occurring. 
As for the population in general, I think that a 
majority are starting to become irritated by the 
length of the conflict, and especially by the 
turn events have taken with various incidents 
(smoke bombs thrown in the metro, blocking the 
bridge that brings commuters to Montreal during 
rush hour, breaking windows, etc.). Even if these 
measures seem extreme, the use of authority to 
bring things back to normal and  force people 
back into their classrooms seems well-received by the public.
    * A sad day for democracy, par François 
Jacques, 58 years old, Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville
I have been a teacher in primary school for 
thirty-four years. Many of the students who I 
taught were among those demonstrating and are 
still out there. I am proud of them. People often 
say that young people are egocentric and don’t 
think about society. This is untrue. It’s obvious 
that what is going on touches them and upsets 
them. However, the real cause of this negligence 
is the government’s permissiveness, based on the 
idea that the movement would run out of 
steam­which hasn’t happened. They refused from 
the beginning to discuss things seriously with 
the students, and when they did, they did not 
demonstrate good faith. The result has been an 
unjust law that cuts through freedom of 
expression and gives increased powers to the 
police, who have on several occasions shown 
themselves to lack professionalism. It is certain 
that the longer the situation lasts, the more 
excesses will happen. The government will not 
resolve this crisis by adopting a stronger 
position. I doubt that a solution will be 
possible without listening and without a 
good-faith dialogue. This movement is similar to 
May ’68, and it concerns the future of our 
society. I believe this is a sad day for 
democracy, just as it was during the War Measures 
Act in 1970. Quebec’s motto is: Je me souviens­I 
remember. We’ll see if the students and the 
people will know, during the next election, how 
to  live according to their motto.

Translated from the original French by 
the printemps érable.

*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer 
collective attempting to balance the English 
media’s extremely poor coverage of the student 
conflict in Québec by translating media that has 
been published in French into English. These are 
amateur translations; we have done our best to 
translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but 
the final texts may still leave something to be 
desired. If you find any important errors in any 
of these texts, we would be very grateful if you 
would share them with us at 
translatingtheprintempsderable at gmail.com. Please 
read and distribute these texts in the spirit in 
which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.

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