Quebec protests reach rowdy new level (with updates in comments)

Quebec protests reach rowdy new level (with updates in comments)

Students in Quebec have been on strike since February. They have been upset about Premier Jean Charest's plan to add $1,625 to the annual cost of post-secondary education by 2016. But during Friday's confrontations, protesters signaled that the unrest was about more than university fees — it was about the general direction of the province.

From the Metro

MONTREAL – A spring of discontent in Quebec characterized by images of red-clad student protesters took on a darker tone Friday as downtown streets were disrupted by scenes of increasingly intense civil unrest.

Demonstrators hurled projectiles from rocks to flower pots in Montreal, committing vandalism outdoors and interrupting different political events indoors. Some vandals even tossed rocks from an overpass onto a busy downtown expressway, police said.

Riot police fought back by swinging batons and firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

There were no reports of any injuries on the expressway, though at least six people were slightly hurt — including four police officers — in a long day of demonstrations.

Provincial police were called in as local officers struggled to handle crowds that disrupted two separate events, including one featuring Premier Jean Charest and, to a lesser extent, one involving federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

There had already been warnings that some students saw their daily protests as more than a fight against tuition increases. Some had taken to referring to the demonstrations as Quebec’s “Maple Spring,” in a rhetorical nod to broader protest movements elsewhere in the world.

That point was repeatedly driven home Friday by protesters who signalled that the unrest was about more than university fees — it was about the general direction of the province.

“It’s not just the tuition increase,” said Alexis Remartini, 18, who took a 60-kilometre bus trip from St-Hyacinthe to attend the protest.

“The movement has grown to include other things we don’t agree with.”

Friday’s most chaotic scene unfolded at a high-profile Charest event, as projectiles and tear gas rained on what was supposed to be the premier’s political parade.

The symposium on the premier’s signature northern-development plan was to have served, some pundits speculated, as a springboard into a provincial election. No vote date has been set.

Charest’s lunchtime speech on his Plan Nord was delayed by 45 minutes after protesters managed to bust into the Palais des congres convention centre.

Protesters made it within a flight of stairs of where the luncheon was being held. They were met with a line of riot police, who eventually removed them from the building.

The premier made it clear he had no intention of backing down from his tuition hikes, or from his northern-development plans.

Charest even joked about the protesters during his speech: “Maybe those knocking on the door this morning, we can offer them jobs,” he said, to laughter. “In the north, if possible.”

Outside, there were scenes of virtual anarchy.

While some protesters hurled objects and built barricades in the street with construction materials they’d found, police fought them off — at one point firing chemical irritants right into one young man at nearly point-blank range.

Seventeen people were arrested as police announced over a loudspeaker that the protest was being declared an illegal assembly.

Demonstrators left a scene of destruction in their wake as they weaved through the downtown streets, backing up traffic. Garbage cans were overturned and trash strewn about. At least three police cars had their back window smashed, and a window at a main entrance to the convention centre was also broken.

Nicolas Moran, 21-year-old law student at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal, was one of the students who had earlier managed to get into the building.

He had a gash on his forehead and blood on his shirt.

“I wasn’t doing anything violent,” he said. “A police officer hit me over the head… But I doubt the education minister will denounce violence from police.”

Well behind schedule, Charest finally began a speech that some had expected might serve as a precursor to an election, which the premier must call by late next year.

Charest earned a standing ovation as he walked on stage.

After thanking the crowd for its patience, the premier quickly slipped into his prepared text and described northern development as an inter-generational project deeply embedded in Quebecers’ “DNA,” sharing his own family history with the north.

He said the plan, which focuses on mining and energy production, would help create thousands of new jobs and “move Quebec forward.”

Speaking with reporters afterward, Charest insisted he will not back down on $325-a-year tuition hikes that will raise fees 75 per cent over five years. Even with the increase, Quebec would still have among the lowest tuition rates in the country.

While police said Friday’s worst vandalism was not necessarily tied to tuition protests and was possibly the work of other troublemakers, Charest stuck to a familiar script.

