Citizen Action Monitor

In Quebec, massive counterpower movement of students and citizens in showdown against government

Largest protest ever recorded in Quebec history

No 485 Posted by fw, May 23, 2012

“Last week, the government of Quebec enacted a dangerous bill, Bill 78, which represents a crackdown on protests, and specifically on the student strike that has been happening in the past three months in Quebec. And today about 400,000 citizens, old and young, workers and students, marched in Montreal against Bill 78. Ironically, it was also the biggest event of civil disobedience in Quebec, since the protest was technically illegal, according to Bill 78.”Jérémie Bédard-Wien, student organizer

Watch a 5-minute video of the protest, featuring Real News reporter Jessica Desvarieux’s interview with student organizer,  Jérémie Bédard-Wien. An abridged transcript with added subheadings follows the video.

250,000 plus Defy Anti-Protest Law in Quebec, Real News Network, May 23, 2012

ABRIDGED TRANSCRIPT

[All comments are by Jérémie Bédard-Wien] —

Today an estimated 400,000 students, workers and ordinary citizens joined in “illegal” act of civil disobedience against Bill 78

Last week, the government of Quebec enacted a dangerous bill, Bill 78, which represents a crackdown on protests, and specifically on the student strike that has been happening in the past three months in Quebec. And today about 400,000 citizens, old and young, workers and students, marched in Montreal against Bill 78. Ironically, it was also the biggest event of civil disobedience in Quebec, since the protest was technically illegal, according to Bill 78.

Strike has grown from a simple protest against tuition hikes to a showdown over rights and freedoms

Today marks the hundredth day of the beginning of the student strike that has been tearing Quebec apart since the last three months. The strike was first a protest against the tuition hikes that governments announced in this year’s budget, but it very quickly became a larger social struggle. And now it’s become a struggle even for the right to protest and the right to associate, both of which are guaranteed under Canadian Constitution.

Bill 78 prohibits spontaneous protests, picket lines near schools, and imposes large fines against organizers

Oh, it’s been moving really quickly. The last time I was on the program, student associations throughout Quebec rejected the latest government offer to students and as a result while the minister of education resigned last week, last Monday, and was replaced by someone who could toe the party line more effectively. And this time the party line was to impose Bill 78 on students on the strike, Bill 78, which makes spontaneous protests illegal, which contravenes the Canadian Constitution. Bill 78 also prohibits picket lines in front of schools, which is why we’ve been able to enforce the strike, and imposes extremely large fines for people who organize protests, for people who call on other people to participate in these protests, and for student unions to call picket lines. These fines can range from $7,000 to $125,000 for an organization, which would effectively kill both CLASSE and individual local student unions.

In the face of increased student counterpower, Bédard-Wien expects the minister of education to restart negotiations. 

Well, I think protests today basically invalidated the special law. The police didn’t intervene, because it couldn’t intervene and stop a crowd of 400,000 persons, the largest demonstration in Quebec’s history. And from now, well, we expect the minister to restart negotiations, which they had broken by enacting this special law. The minister’s already sent a press release telling us that they will negotiate, they will indeed negotiate without conditions. So we now have a whole lot of leverage with the entire population on our side and we’re hoping to be able to negotiate in the next few days, hopefully finally kill the tuition hike.

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