Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why I support the Quebec Student Strike

It's reached a point where I almost can't bear to read or watch any MSM coverage of the Quebec student strike.

Because all I usually see is a bunch of kooky old right-wing pundits flapping their gums, or hissing like kettles. Like the grotesque Con dwarf Rex Murphy.

Who should have been locked in a padded cell, or a broom closet, for writing such fascist tripe. 

So I thought I should straighten him and the others out by pointing out some other facts:

(1) The students staged massive peaceful marches for weeks, but the Charest government refused to even talk to them. Even as many of them were being arrested for no good reason. 

(2) The government only changed its tune when student anger reached a boiling point, and a handful of the usual suspects broke a few windows. And only so the Quebec Liberals could pose as champions of law and order, to try to make people forget that they are one of the most criminally corrupt governments in modern Canadian history.

(3) The battle to keep university education affordable has been going on for more than forty years, since the days of the Quiet Revolution. And is one of the things that makes Quebec a distinct society.

Martin sees the conflict linked to an unrealized promise of Quebec's Quiet Revolution of the 1960s: free post-secondary tuition."That's the norm that people compare themselves to and that's part of the reason tuition fees remained so low in Quebec for such a long time, because whenever the thought of raising them came to public debate, it was not in the minds of most people."

(4) Those who ask why Quebec students should complain when their tuition fees are the lowest in the Canada, should really be asking themselves why are tuition fees so high in the rest of the country? Or why aren't they FREE as they are in Scotland ?

Because education is a right, we need educated citizens more than we need tanks and war planes. And the kind of society you live in depends on your PRIORITIES.

(5) If the strike and the massive marches have become more than just about education.

How is it that so many people are so worked up about a relatively minor increase in tuition fees? In spending time talking to protesters, one thing becomes clear. This movement, if it ever was, is no longer just about tuition.

“The issue is bigger than tuition fees. It is a question of re-establishing democracy. There is no democracy. We are closer to totalitarianism. Decisions are made without listening to the people.”

So much the better. For we will NEVER change the world by sitting on our asses. And I only wish that we could get 200-thousand people into the street to protest against the way the Harper regime is raping our democracy and our values.

But getting Canadians off their couches is harder than raising the dead. So I don't just support the Quebec students, I'm grateful to them for showing us the way to resist.

And for giving younger Canadians role models like the leader of CLASSE, the largest student group, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois...

In a speech this month, Mr. Nadeau-Dubois said the students are battling the same “elite” that lays off workers at Aveos aircraft maintenance and Rio Tinto mines, and that prevents Couche-Tard convenience-store workers from unionizing. 

“Those people are a single elite, a greedy elite, a corrupt elite, a vulgar elite, an elite that only sees education as an investment in human capital, that only sees a tree as a piece of paper and only sees a child as a future employee,” he said.

Who is my kind of hero.

Yup. Marching for a better world.

Shining like a light in the grubby darkness of Harperland.

Never giving up. On lâche rien.

Go students GO...

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  1. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Great analysis. Always nice to see that we have support from anglophones and immigrants ;) such an hearthwarming proof of social cohesion.

    1. hi anonymous...Thank you.I only have two regrets. One, that I waited so long before I wrote about the strike. And two, that I'm not there. And yes, as an immigrant to Canada I'm always surprised that I know so much more about this country than many who have lived here all their lives. But maybe it's just because I'm interested, because if you're not in a country as big as this one, you'll never know anything...

    2. Anonymous1:31 AM

      I don't agree with your statement, all students are affected, I think it's rather self centered to assume only french and non immigrant students are the ones "fighting the good fight".

  2. I may never understand Quebec society. I do think that the student protests are about much more than tuition fees. They are about the kind of society that young Quebeckers want--a society that sees tertiary education as a societal good, not just an individual commodity.

    While it may appear that Jean Charest has the support of a majority of Quebeckers with respect to the tuition debate, it seems that the student protesters are framing the issue as one of what Quebec society should look like. Will Quebeckers become a unique society with their own values, or will Quebeckers be just like the other provinces and states of North America? Will Quebec become a truly democratic society where citizens get involved in all the poltical discussions? Will Quebec remain an autocracy ruled by the elites?

    1. hi Skinny Dipper...Quebec already is a unique society with its own values, because of its unique history. Because they are a more homogenous society than the rest of Canada, they also have more communal or societal values, which used to be common to Canada but aren't anymore. I believe the students are standing up for those values and much of the opposition to them is fuelled by sensationalistic coverage from the media, and a clash of generations. The same impatience or outright hated of the young that we saw during the Occupy Canada days. I also think that this strike will politicize a whole new generation and great things may come of that. Remember that Rene Levesque became a separatist after a long strike at the CBC where he worked. So anything could come out of this one...

  3. Anonymous9:02 PM

    Lately the National Post has surprised me with its coverage of the news.

    1. hi anonymous...I am also surprised by some of the quality articles I see in the National Post. Good for them. I am only sorry that they are apparently about to disappear behind a pay wall. But I'm afraid that seems to be the future of all newspapers...

  4. Anonymous6:06 PM

    sorry, it may seem like i'mtotally out of it here, but why are they raising fees in the first place? Is the money going to the school teachers or to the government officials?

    1. hi anonymous...I'm afraid I'm not sure myself. But it's probably as part of some deficit reduction plan. But there is an interesting point I forgot to raise in my post. Only part of the money the students pay goes to fund their teaching. They also fund research that is used by government and businesses, who can better afford to pay for that than poor students can. And as I did say in my post the quality of a society is determined by its priorities...

