Opinion roundup: What has the Occupy movement accomplished?

Occupy camps are slowly being dismantled by officials across Canada and the U.S., raising the question: What has been achieved? A roundup of comments.

A collection of comments on what has been achieved so far in Canada and the U.S.

Occupy camps are slowly being dismantled by officials across Canada and the U.S., raising the question: What has been achieved? 

Here is a collection of comments focusing on the impact of a movement that was spawned by protesters on Wall Street and directed generally toward the disparity between the rich and poor.

An awakening

"The Occupy movement has been more successful than some folks might be prepared to recognize.

"There has been an awakening among the general population and among leaders that we need to do more to build a better world."

—Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, a Canadian Press report on Nov. 22.

A mistake

Police and bylaw officers hand out eviction notices to Occupy Calgary protesters in Calgary on Nov. 15, 2011. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

"The protesters, the demonstrators here in Calgary, have made a mistake. And the mistake they've made is they've let it become about the tents to the point we're no longer talking about the message, if any, the demonstrators have and I think that's a real shame because they had a beautiful opportunity and they have let it go away.

"I'm not saying it can't be saved. I'm not saying there is not an opportunity to continue the discussion on the important issues that matter, but here it's become about the tents and people pooping in the [Olympic] plaza and all sorts of exciting things like that instead of about issues of social justice in the community, and I think that's a real shame."

— Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in conversation with Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio’s Q on Nov. 18

A footnote

"Do I think we'll be talking about it one year from now, let alone five or 10? I don't think so.

"I think it will fade away and it will be an interesting footnote to history."

— Ian Lee, a Carleton University business professor, jaundiced about the protest from the start, in a Canadian Press report on Nov. 22.

A collective feeling

Protesters sit on a sidewalk with their belongings after clearing out from a new Occupy Vancouver site adjacent to British Columbia Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver on Nov. 22, 2011. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

"I hear my Dad's voice in the back of my head: 'What has actually been accomplished? Grave inequality remains.'

"Here are a few such accomplishments: Non-hierarchical decision-making processes where everyone has a say. Resistance in the belly of the beast of imperialism with Occupy Wall Street and in what Sel Burrows calls the beast's lap dog — Canada.

"A change in the dominant discourse. A recognition of the systematic causes of inequality.

"And excitingly, what has changed is a feeling — a collective feeling that things can change, and that we can change them. From the state we were in just a few months ago, this is an incredible sign of hope. And we are beginning to create a people's culture in which real changes are possible."

— Brigette DePape, the Senate page who was fired after protesting against Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the June 2011 speech from the throne, writing in The Tyee on Nov. 23.

An oxymoron

"The Occupiers achieved little or nothing. Has anyone called from the EU for the protesters' recommendations on how to handle the continent's debt crisis? From the White House or Congress regarding the debt ceiling? From Jim Flaherty's office, wondering how to balance Ottawa's budget?


"That’s because the protesters are what I would call big-government anarchists. I know, that seems like an oxymoron. Anarchists who believe in big government, that's impossible you say. But it's not impossible if you come from Cloud Cuckoo Land.

"The protesters claimed to want more freedom and democracy, but in the next breath they wanted governments to redistribute vast sums of wealth. The largest contingent proclaimed itself anarchist, then demanded a government about twice the size of the one most developed countries already have and insisted governments recognize every citizen's "right" to health care, education and nutrition (and massage therapy). You can't have both: freedom and bigger government."

— Lorne Gunter writing in a forum in the National Post on Nov. 18

A new era

"Are occupations really necessary to draw attention to their cause? Perhaps not. But I'd trust their judgment over mine.

"After all, they've managed to change the public discourse, putting inequality front and centre — something activists and writers, myself included, have failed to accomplish despite decades of trying.

"An article last week in the mainstream magazine New York notes that we're now moving 'from the terror era to the income-inequality era."

"Wow. After only two months, the Occupy movement — without backing from billionaires or governments — seems to have moved us into a new era. Not bad for a leaderless group that sleeps in tents and doesn't even use microphones."

— Linda McQuaig writing in the Toronto Star on Nov. 21

A test

"The Occupy movement has been a test -- a national MRI -- that has allowed us to check in on the health of our democracy by allowing us to see what's going on underneath the surface of America's power structures. And the results are dire. What the movement, and the response to it, has shown is a government almost completely disconnected from those it purports to represent."

— Arianna Huffington writing in the Huffington Post on Nov. 21.

A conversation

"Whatever the objectives of protesters involved in Occupy Wall Street, they have succeeded in engaging the country in a conversation about income inequality.

"A quick search of the news — including print articles, web stories and broadcast transcripts — via Nexis reveals a significant rise in the use of the term 'income inequality,' from less than 91 instances in the week before the occupation started to almost 500 instances last week."

— Ben Smith writing in Politico on Nov. 11

With files from The Canadian Press