The premier focused his response to the events on his preferred political target: the most radical student protest group, whose acronym is C.L.A.S.S.E. Opinion polls have been unkind to the premier lately, but the latest surveys suggest there is some sympathy for his position on tuition fees.

Charest has been refusing to negotiate with the C.L.A.S.S.E. because the group has avoided taking a stance against violent forms of protest.

“The social disruption is unacceptable,” Charest told reporters after his speech.

“I’ve had ministers’ offices ransacked. We’ve had ministers who have had tanks of gas put on the grounds of their homes. Molotov cocktails in front of their offices. Death threats.

“And they refuse to condemn violence? In 2012, in Quebec? That’s unacceptable.”

Also looming in the backdrop are conflict-of-interest and ethics scandals dogging Charest’s government.

His latest headache stems from an investigative report that a well-connected political organizer has been peddling cash-for-access schemes related to the Plan Nord.

Charest’s goal is to develop a 1.2-million-square kilometre stretch of the province’s north over the next 25 years. Charest has said it will create 500,000 jobs, though his claims have been met with skepticism from opponents who call the plan everything from a marketing gimmick to a sellout of Quebec’s resources.

An investigative show on the French-language CBC showed a provincial Liberal organizer — and onetime prominent organizer for the Harper Tories — discussing the Plan Nord while being surreptitiously videotaped.

That organizer, Pierre Coulombe, was videotaped suggesting to reporters, who pretended to be potential clients, that they could have access to Plan Nord decision-makers for a fee.

Instead of handing cash-filled envelopes to political insiders, he suggested clients should simply promise them multi-year jobs on their departure from politics.

He indicated such jobs might pay them about $25,000 annually and require that they attend only one meeting a year while being sent on occasional business trips to Europe.

Not far from Charest’s event, an announcement by the federal immigration minister was also interrupted by two protesters who had bought tickets to his speech.

As Kenney began his speech, they twice shouted that his immigration reforms would destroy people’s lives. They were both quickly escorted out of the hotel room.

Kenney was in Montreal to announce, in his latest immigration policy reform, that people must prove they can speak English or French to gain Canadian citizenship.

Posted By

Redwinged Blackbird
Apr 21 2012 18:48


Attached files


Jul 12 2012 14:18

Thanks, but all I'm doing is passing on my observations, nice to be appreciated though! smile Also, I'd like to pass on some appreciation to Wojtek, who's been posting up some good stuff.
Very little happening here, as far as I can see, although I've been working a lot, and when not, I've been taking advantage of the hot weather and making like a lizard on a rock, outdoors a lot, so it's not impossible that things have passed me by.
There's going to be an election, possibly 1st week of September, which will have some bearing, in one way or another on the student strike, especially if some of the student associations throw in with the Parti Quebecois.
It's actually felt quite weird in Mtl the last few weeks, it's funny how habituated I had got to a huge police presence in the downtown area. Not that I miss them. It's not surprising that it's gone quiet, it is a student movement, and most of whom need to work full-time over the summer and vacate their apartments, move in with parents for the summer. I really hope that they have a good summer, recharge their batteries. It started off as a really large, very peaceful protest movement and before long was met astonishing brutality. I didn't have any touch-feely sentiments about the SPVM, but I could't quite believe it back when it first started kicking off and I wandered too close to a protest and realised that they were being tear gassed and having stun grenades launched at them. There were figures released last week detailing the figures of police injuries, but I have no idea how many protesters have been hurt.
Anyway, I'll log in with anything interesting/significant, but I'm not anticipating much.

Jul 13 2012 20:51
Cross Canada speaking tour: The Quebec student strike.

Its history, Combative unionism and anarchist involvement

Dear comrades, Since the start of the Quebec student general strike, members of the Prairie Struggle Organization along with the collaboration of Common Cause, Union Communist Libertaire and the IWW, have been in the process of putting together a cross-Canada speaking tour on the Quebec student general strike. This strike, which has demonstrated once more the power of mass, combative and democratic social movements, is something that does not come often in Canadian history and expresses politics and strategies that are greatly needed in the rest of Canada. The struggles, and organizational principles demonstrated in this strike are examples that anarchists across Canada should aim to share and educate ourselves on, as our comrades in Quebec have done, due to the fact that its core principles are in fact close to our principles.

