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Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

by Andrew Gavin Marshall

Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

Ten Points Everyone Should Know About the Quebec Student Movement

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

This article was originally published at:

The student strikes in Quebec, which began in February and have lasted for three months, involving roughly 175,000 students in the mostly French-speaking Canadian province, have been subjected to a massive provincial and national media propaganda campaign to demonize and dismiss the students and their struggle. The following is a list of ten points that everyone should know about the student movement in Quebec to help place their struggle in its proper global context.

1)            The issue is debt, not tuition

2)            Striking students in Quebec are setting an example for youth across the continent

3)            The student strike was organized through democratic means and with democratic aims

4)            This is not an exclusively Quebecois phenomenon

5)            Government officials and the media have been openly calling for violence and “fascist” tactics to be used against the students

6)            Excessive state violence has been used against the students

7)            The government supports organized crime and opposes organized students

8)            Canada’s elites punish the people and oppose the students

9)            The student strike is being subjected to a massive and highly successful propaganda campaign to discredit, dismiss, and demonize the students

10)            The student movement is part of a much larger emerging global movement of resistance against austerity, neoliberalism, and corrupt power

1)            The issue is debt, not tuition: In dismissing the students, who are striking against a 75% increase in the cost of tuition over the next five years, the most common argument used is in pointing out that Quebec students pay the lowest tuition in North America, and therefore, they should not be complaining. Even with the 75% increase, they will still be paying substantially lower than most other provinces. Quebec students pay on average $2,500 per year in tuition, while the rest of Canada’s students pay on average $5,000 per year. With the tuition increase of $1,625 spread out over five years, the total tuition cost for Quebec students would be roughly $4,000. The premise here is that since the rest of Canada has it worse, Quebec students should shut up, sit down, and accept “reality.” THIS IS FALSE. In playing the “numbers game,” commentators and their parroting public repeat the tuition costs but fail to add in the numbers which represent the core issue: DEBT. So, Quebec students pay half the average national tuition. True. But they also graduate with half the average national student debt. With the average tuition at $5,000/year, the average student debt for an undergraduate in Canada is $27,000, while the average debt for an undergraduate in Quebec is $13,000. With interest rates expected to increase, in the midst of a hopeless job situation for Canadian youth, Canada’s youth face a future of debt that “is bankrupting a generation of students.” The notion, therefore, that Quebec students should not struggle against a bankrupt future is a bankrupted argument.

