Québec’s Maple Spring
From the towns of Sept-Îles to Jonquière in Quebec you can hear the sound of pots and pans. Last May thousands banged pots and pans on the streets. They were protesting against Québec’s political classes. Night after night, these protesters beat pots and pans. They represent the views of people who are nervous about government cuts affecting the upper classes. This protest from Québec’s ‘maple spring’ is the first important protest against the austerity plans of Canada’s neoliberal government.
The protest started quietly. Jean Charest’s Liberal Party wanted to increase university fees over the next few years. And students protested. The government remained firm and hoped the students would go back to class. The students didn’t go back to class and the carré rouge (the little red square) appeared more and more on shirts and skirts. The carré rouge, the red square, represents bankruptcy.
Montréal is the main centre of the movement. Thousands of students demonstrate every night and the police are responding more and more firmly with many arrests. Young students and their organisations are paying heavy fines.
As the protests grew during April and May, Jean Charest, the Premier of Québec, introduced a strict new law (Bill 78). The new law makes it very difficult for groups of people to come together and demonstrate politically. In fact this increased the numbers of the demonstrators. The feelings of the protesters are spreading to other parts of the population.
On 22 May, the carré rouge (or red square) movement brought a quarter of a million people on to the streets of Montréal. Trade unions, community groups and pensioners all came together. This was the hundredth day of the social strike and clearly showed that the movement was about more than just university fees.
It is, in fact, the first protest against the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa. For Québec students, the future is low employment and high debt. This is a situation for students in the US and other places in Canada – and the students are saying ‘non’ (‘no’).
Some of the effects of government austerity plans are: reduced public services, universities becoming businesses, the environmental costs of big business, the continuing increase of money and power by a few people. As people become more and more unhappy about these effects, others in society are joining the student protest.
The press are very critical of the students but the protests are beginning to spread across Canada. The carré rouge has been successful and has started a movement that seems certain to continue.
As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://www.newint.org/sections/agenda/2012/07/01/quebec-maple-spring/