The purpose of the speaking tour is to give an in-depth look at why radical politics in Quebec have taken the shape of a rank and file, direct action based movement capable of posing a very real threat to the state and its capitalist proponents. It will Look at “combative unionism” and the strategies it uses to fight legislation, repression and general anti-union approaches put forward against the struggle. Also, the tour will discuss an anarchist analysis of the struggle and why anarchists are involved as a whole.

This speaking tour will also serve the purpose of demystifying fetishisms of Quebec political culture as inherently combative by showing that the roots of successful struggle lies in organizing along directly democratic lines, and building combativeness, and solidarity.

More information coming soon. Stay tuned!

CLASSE are also doing a tour and have published a manifesto here. Would the admins like to have that in the library?


Jul 17 2012 04:05

With the election around the corner, Quebec's lost another education minister, which appears to be a pretty stressful job these days, education being a massively political issue in Quebec, even without the student strike. Michelle Courchesne has announced that she won't be running in the forthcoming election. She was widely regarded as one of the least tainted by corruption members of the Liberal cabinet, although there was some scandal over awarding of licenses to daycare operators a few years back. (Quebec has a system of state subsidised $7 a day daycare, but there are never enough places, and there issues around who the licenses are awarded to, where they are located - often not where there are higher concentrations of pre-school children.)

From the people at Translating the printemps erable :
CLASSE held a meeting over the weekend, declaring it's neutrality during the election, as in not supporting or recommending it's members to support any particular party. Also outlining issues it wanted emphasise, democracy, social justice, feminism and the environment.

This is an account of an anarchist from the US, who's been here for a couple of months.
I think it's interesting, because I've become so habituated to Mtl not only being bilingual, but a city of many languages, that sometimes I forget that language issues are really such a big deal at times, which is ridiculous really, given the sheer weight of politics around language here. I think the person you left the comment at the end was a bit hard on her, it can be a bit difficult to get your head around at first, I'd just forgotten. Which, in a rambling way, brings me to my point. People talk about Canada as being Two Solitudes, that English and French speaking Canada don't talk to each other and don't really get each other. Because I live in a strange enclave where people pretty much get along most of the time (which is not always the case in Quebec, but has largely been my experience) I forget that the rest of Canada (ROC) is not so bilingual and that there is a degree of not understanding, which I think has manifested itself in some of the outright hostility to Quebec, which has shown up in the media in the ROC recently. So when I say I'm just posting my observations, I've come to realise that they are very skewed observations. I do have an annoying habit when I talk of assuming that everyone knows where I'm coming from, and it did occur to me not everyone is particularly aware of some of idiosyncrasies of here. Which is where I think the Translating the printemps erable is really valuable. It can be easy to dismiss the mainstream media, in any language, but it's not easy to get a handle on any story, without seeing how it's being reported on locally. La Presse, La Devoir etc, are not exactly overly sympathetic to the student strike, but they do report on it, within a wider context of Quebec politics and social issues, which is not often picked up upon very well within the English press outside of Quebec. And the Montreal Gazette has such an anglophone bias. Although there's not a huge volume of translation, I would recommend looking in on the site, if only to get a feel of how the student strike is playing out within the context of the rest of life here.

Jul 23 2012 02:40

In spite of speculation that the student protests have been losing steam, there was a massive demo here in Montreal today, some people saying 100,000 , local media calling it at 10,000 ( it was much more than that,) The Gazette's probably reporting it as 3 men and a dog. It was immediately declared illegal by the SPVM, but not under Law 78, under another bylaw. Obviously, this is predominately a dispute over tuition hikes, but to a large degree it has also become a locus for a lot of other issues, not just the corruption issue, but also environmental issues ( the government has just thrown down a bundle to re-open asbestos mines to export, mostly, to India,) and all sorts of other things. Also, just to call it a student movement kind of disregards the large number of non-students there, older people, people with kids. I'll try and post up some media over the next couple of days.
I think someone posted this up, or something related a few days ago, but the link didn't seem to go anywhere;
It's a list of classes scheduled for the return to school timetable, which went up earlier in the week. It doesn't specifically call for them to be blocked, just where they are and map reference.