2)            Striking students in Quebec are setting an example for youth across the continent: Nearly 60% of Canadian students graduate with debt, on average at $27,000 for an undergraduate degree. Total student debt now stands at about $20 billion in Canada ($15 billion from Federal Government loans programs, and the rest from provincial and commercial bank loans). In Quebec, the average student debt is $15,000, whereas Nova Scotia and Newfoundland have an average student debt of $35,000, British Columbia at nearly $30,000 and Ontario at nearly $27,000. Roughly 70% of new jobs in Canada require a post-secondary education. Half of students in their 20s live at home with their parents, including 73 per cent of those aged 20 to 24 and nearly a third of 25- to 29-year-olds. On average, a four-year degree for a student living at home in Canada costs $55,000, and those costs are expected to increase in coming years at a rate faster than inflation. It has been estimated that in 18 years, a four-year degree for Canadian students will cost $102,000. Defaults on government student loans are at roughly 14%. The Chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students warned in June of 2011 that, “We are on the verge of bankrupting a generation before they even enter the workplace.” This immense student debt affects every decision made in the lives of young graduates. With few jobs, enormous housing costs, the cutting of future benefits and social security, students are entering an economy which holds very little for them in opportunities. Women, minorities, and other marginalized groups are in an even more disadvantaged position. Canadian students are increasingly moving back home and relying more and more upon their parents for support. An informal Globe and Mail poll in early May of 2012 (surveying 2,200 students), “shows that students across Canada share a similar anxiety over rising tuition fees” as that felt in Quebec. Roughly 62% of post-secondary students said they would join a similar strike in their own province, while 32% said they would not, and 5.9% were undecided. In Ontario, where tuition is the highest in Canada, 69% said they would support a strike against increasing tuition. A Quebec research institution released a report in late March of 2012 indicating that increasing the cost of tuition for students is creating a “student debt bubble” akin to the housing bubble in the United States, and with interest rates set to increase, “today’s students may well find themselves in the same situation of not being able to pay off their student loans.” The authors of the report from the Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-economique explained that, “Since governments underwrite those loans, if students default it could be catastrophic for public finances,” and that, “If the bubble explodes, it could be just like the mortgage crisis.” In the United States, the situation is even worse. In March of 2012, the Federal Reserve reported that 27 percent of student borrowers whose loans have gone into repayment are now delinquent on their debt.” Student debt in the United States has reached $1 trillion, “passing total credit card debt along the way.” It has become a threat to the entire existence of the middle class in America. Bankruptcy lawyers in the US are “seeing the telltale signs of a student loan debt bubble.” A recent survey from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA) indicated, “more than 80 percent of bankruptcy lawyers have seen a substantial increase in the number of clients seeking relief from student loans in recent years.” The head of the NACBA stated, “This could very well be the next debt bomb for the U.S. economy.” In 1993, 45% of students who earn a bachelor’s degree had to go into debt; today, it is 94%. The average student debt in the United States in 2011 was $23,300, with 10% owning more than $54,000 and 3% owing more than $100,000. President Obama has addressed the situation by simply providing more loans to students. A recent survey of graduates revealed that 40% of them “had delayed making a major purchase, like a home or car, because of college debt, while slightly more than a quarter had put off continuing their education or had moved in with relatives to save money,” and 50% of those surveyed had full-time jobs. Between 2001 and 2011, “state and local financing per student declined by 24 percent nationally.” In the same period of time, “tuition and fees at state schools increased 72 percent.” It would appear that whether in the United States, Canada, or even beyond, the decisions made by schools, banks, and the government, are geared toward increasing the financial burden on students and families, and increasing profits for themselves. The effect will be to plunge the student and youth population into poverty over the coming years. Thus, the student movement in Quebec, instead of being portrayed as “entitled brats” elsewhere, are actually setting an example for students and youth across the continent and beyond. Since Quebec tuition is the lowest on the continent, it gives all the more reason that other students should follow Quebec’s example, instead of Quebec students being told to follow the rest of the country (and continent) into debt bondage.

3)            The student strike was organized through democratic means and with democratic aims: The decision to strike was made through student associations and organizations that uniquely operate through direct-democracy. While most student associations at schools across Canada hold elections where students choose the members of the associations, the democratic accountability ends there (just like with government). Among the Francophone schools in Quebec, the leaders are not only elected by the students, but decisions are made through general assemblies, debate and discussion, and through the votes of the actual constituents, the members of the student associations, not just the leaders. This means that the student associations that voted to strike are more democratically accountable and participatory than most other student associations, and certainly the government. It represents a more profound and meaningful working definition of democracy that is lacking across the rest of the country. The Anglophone student associations that went on strike – from Concordia and McGill – did so because, for the first time ever, they began to operate through direct-democracy. This of course, has resulted in insults and derision from the media. The national media in Canada – most especially the National Post – complain that the student “tactics are anything but democratic,” and that the students aren’t acting in a democratic way, but that “it’s really mob rule.” Obviously, it is naïve to assume that the National Post has any sort of understanding of democracy.

4)            This is not an exclusively Quebecois phenomenon: I am an Anglophone, I don’t even speak French, I have only lived in Montreal for under two years, but the strikers are struggling as much for me as for any other student, Francophone or Anglophone. Typically, when others across Canada see what is taking place here, they frame it along the lines of, “Oh those Quebecois, always yelling about something.” But I’m yelling too… in English. Many people here are yelling… in English. It is true that the majority of the students protesting are Francophone, and the majority of the schools on strike are Francophone, but it is not exclusionary. In fact, the participation in the strike from the Anglophone schools (while a minority within the schools) is unprecedented in Quebec history. This was undertaken because students began mobilizing at the grassroots and emulating the French student groups in how they make decisions (i.e., through direct-democracy). The participation of Anglophone students in the open-ended strike is unprecedented in Quebec history.

