BY LUCID, WEARECHANGETORONTO.ORG
May 22, 2012
All Canadian eyes should be on Quebec now, as the Quebec student movement marks its 100th day of contiuous striking.
Initially the movement was prepared to oppose incremental university tuition rates, but as the four months progressed, it took hold as a civil liberties and human rights movement; and through their endurance, and popular support, the world now recognizes Quebec as a leading example of what civil resistance and direct democracy is capable of, as did the Occupy Wall Street and Tahrir Square movements, only a few months prior.
The Quebec youth protests have been met with many instances of cruel and excessive force by the police, which has only served to galvanize the entire city of Montreal in unity for the strikes to continue. However the rest of the country of Canada, and expanding into the international communities have begun to take issue with the recently passed bill, C 78, which effectively criminalizes demonstration organizing, levying fines as high as $100,000 against organizations charged with organizing or sympathizing with student strikers, while anyone caught piketing, pamphleting or otherwise protesting within certain radius of educational institutions may now be criminally penalized through incarceration. Fortunately, within days, the city of Montreal unanimously defied the bill, and the strikes contnued.
Simultaneously, organizers among the student movement reached out to other cities such as Otawa, Vancouver and Toronto today to show not only their support, solidarity, and sympathy, but also to pledge themselves as individuals to do the mobilization work of spreading the Maple Spring Movement. Part of that effort included an open letter signed by as many as 200 members of the Canadian Federation of Students Organization that endorsed the Quebec Movement.
From the Open Letter to the Canadian Federation of Students:
“After 12 weeks of strikes against the massive tuition hikes and facing massive police brutality, the student movement in Quebec is forcing the government to budge. This is a heroic example. . . . Quebec has shown again and again that the only way to force concessions from governments is to mobilize on a mass basis through a strike campaign and confront the government, not with post cards but with action! Students and youth, as well as the working population in general have been inspired by the Quebec movement. . . . A massive student movement in Ontario would show the Quebec students that they are not alone. It would strengthen the movement for post secondary education across Canada and it would cut across the divisions created by the pro-business politicians and corporate press to weaken the student movement.” (Kraus)
In Toronto the call for strikes is yet to be determined after a series of assemlies taking place throughout the summer but it began today with a rally and march on the University of Toronto campus that went through the downtown core to the Ted Rogers Ryerson School of Business Management.
Early demands by the movement also include a boycott of the unapologetically biased right wing Quebeccor Sun Media that has slandered and ignored the student movement, but the movement and its allies have responded in kind in calling on Canadians to recognize the politically motivated media blackout that is being used against them, as the state continues its repression and violence against its own citizenry, and denies the youth a future worth living.
Media statement by Occupy Toronto:
“As hundreds of thousands gathered in the streets of Montreal for a general strike in support of Montreal’s student movement, Occupy Toronto led a march of hundreds to show their support for the students and against the repressive Charest government’s moves to criminalize protest.
Occupy Toronto is answering the call from Quebec to bring the spirit of the student strike to the rest of Canada, and stands with the rallying cry for free education.
“Education, the youth: these are investments, not expenses. And if we aren’t investing in our children, then what is the point of money?” said Roxy Cohen, an organizer with the Occupy Toronto Free Skule.
The Toronto march, which started at the University of Toronto’s Hart House today at 2pm, held a general assembly to discuss the march’s route, deciding on a route that ended at Ryerson University.
Montreal student activist Laura Dolan addressed the assembly. This isn’t just a solidarity action, Dolan explained. Tuition is already too high across Canada considering places like Mexico can afford free education at the university level without sentencing students into a lifetime of debt.
Additionally, Bill 78 is a contradiction to Canada’s stated commitment to human rights. Toronto is initiating its own movement to demonstrate our opposition to a corporate agenda that puts fighter jets and prisons ahead of education and healthcare.
Protesters decried the media coverage of the student strike within Ontario. Often characterizing the students as “entitled” and comparing their protest to acts of terrorism, English media outlets like The Sun and The National Post have mischaracterised this popular movement and created a false media consensus against the student strike.
Meanwhile, Sandy Hudson, Chairperson of the Ontario Canadian Federation of Students said her organization is absolutely 100 per cent behind striking Quebec students.
Unprecedented numbers of people have joined the students in daily protests throughout Quebec, with hundreds of thousands showing support in Montreal today to mark the 100th day of the strike.” (Saunders)
Rally Speeches Transcript
Laura from Montreal:
“I’m so happy to see all of you here. A number of comrades of mine from Quebec sent a message to me today saying that you guys are fucking awesome. And I’m going to swear; you guys are fucking awesome.
