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UPDATE: How Are The Quebec Protests Being Reported Around The World?
May 24, 2012
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As the Quebec tuition protests continue, media outlets around the world are taking notice. Reporting on the situation has ranged from the even-handed look at the situation of Al-Jazeera's article to a New York Times op-ed calling Quebec "a province that rides roughshod over its citizens' fundamental freedoms".

Here's a sampling of how some international publications are covering the situation in Quebec:

The Guardian - 'Quebec's 'truncheon law' rebounds as student strike spreads'

"In its contempt for students and citizens, the government has riled a population with strong, bitter memories of harsh measures against social unrest - whether the dark days of the iron-fisted Duplessis era, the martial law enforced by the Canadian army in 1970, or years of labour battles marred by the jailing of union leaders. These and other occasions have shown Québécois how the political elite has no qualms about trampling human rights to maintain a grip on power.

Which is why those with experience of struggle fresh and old have answered Premier Jean Charest with unanimity and collective power. There are now legal challenges in the works, broad appeals for civil disobedience, and a brilliant website created by the progressive CLASSE student union, on which thousands have posted photos of themselves opposing the law. (The website's title is "Somebody arrest me" but also puns on a phrase to shake a person out of a crazed mental spell.)"

Al-Jazeera - 'Why are Quebec students seeing red?'

"Right now, Quebec's young scholars shell out just over $2,000 a year for a university degree, not including their living costs. That will be closer to $4,000 if the government gets its way. But even in the rest of Canada, the average is between $6,000 and $7,000.
As many Canadians, Americans, Britons and others have been asking, what's all the fuss about?

As always, it depends on who you ask and what your politics are. [...] The streets of Quebec don't seem likely to calm down anytime soon. A provincial election is due before the end of next year, and many are wondering if this issue - at once seemingly trivial, yet evidently so serious - might just be best turned over to the voters."

Associated Free Press - 'Quebec's tough stand backfires as protests grow'

"Bill 78 prohibits freedom of assembly anywhere in the francophone province without prior police approval and requires protesters to give the authorities eight hours' notice before an event and follow a planned route.

Rather than quelling the unrest, it appears to have made things worse for the embattled premier. Tens of thousands of demonstrators ignored their official itinerary on Tuesday as they took to the streets of Montreal to mark the 100th day of the movement.
"People are backing the students because Charest went too far," said Jacques Hamel, a sociology professor at the University of Montreal. "It's a threat to fundamental rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association."

Le Monde (Translated) - 'Quebec undermined by an unprecedented social crisis'

"Now, popular protest is not only aimed at increased university tuition fees, but also at "Bill 78" - dubbed "the truncheon law" by its detractors. The bill passed last weekend at the behest of Jean Charest's Liberal government, and it restricts the right to protest.

Roundly condemned by those on the street, who appear committed to civil disobedience, the bill has also been attacked in the media: 'Le Devoir' sees an "abuse of power" and an "authoritarian temptation", "connected to the fear generated by the weakness of the authorities", while 'La Presse' denounced the provision as "misguided and counterproductive".

Beyond this Gordian knot, which unleashes passions, how to interpret this standoff? Is this the inevitable result of a movement that has committed "outrages" or, as some suggest, a "generational show-down"? For 'La Presse', in any case, the "Rambo policy" adopted by the government can not help but lead to a worsening situation. Hence the urgent appeal launched by the newspaper for a "cooling down", which it called a "national duty" for each of the parties to the conflict."

New York Times - 'Our Not-So-Friendly Northern Neighbour'

"For a change, Americans should take note of what is happening across the quiet northern border. Canada used to seem a progressive and just neighbor, but the picture today looks less rosy. One of its provinces has gone rogue, trampling basic democratic rights in an effort to end student protests against the Quebec provincial government's plan to raise tuition fees by 75 percent.

On May 18, Quebec's legislative assembly, under the authority of the provincial premier, Jean Charest, passed a draconian law in a move to break the 15-week-long student strike. Bill 78, adopted last week, is an attack on Quebecers' freedom of speech, association and assembly. Mr. Charest has refused to use the traditional means of mediation in a representative democracy, leading to even more polarization. His administration, one of the most right-wing governments Quebec has had in 40 years, now wants to shut down opposition. [...]