5)            Government officials and the media have been openly calling for violence and “fascist” tactics to be used against the students: With all the focus on student violence at protests, breaking bank windows, throwing rocks at riot police, and other acts of vandalism, student leaders have never called for violence against the government or vandalism against property, and have, in fact, denounced it and spoken out for calm, stating: “The student movement wants to fight alongside the populace and not against it.” On the other hand, it has been government officials and the national media which have been openly calling for violence to be used against students. On May 11, Michael Den Tandt, writing for the National Post, stated that, “It’s time for tough treatment of Quebec student strikers,” and recommended to Quebec Premier Jean Charest that, “He must bring down the hammer.” Tandt claimed that there was “a better way” to deal with student protesters: “Dispersal with massive use of tear gas; then arrest, public humiliation, and some pain.” He even went on to suggest that, “caning is more merciful than incarceration,” or perhaps even re-imagining the medieval punishment in which “miscreants and ne’er-do-wells were placed in the stockade, in the public square, and pelted with rotten cabbages. That might not be a bad idea, either.” This, Tandt claimed, would be the only way to preserve “peace, order, and good government.” Kelly McParland, writing the for National Post on May 11, suggested that it was now time for Charest to “empower the police to use the full extent of the law against those who condone or pursue further disruption,” and that the government must make a “show of strength” against the students. If this was not bad enough, get ready for this: A member of the Quebec Liberal Party, head of the tax office in the Municipal Affairs Department, Bernard Guay, wrote an article for a French-language newspaper in Quebec in mid-April advocating a strategy to “end the student strikes.” In the article, the government official recommended using the fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s as an example in how to deal with “leftists” in giving them “their own medicine.” He suggested organizing a political “cabal” to handle the “wasteful and anti-social” situation, which would mobilize students to not only cross picket lines, but to confront and assault students who wear the little red square (the symbol of the student strike). This, Guay suggested, would help society “overcome the tyranny of Leftist agitators,” no doubt by emulating fascist tyranny. The article was eventually pulled and an apology was issued, while a government superior supposedly reprimanded Guay, though the government refused to elaborate on what that consisted of. Just contemplate this for a moment: A Quebec Liberal government official recommended using “inspiration” from fascist movements to attack the striking students. Imagine if one of the student associations had openly called for violence, let alone for the emulation of fascism. It would be national news, and likely lead to arrests and charges. But since it was a government official, barely a peep was heard.

6)            Excessive state violence has been used against the students: Throughout the three months of protests from students in Quebec, the violence has almost exclusively been blamed on the students. Images of protesters throwing rocks and breaking bank windows inundate the media and ‘inform’ the discourse, demonizing the students as violent, vandals, and destructive. Meanwhile, the reality of state violence being used against the students far exceeds any of the violent reactions from protesters, but receives far less coverage. Riot police meet students with pepper spray, tear gas, concussion grenades, smoke bombs, beating them with batons, shoot them with rubber bullets, and have even been driving police cars and trucks into groups of students. On May 4, on the 42nd anniversary of the Kent State massacre in which the U.S. National Guard murdered four protesting students, Quebec almost experienced its own Kent State, when several students were critically injured by police, shot with rubber bullets in the face. One student lost an eye, and another remains in the hospital with serious head injuries, including a skull fracture and brain contusion. The Quebec provincial police – the SQ – have not only been involved in violent repression of student protests in Quebec, but have also (along with the RCMP) been involved in training foreign police forces how to violently repress their own populations, such as in Haiti. Roughly 12,000 people in Quebec have signed a petition against the police reaction to student protests, stipulating that the police actions have been far too violent.  In late April, even before the Quebec police almost killed a couple students, Amnesty International “asked the government to call for a toning down of police measures that… are unduly aggressive and might potentially smother students’ right to free expression.” The Quebec government, of course, defends police violence against students and youths. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) – Canada’s spy agency – has recently announced its interest in “gathering intelligence” on Quebec student protesters and related groups as “possible threats to national security.” Coincidentally, Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismantled the government agency responsible for oversight of CSIS, making the agency essentially unaccountable. In reaction to student protests, the City of Montreal is considering banning masks being worn at protests in a new bylaw which is being voted on without public consultation. Thus, apparently it is fine for police to wear gas masks as they shoot chemical agents at Quebec’s youth, but students cannot attempt to even meagerly protect themselves by covering their faces. The federal Conservative government of Stephen Harper is attempting to pass a law that bans masks at protests, which includes a ten-year sentence for “rioters who wear masks.” Quebec has even established a secretive police unit called the GAMMA squad to monitor political groups in the province, which has already targeted and arrested members of the leading student organization behind the strike. The police unit is designed to monitor “anarchists” and “marginal political groups.” Some political groups have acknowledged this as “a declaration of war” by the government against such groups. Spokesperson for the largest student group, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, stated that, “This squad is really a new kind of political police to fight against social movements.” The situation of police repression has become so prevalent that even the U.S. State Department has warned Americans to stay away from student protests in the city, “as bystanders can quickly be caught up in unforeseen violence and in some cases, detained by the local police.”