Jul 23 2012 02:52

edit: double post. My computer is within an inch of being taken outside for a bloody good kicking, not behaving well of late.

Jul 24 2012 03:03

Some video from yesterday

And because no protest in Montreal is complete without drumming and interpretive dance

And again with the drumming

Video and transcript of Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois' speech from before the march set off

Jul 24 2012 03:17

Also ( doing this in bite size chunks, because internet spotty & keeps crashing on me)
Something about the nude protests. I honestly didn't much think about this, toplessness being a bit of a way of life (weather permitting) in Montreal, with topless greasy spoon cafes, topless sugar shacks, the main street downtown ( like Oxford Street) being an eclectic mix of corporate chain stores, strip joints and sex shops, I'd honestly forgotten that people are want to get excited about this sort of thing. Anyway, here it is.

And something about student solidarity with Indigenous people over logging.

Jul 24 2012 14:13

Leo Bureau-Blouin, who stepped down as head of FECQ student association is standing in forthcoming election as a candidate for the Parti Quebecois.
(As run through google translate)

Jul 28 2012 11:34

I was just going to post about that. What is it with union bureaucrats turning into political careerists roll eyes Lovin' the updates btw, keep them up! smile x

Jul 28 2012 15:43

Damn! Was kinda hoping that no-one was looking in at the moment, because I've scored a whole bunch of free movie tickets to an ongoing film festival here and have been spending much of my time in darkened rooms with a load of other genre movie nerds. I guess I'm going to have to go back to paying attention. smile
Leo B.B standing as a PQ candidate is not much of a surprise, he was the student leader most likely to sell out. He may well be a committed pequiste, but it is a fairly big propaganda coup for the PQ. Youth voter turnout is generally as low as most other places here, except for last summer, in the federal election young people in Quebec turned out en masse and voted for the National Democratic Party ( leftish) taking them from a handful of seats in Ottawa to the official opposition, obliterating other parties, including the Bloc Quebecois (sovereignist). The PQ are trying to capitalise on young people in Quebec being more politicised. No idea how that will work out, as it is the election is a few weeks away, and no-one is making any clear predictions. Quebec has the same first past the post voting system as in the UK, and last time I looked there were 5 parties fielding candidates in most ridings, as well as the usual fringe candidates. Also, the raison d'etre of the PQ, beyond an independent Quebec, seems to be fucking with the education system, so I'm not sure how many people who are taken in by Pauline Malois' sudden down with the youth stance. tbh, the impending election is annoying me at many levels, not least because I'm being bombarded by phone calls from political parties and pollsters asking me for my opinion. There's a new right wing nutbar party on the block, risen from the ashes of another right wing nutbar party, a new leftish wing nationalist party (yeah, I know, what can I say, things are different in Qc ) and I can't see what difference any of it will make, given that we all know that the place is run by the mafia anyway wink
Incidentally, at a federal level, despite being swept from having a handful of MPs to being, what they see themselves as being, a government in waiting, on a massive surge of the youth vote in Quebec, the NDP haven't made a single, solitary statement about the student protests, not just lacking any support, but not even acknowledging that it has been happening. I would think that might be just a little disillusioning to a lot of people swept up in the excitement of electoral politics last year.
Anyway, I imagine that it all might have some bearing on the student movement, if a sizeable number of young voters vote PQ. I don't know if many people are buying the PQ's support of the students ( especially now that they've suddenly shut up about it. )
Anyway, electoral politics in Quebec gives me a headache! So I'm off to watch an apolcalyptic gorefest.

Jul 30 2012 20:36

Some video which was posted up today.