Both Quebec and Canada as a whole are pro-market. They also share a sense of solidarity embodied by their public health care systems and strong unions. Such institutions are a way to maintain cohesion in a vast, sparsely populated land. Now those values are under threat.

Americans traveling to Quebec this summer should know they are entering a province that rides roughshod over its citizens' fundamental freedoms."

Quebec Protests 101 - May 23, 2012

It's been 101 days since students in Quebec started protesting the province's proposed tuition hike. Yesterday, protestors flooded Montreal's streets in a massive demonstration, and smaller events were held in other cities, including Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, New York and Paris, in solidarity. Montreal's mass march yesterday was also seen as a statement about the controversial new provincial law, Bill 78, part of which requires that protest routes be approved in advance. The law was passed on Friday, despite numerous calls from civil society groups and members of the opposition government.

Among the marchers yesterday was a prominent provincial politician, Independent MNA Pierre Curzi, and the Montreal transit union showed support for the demonstrators, calling on its members to avoid driving police squads around on city buses during crowd control operations. For the past several years, Montreal police have used city buses to shuttle riot squad officers to demonstrations and even used the vehicles to detain prisoners.

While yesterday's daytime protests were peaceful, violence broke out after dark between demonstrators and police for the fourth straight night. Premier Jean Charest has referred to Bill 78 as "a just law" because of mounting violence, and Public Security Minister Robert Dutil stated that he believes it's reasonable for protestors to supply the authorities with their demonstration route ahead of time, citing similar laws in other cities.

According to constitutional expert Julius Grey, however, several sections of Bill 78 are likely to be struck down by a court challenge, which non-profit Juripop Legal Clinic says they plan to file by the end of this week. Grey said lawyers representing student associations will be able to contest the law based on the many areas of it that contravene the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 9 of Bill 78, for instance, gives Quebec's education minister the power to unilaterally modify the law, which Grey says is "flagrantly unconstitutional", as it means delegating the power to legislate in the place of the government.

Sections 10 and 12 of the bill are "a violation of rights" that cut off union members' right to freely associate, Grey says, while sections 18 to 20 call for cutting off all funding and fees to student associations, representing an effective dissolution of the association. According to the first section of the Charter, the government may argue that these violations should be allowed if they are necessary because of the situation. "My own view is that it isn't necessary", Grey said. "But some other people might have another view".

A time-lapse video of yesterday's demonstrations was uploaded by YouTube user Bugsyves, displaying the massive number of people who streamed through the streets during the May 22nd marches. Check that out below:

Another major feature of many of the protests has been Anarchopanda, an unofficial mascot of the movement. Anarchopanda has appeared at many of the demonstrations and marches, and has both a Twitter account and a high media profile. He recently appeared in a print story by the Wall Street Journal, a fact that he took to Twitter to highlight:

Many commentators are discussing the protests and Bill 78 on Twitter. To stay up to date on those comments, you can follow the hashtags #manifencours, #ggi, and #loispeciale.

Arcade Fire played on Saturday Night Live with Mick Jagger this past weekend, and they demonstrated their solidarity with the cause by donning the red square that has become a symbol of the protests.

The cost of tuition in Quebec, which is significantly lower than in the rest of North America, is often mentioned in connection with the protests. Blogger Andrew Gavin Marshall argues that "the issue is debt, not tuition" - he believes that the increase in Quebec's tuition will lead to a much greater debt load on Quebec students.

Brent Rathgeber, Conservative MP for Edmonton-St. Albert, believes that the tuition increases are necessary. He took to his blog yesterday to comment on the situation: "Governments must live within their means. There is no such thing as a free lunch; everything costs somebody something. And disrespect for the rule of law will not lead to a cheaper education, but it will lead to a criminal record".

The National Post created this infographic representing the relative cost of tuition across the country. Click for full-size:


Related stories on Strombo.com:

UPDATE: A Deal For Quebec's Student Protestors Is Almost Off The Table


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