Click here to watch a video compilation of police brutality against students.

7)            The government supports organized crime and opposes organized students: The government claims that it must increase the cost of tuition in order to balance the budget and to increase the “competitiveness” of schools. The government has ignored, belittled, undermined, attempted to divide, and outright oppress the student movement. The Liberal Government of Quebec, in short, has declared organized students to be enemies of the state. Meanwhile, that same government has no problem of working with and supporting organized crime, namely, the Montreal Mafia. In 2010, Quebec, under Premier Jean Charest, was declared to be “the most corrupt province” in Canada. A former opposition leader in the Montreal city hall reported that, “the Italian mafia controls about 80 per cent of city hall.” The mafia is a “big player” in the Quebec economy, and “is deeply entrenched in city affairs” of Montreal, as “more than 600 businesses pay Mafia protection money in Montreal alone, handing organized crime leaders an unprecedented degree of control of Quebec’s economy.” The construction industry, especially, is heavily linked to the mafia. The Montreal Mafia is as influential as their Sicilian counterparts, where “all of the major infrastructure work in Sicily is under Mafia control.” In 2009, a government official stated that, “It’s Montreal’s Italian Mafia that controls what is going on in road construction. They control, from what we can tell, 80 per cent of the contracts.” In the fall of 2011, an internal report written by the former Montreal police chief for the government was leaked, stating, “We have discovered a firmly rooted, clandestine universe on an unexpected scale, harmful to our society on the level of safety and economics and of justice and democracy.” The report added, “Suspicions are persistent that an evil empire is taking form in the highway construction domain,” and that, “If there were to be an intensification of influence-peddling in the political sphere, we would no longer simply be talking about marginal, or even parallel criminal activities: we could suspect an infiltration or even a takeover of certain functions of the state.” Quebec Premier Jean Charest, for several years, rejected calls for a public inquiry into corruption in the construction industry, even as the head of Quebec’s anti-collusion squad called for such an inquiry. An opposition party in Quebec stated that Jean Charest “is protecting the (Quebec) Liberal party – and in protecting the Liberal party, Mr. Charest is protecting the Mafia, organized crime.” After the leaked report revealed “cost overruns totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, kickbacks and illegal donations to political parties,” Charest had to – after two years of refusing – open a public inquiry into corruption. The Quebec mafia have not only “run gambling and prostitution and imported stupefying amounts of illegal drugs into Canada, but they have extended their influence to elected civic and provincial governments, and to Liberal and Conservative federal governments through bribery and other ‘illustrious relations’.” The Federal Conservative Party of Canada, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as its leader, received dozens of donations from Mafia-connected construction and engineering firm employees. The Mafia-industry has also donated to the Federal Liberal Party, but less so than the Conservatives, who hold power. In Quebec, government officials have helped the Mafia charge far more for public-works contracts than they were worth. These Mafia companies would then use a lot of that extra money to fund political parties, most notably, the Liberals, who have been in power for nine years. A former Montreal police officer who worked in the intelligence unit with access to the police’s confidential list of informants was suspected of selling information to the mafia. In January of 2012, he was found dead, reportedly of a suicide. In April of 2012, fifteen arrests were made in Montreal by the police in relation to corruption charges linked to the Mafia. Among them were one of the biggest names in the construction industry, with 14 individual facing conspiracy charges “involving municipal contracts associated with the Mascouche water-treatment plants [that] are connected to big construction, engineering and law firms that have been involved in municipal contracts and politics across the Montreal region for decades. And the individuals have been around the municipal world for years.” One Quebec mayor has even been charged. The Montreal police force has “not been very interested, and it should be,” in helping the anti-corruption investigation. Two of those who were arrested included Quebec Liberal Party fundraisers, one of whom Charest personally delivered an award to in 2010 for his “years of service as an organizer.” All three of Quebec’s main political parties were connected to individuals arrested in the raids. Canada’s federal police force, the RCMP, have refused to cooperate with the Mafia-corruption inquiry in handing over their massive amounts of information to the judge leading the inquiry. Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp, who has been leading the government assault against the students, attended a political fundraiser for herself which was attended by a notorious Mafia figure who personally “donated generously to the minister’s Liberal riding association.” As these revelations emerged, Beauchamp stated, “I don’t know the individual in question and even today I wouldn’t be able to recognize him.” At the time, Beauchamp was the Environment Minister, and was responsible for granting the Mafia figure’s company a favourable certificate to expand its business. Beauchamp claimed she did not know about the deal, but as head of the Ministry which handled it, either she is utterly incompetent or a liar. Either way, she is clearly not fit for “public service” if it amounts to nothing more than “service to the Mafia.” The fact that she is now responsible for increasing tuition and leading the attack on students speaks volumes.  Line Beauchamp, when questioned about taking political contributions from the Mafia, stated, “Now that the information is public and the links well established, I would not put myself in that position again.” Well isn’t that reassuring? Now that it’s public, she wouldn’t do it again. That’s sort of like saying, “I wouldn’t have committed the crime if I knew I was going to be caught.” The notion that Beauchamp didn’t know whom this Mafia figure was who was giving her money is absurd. It’s even more absurd when you note that one of Beauchamp’s political attaches was a 30-year veteran of the Montreal police force. As one Quebec political figure commented about the Liberal Government’s Mafia links: “They refuse to sit down with a student leader but they have breakfast with a mafioso … where is the logic in that?” Indeed. It’s clear that the Quebec government has no problem working with, handing out contracts to, and taking money from the Mafia and organized crime. In fact, they are so integrated that the government itself is a form of organized crime. But for that government, and for the media boot-lickers who follow the government line, organized students are the true threat to Quebec. National newspapers declare Quebec students following “mob rule” when it’s actually the government that is closely connected to “mob rule.” The students are challenging and being repressed by a Mafioso-government alliance of industrialists, politicians, financiers and police… yet it is the students who are blamed for everything. The government gives the Mafia public contracts double or triple their actual value, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars (if not more), while students are being asked to pay nearly double their current tuition. There’s money for the mob, but scraps for the students.

