Sunday, June 10, 2012

Montreal and the Grand Prix Circus

It's Saturday night in Montreal, and the Grand Prix party is just warming up. Thousands of people are milling around on Ste Catherine street. 

Demonstrators, racing fans, tourists, party kids, riot police.

And I'm watching the live feed on CUTV and can't believe what I'm seeing. So I can understand why some tourists think they're watching a movie. 

Except that if you're a demonstrator, and you try to get too close to the designated Formula One party area on Crescent Street.

You risk being beaten...

Or pepper sprayed.

Or jumped like this CUTV journalist was tonight ...

For having a knapsack on his back, and having a red square pinned to his jacket. Next to his press pass.

So if it's a movie, it's a scary one. And when my friends in Montreal taunt me like they did tonight, with text messages like "It's the best F1 party EVAH." Or "Where are U Simon U SLACKER?"

And I would normally reply "FU You think it's easy living in Harperland?"

Tonight I just said: " Wish I was there WAAAAH." 

And "Take care eh?"

For it's getting dangerous out there. 

And of course, "I'm proud of you." For as Rick Salutin says, we owe you.

We owe them for taking a shot at saving our national honour in the eyes of the world. We’ve lost brownie points on the environment, our even-handedness in areas like the Mideast, our commitment to peacekeeping — but their campaign for equal, publicly funded access to higher education hits a note closer to that other, previous Canada.

We owe them for striking a blow on behalf of public discourse. I’m thinking here of the term entitlements, which has replaced rights in the discussion. When did health, housing, a dignified retirement, etc., stop being human rights and turn into shabby, whiny entitlements?

For standing up for democracy, and a nobler vision of society, in the squalid darkness of Harperland. And making noise, ANY kind of noise, to break the suffocating silence.

I'll be glad when the Formula One party leaves town. For even though I am a racing fan, may Mother Earth forgive me. That capitalist circus is the last thing you need in the middle of a social crisis.

But it has served to further politicize many Quebecers, it has broadened the movement, and made it more of an ideological struggle. One which is being noticed all over the world.

And some things are for sure eh? The police can beat the demonstrators all they like.

But they will only make more of them...

And long after the Formula One circus has left town.

In its peaceful, noisy, Montreal way.

The struggle will continue...

Vote here to recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.


  1. That animated short is brilliant. Thanks for your excellent coverage of the Montreal movement.

    1. hi Beijing...I'm glad you liked the little short. I liked it too and it made its point truthfully and powerfully. The student struggle was a difficult one, until the police began attacking them, and others came out to support them.

  2. I'd hardly call a protest against tuition "a social crisis". It is just a protest. No justification for banning protests on university campuses or banning leisure activities like motor car racing.

    1. hi AV.... It wasn't moi who coined the phrase. It's used all the time in the Quebec media. It may have begun as a protest against tuition fees, but it has evolved into something bigger than that. And nobody, except the very hardcore, ever talked about banning the Grand Prix. It was just a question of using the race to get their message out to more people. Which sounds reasonable to me...