Call out to block returning classes

And fliers for it, in English

Aug 2 2012 13:02

Last night marked the 100th night time demonstration in Montreal. Over the summer these nightly marches have dwindled down to as few as 30 -50 at times, but last night there was a crowd which has been estimated as many as 10,000. It was very soon declared illegal (still, not under Bill 78, but under another by-law.) Pepper spray, tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets. As far as I can see, there were 17 arrests. One protester was hit by a car, in hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The SPVM put out a announcement that the use of water pistols will not be tolerated.
What there has been in the media this morning has mentioned that last night's protest was in response to yesterday's official announcement of the election (Sept 4), although there had been a larger 100th night march planned for a while. 10,000 protesters and riot police in Montreal would have made headlines a few months back, but it's become a small story lost in Olympic reporting. Not a lot has been posted up as yet this morning (9 am here) and I'll post any media that I find up later.

Aug 6 2012 17:53

Been waiting to post up good video, then I realised that I was just too picky about finding footage with good camera angles, interesting content and commentary, and that they are cell phone footage and I'm not a movie critic and I should stop waiting for the perfect Manif 100 film to be posted. So here's some, non-award winning footage from August 1st 100th night demo.

(pretty much 37 minutes of people walking)

(2 minute combo of people walking and standing still)

Video of a projection on side of a building.

This blog has some decent stills and some video:

Aug 7 2012 03:25

Interruption dealt with, second part of post -

Tomorrow the student associations are starting the process of asking their members at their GAs whether or not to continue with the strike, a process that should take about a week. This could be where the election exerts some influence. The Parti Quebecois, including Leo Blouin-Bureau have publicly asked the students for a truce, during the election campaign. It seems also that Quebec Solidaire has been doing the same behind the scenes. All normal logic would suggest that a government as unpopular with just about all sectors of the electorate as the Quebec Liberals are and a Premier as disliked as Charest would lose the election, but Teflon Jean has a habit of surviving. It has been mooted that the sections of the electorate that the Liberals always take for granted, such as federalists, anglos, may chose to abstain in this election as a protest, rather than vote for parties which to one degree or another have a separatist agenda. However ( making crass generalisations here) the anglo vote in Montreal is significant enough to make a difference to the Liberals, and as a whole they have been far less sympathetic to the student movement. The argument is that if major disruptions happen on the streets of Montreal during the election campaign, then it might well propel enough voters out to vote Liberal, Charest having been portraying himself as the living embodiment of law, order and stability. Charest is such a figure of hate in the student strike, some people may see his defeat at the polls as a priority. I guess we will find out as the GAs convene.
Generally, right now the student movement is right on the back of the back burner in the media and general public consciousness. Last weeks 80,000 turn out barely got a mention, way after the election and the olympics. The next big call out is for August 22nd. Going to have to see what happens over the next few weeks.

EDITt: the first GA took place this evening (Monday 6 August) The Department of Social Services, UQAM, and they voted to continue the strike.

Aug 9 2012 00:23

Monday, representatives of Quebec teachers/professors (including Anarchopanda, cunningly disguised as a human) called a press conference to release a manifesto denouncing the special law. There's a link at the bottom of this piece to an English translation of this.

Today the offices of Hydro Quebec were blocked by several hundred protesters. To put some context on this, Hydro is the state monopoly electricity utility, it makes shit loads of money, has massive surpluses and is raising electricity prices again. This is not a part of the world where you can particularly skimp on energy, it can be -20, -30 in the winter and there's not all that much going in alternatives, some older buildings have oil heating, some places in the city have gas, or else it's wood fires, but most people rely on Hydro to heat their homes and successive hikes over recent years have hit people on low incomes. There are also issues relating to appropriation of indigenous lands and proposed drilling for oil on Anticosti Island. I mention this, and there are also other issues relating to Hydro, because this is how it was reported by the CBC today
Pretty much, bunch of students showed up at Hydro for no particular reason and were swatted away.
Radio-Canada (French language part of CBC) at least mentioned the raising of electricity tariffs and Anticosti.

I realise it's no point in having high expectations in the MSM, I just thought I'd post up both reports, as an example of how the student strike is being reported differently in both languages. The English media is doing it without much regard to wider context.