As of today we are going to protest especially this bill C78 which deprives people of their freedom of speech and their human rights. Today represents, not only for Quebec, but also for the movements in Chile, New York, Mexico, everywhere. Also the tuitition rates, which was the initial issue, is still extremely important, but this also goes way beyond that. And I think you guys all know what I’m talking about.
This is about the corporatization of universities, and education, which should be a right; we shouldn’t have to work our buts off and try to complete our work only to get through school and being incapable of getting a good job. It’s not fair at all.”
Farshad Azadian, No One Is Illegal:
“This whole movement in Quebec has shaken the Charest government. Its shaken them so much that they had to resort to this bill. This brutal bill that bans demonstrations is a disgrace to our democratic rights. And what it shows us is that the government is trembling to the protesters in Quebec. And these tactics and these methods that are forcing the governmen to begin to buckle. So they’re scared. They’re scared of the example that it sets that we can win against austerity.
One thing that I would say is that Charest would do well to learn a lesson from Mubarak, and that is that you cannot beat a movement with batons and mass arrests. You cannot beat the movement because that will only make it stronger. Today is an example of that. We’re here in Toronto and we’re saying that we’re here because we sympathize with the Quebec movement and that we’re inspired. We are inspired.
We should talk about that other point; the best way we can support the Quebec movement is that we need to break the isolation. Now what they’re saying in the media — and the corporate press, the pro-business politicians, the elitists, — is that the students are alone, and no one supports them. We have to break the isolation by taking action. Lets bring the movement to Ontario.
These politicians are talking about the race to the bottom, and that these Quebec tuitions are the cheapest; and they are saying that the students are a bunch of complainers and a bunch of whiners. But what we’re saying is that $2,500 per year, that’s the tuition that we demand across Canada, and that that is only the first step towards free post-secondary education.”
Signatures signed to the Open Letter from Federation of Students in Solidarity with the Quebec Student Movement for fall mobilization.
Sandy Hudson, Ontario Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students:
“It’s so amazing to see people here today inspired by the students of Quebec. We stand by several hundered percent behind them. It is amazing what they have been able to do. And it is completely awefull and reprehensible to see what the government of Quebec is doing. It is also reprehensible to see what the government of Ontario has been doing. This government, in Ontario, is the one that is making possible what is happening in Quebec and we should not have let it go this far. We can’t allow it to continue. What we need to do is to take this inspiration that we feel and to turn it into mobilization on the ground.
This is something needs to take place in Ontario. We need to learn from our Quebec brothers and sisters. What they have done is amazing, nothing short of amazing, but we know that it took a lot of hard work. They were organizing for over a year. We need to do what they did here. They set up faculty councils and they took those votes. Get in touch with the faculty councils and we wil help you to get start up.
Lets move this movement from the ground up. And lets make sure that we are involving people who are not currently involved in the process. In Quebec, college students are at the forefront of the movement. They are at the forefront. College students are the one who are getting free education in Quebec. Here, it’s a little less expensive, sometimes, those are the students who understand why education is inaccessible. Those students and the folks in high school who are never going to be able to get there. We need to engage those students.
We know that on those campuses, administrations, the government is worn in the pockets of those students. They sit on those councils and they make sure that the political question is never asked. We need to make sure that we get those mobilization committees, we haven’t had those on the college campuses. If we don’t engage those students, we are never going to do this. If we just to this alone and insular to those students who remain in university or even just the members of the Canadian Federation of Students, we need to get beyond that. We need to make sure that we’re organizing beyond that. And we need to make sure that this is a broad based movement.
So I am looking to Quebec and I am looking to all of you for information. This is exciting and this is amazing. But it’s summer. When school starts up I want to see — I hope that every one of you will pledge to do something on campuses, on your own campuses, on your former campuses, on campuses you wish you were able to go to, or on campuses that you never even heard of. Just start these mobilizations committees and get people out there.
Tuition fees in this province are the highest that they are in Canada, they are one of the highest in the world. That’s a shame. I graduated with just under $50,000 in debt and that is not unheard of. I know people who have over $150,000 in debt. Do you know what that means? Those poor folks, these racialized folks, people with disabilities, and far on down the list, these people are the ones who are going to be paying more for their education simply because they couldn’t afford to get in.
This system doesn’t make sense. It’s set up because it’s about wealthy students. Wealthy people are the only ones that benefit. And this education system props that up. We need to challenge that. That’s what the folks in Quebec are doing, lets bring that here.”
Kraus, Krystalline, “Activist Communique: An Open Letter to the Canadian Federation of Students,”
Rabble.ca, 18 May, 2012. Web.
Saunders, Sakura “Occupy Toronto Marches in solidarity with Quebec Students.”
Toronto.MediaCoop.ca, 22 May, 2012. Web