    2. Anonymous10:38 PM

      They say universities don't get enough money. But a lot of money is wasted in those, because bosses' wage raised, because they waste money in silly projects (get info about l'Îlôt voyageur), and because the open campuses faraway.

  5. Anonymous12:33 AM

    you hit it right on. great job! It boggles my mind to wonder why the rest of Canada turns a blind eye on what's happening in Quebec as it is about the privatization of education. I support the students 100% and wish there was some way the rest of Canada can wake up and do the same!

    1. hi anonymous...thank you I'm glad you liked the post. And like you I can't understand why the rest of Canada is so blind to what's going on in Quebec, considering that it is the most progressive province these days, and the most determined enemy of the Harper Cons. We should be encouraged and motivated to do better, but unfortunately these days all you see is bitterness and cynicism, and a mindless race to the bottom...

  6. Anonymous9:35 PM

    I'm definitely no right wing nut and do NOT support these protests. We are taxed to death in Quebec, our infrastructure is falling apart, high unemployment & welfare, corruption all around us, and day in, and day out, I see folks abusing the social system. Who is going to pay for their education? Why do so many of these students leave once they graduate for high paying jobs elsewhere? Something has to give and definitely not one more tax dollar on my pay cheque please.

    1. Anonymous10:52 PM

      "We are taxed to death in Quebec, our infrastructure is falling apart, high unemployment & welfare, corruption all around us, and day in, and day out, I see folks abusing the social system."

      - Indeed, and it costs society a lot. Without corruption, buildings would probably not fall apart, and there would be money for education and health. As for high taxes, normally, we accept to pay them because we expect results. If you don't see the results, I understand you can disagree with high taxes. But keep in mind that if the money we give in taxes disappears, it should not be the case.

      "Who is going to pay for their education?" "Something has to give and definitely not one more tax dollar on my pay cheque please."

      - The taxpayers, because they ALL benefit a better access to education. Most of the best jobs are gotten by going in the university, and since the richest are expected to pay more taxes, those who pay the most for everyone's education are those who beneficed it the most. Of course, fraud shall be severely punished.

      "Why do so many of these students leave once they graduate for high paying jobs elsewhere?"

      I can't tell, but that is indeed a problem if you're right.

  7. Elite is representation by one individual, whoever that person is.

    Did you really call Murphy a dwarf? "You're either for us, or you're against us." GW Bush, and this blog.

    The education system is obsolete, out of date, whether you're a captalist or a socialist. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the entrenched. It is not progressive.

  8. Anonymous10:18 PM

    Great post. I agree 100%!

  9. I really enjoyed your post and I completely agree. If someone asks me why I think this fight is so important, I tell them I am from Pakistan. The kind of world that the Conservatives and neo-Liberals are trying to create will look like present day Pakistan. It ain't pretty. This tuition hike is part of the greater deliberate attempt to create an uneducated lower class and stratify this society. Charest said it himself. He wants students to get out of school and go work in mines. They can hike up the fees, make the rich richer, make more poor people, destroy the environment. But if they expect to achieve that without a real fight then they are sorely mistaken!

  10. Right on! I really don't understand why people don't see that all the rights and privileges they enjoy were only won through generations of struggle. When the students fight they fight for all of us, when workers strike they strike for all of us. If it were not for countless generations of such struggles, we would still be living in the caves.

    1. hi you must know by now I completely agree with you. I will never accept this race to the bottom, and if we don't stand up to them that where we will all end up...

  11. Anonymous11:59 AM

    Go, Quebec, Go!!! Show the rest of this neo-liberal western Canada what it means to grab a little dignity!!

    BC Guy

    1. hi anonymous... I like your spirit and the solidarity. Now c'mon western Canada, you can do it too... :)

  12. JeremyT5:08 PM

    I have a question: when the protesters bully and rough up students that are trying to go to class, whom the courts have explicitly stated have the right to be there and make use of the tuition they've already paid, and stealing from no-one, where does that fit in to this whole "class struggle"?

    1. Anonymous11:20 PM

      I really wish you were good enough in French to understand this "slang" article, because it explains it all :

      This is also a must :

      If you're lucky, Translating the Printemps érable translated it, if not, well, you'll have to practice your French.

      The green squares that used the court to go in class are not only scabs (our direct democracy is really just, from what I've experienced myself), but they are selfish. Why ? Indeed, they paid, indeed, they have the right to go in class. But you cannot put individual right over collective right. A course is not a product you buy and dispose of, like a cinema ticket. With high tuition fees, it's thousands of students that won't go to university anymore for all the future trimesters, and someone do sabotage only to access his/her courses for one trimester. One thing about the court : it's been proven that most of them are linked to Liberals, so one may wonder if they are really objective like they should.

      I don't know if red squares had been violent to those who used the court, I haven't heard of that, but I don't think it was widespread if it happened.

      Really, you should read these articles, they say everything better than I could.

    2. hi anonymous...I actually do understand slang French or joual or whatever. At least when it's written. ;)

      And I certainly agree with this:

      On entend c’qu’on veut bien entendre.
      On comprend c’qu’on veut bien comprendre.
      La vérité est plus malléable qu’on l’pense.
      La réalité aussi.

      Some can't hear or see the message. But keep making noise and one day they will...

    3. hi Jeremy...I wouldn't condone bullying by any side. If some students felt they were bullied I deeply regret it. But I haven't seen any on the green side physically attacked, and in any strike arguments tend to get heated, and these angry exchanges happen...