Aug 9 2012 04:35

Three student associations have voted tonight (Wed 8th), one to continue the strike, one to hold an electoral truce and one to go back to class.

EDIT: Gabriel Nadeau -Dubois has resigned as spokesperson of CLASSE tonight.

Caiman del Barrio
Sep 22 2012 13:20

Hi is there any reason noone's posted that the new Premier's cancelled the fees hike? Is it cos all the quebecois are too busy partying or is there some context I don't know?

Sep 22 2012 15:43

Sorry, my bad. Context being that I harbour the delusion that everyone knew, because it's such enormous news here. Obviously though, Quebec news is not covered extensively elsewhere. Apologies offered up.
Yes, tuition fees hike and Law 12 officially rescinded by decree this week. Also, students also keep the additional funding in bursaries/loans promised by Charest government as a sweetener against the tuition hikes.
The student movement has not completely gone to bed, the monthly demo ( always a big one every 22nd) is going ahead today, emphasis on working for free education, an amnesty for the 3000+ arrests and a call for an investigation into the police brutality which took place.
There's a bit of ambiguity about what is going to happen to people who were charged under the Special Law, given that it no longer exists, although most of the arrests were under municipal bylaws and other parts of the criminal code.
The spokeswoman for the Green Squares - students who were in favour of tuition hikes (whose name I can't be bothered to look up) has seen the light - by glory! - and has now realised that she was wrong and that tuition hikes are actually bad for students and is remedying this by embarking on a political career in a new separatist party, that almost nobody voted for in the election.
And in Montreal, it never requires much of an excuse to get busy partying.

Sep 22 2012 16:09

Technically there will still be tuition hikes, but they will be pegged to the rate of inflation. And it's not such a big victory considering that the new PQ premier (or was it the education minister) was pretty gung ho about tuition increases the last time they were in power. Pretty sure there were strikes against that back then as well.

Sep 22 2012 16:59

@Khawaga - aw downer! It felt like a good week here for a change, don't want harsh reality to butt in until Monday, at the earliest.
You are right though, the PQ have no commitment to student issues, it was Pauline Marois as PQ education minister who first brought up tuition hikes, and they had to back down then as a result of student strikes. Looking at it cynically, I think the PQ are trying to play a long game with the youth vote. The backbone of the PQ's agenda is a sovereign Quebec, something which there is little appetite for in younger people here, people born after the October crisis and all the turmoil in the 1970's. The fact that the PQ only just scraped a minority government, despite going up against the Liberals, who are universally seen as corrupt, in bed with organised crime, incompetent, and only have the interests of big business,(should have been a slam dunk) indicates that sovereignty is not the compelling issue it once was here. Actually, the PQ in government have the same record, but people have short memories in politics. I suspect that Marois et al's recent love-in with the students is in hope of snagging a few extra voters in order to further their agenda for separation. I think this is also playing out in the PQ pushing the line that Harper Government (Federal) is starkly in contrast to "Quebec values."

Caiman del Barrio
Sep 22 2012 17:50

Thanks for that guys. Don't take it as a personal sleight Fleur, if I'd just won a massive struggle, my priority would be getting extremely fucking pissed rather than posting to Libcom.

I also appreciate Khawaga's sombering tones. Clearly any victory is only temporary, and there will be further attempts to hike the fees when the student movt appears weaker (lest we forget the lesson of the CPE struggle in France in '06, of which this now seems vaguely reminiscent). Encouraging that demos are continuing.

Sep 23 2012 15:27

The demo yesterday ended with the cops ploughing in with their usual aplomb. I caught some of the march, I had my kid with me and decided to forgo the standing around in the rain listening to speeches part and join the march proper. By the time we got there though, it was obvious that it was going to kick off, massive police presence in riot gear, trapping people in side streets, so we didn't hang around long, no desire to get the kid pepper sprayed or tear gassed. Totally different atmosphere to the last 22nd demo I took him to. Took it totally in his stride though, I was more stressed out about him being there than he was. Anyway, some video from yesterday.

The media said there was about 1000 people there. Others were saying about 2000-2500. My best guess isn't worth having, because I'm useless at judging these things.