8)            Canada’s elites punish the people and oppose the students: It’s not simply the government of Quebec which has set itself against the students, sought to increase their tuition and repress their resistance, often with violent means, but a wide sector of elite society in Quebec and Canada propose tuition increases and blind faith to the state in managing its repression of a growing social movement. As such, the student movement should recognize that not simply are Jean Charest and his Liberal-Mafia government the antagonists of social justice, but the whole elite society itself. As early as 2007, TD Bank, one of Canada’s big five banks, outlined a “plan for prosperity” for the province of Quebec, and directly recommended Quebec to raise tuition costs for students. Naturally, the Quebec government is more likely to listen to a bank than the youth of the province. Banks of course, have an interest in increasing tuition costs for students, as they provide student loans and lines of credit which they charge interest on and make profits. The Royal Bank of Canada acknowledged that student lines of credit are “very popular products.” Elites of all sorts support the tuition increases. In February of 2010, a group of “prominent” (i.e., elitist) Quebecers signed a letter proposing to increase Quebec’s tuition costs. Among the signatories were the former Premier of Quebec for the Parti Quebecois, Lucien Bouchard.  In early May, a letter was published in the Montreal Gazette which stated that students need to pay more for their education in Quebec, signed by the same elitists who proposed the tuition increase back in February of 2010. Initially, this group of elitists had proposed an increase of $1,000 every year for three years. The letter then calls for the application of state power to be employed against the student movement: “It is time that we react. We must reinstate order; the students have to return to class… This is a situation when, regardless of political allegiances, the population must support the state, which is ultimately responsible for public order, the safety of individuals and the integrity of our institutions.” The “integrity” of institutions which cooperate with the Mafia, I might add. What incredible integrity! The letter was signed by Lucien Bouchard, former Premier of Quebec; Michel Audet, an economist and former Finance Minister in the first Charest government in Quebec; Françoise Bertrand, the President and chief executive officer of the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (The Quebec Federation of Chambers of Commerce), where she sits alongside the presidents and executives of major Canadian corporations, banks, and business interests. She also sits on the board of directors of Quebecor Inc., a major media conglomerate, with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on its board. Another signatory was Yves-Thomas Dorval, President of the Quebec Employers’ Council, who formerly worked for British American Tobacco Group, former Vice President at Edelman Canada, an international public relations firm, was a director at a pharmaceutical corporation, head of strategic planning at an insurance company, and previously worked for the Government of Quebec and Hydro-Quebec. Joseph Facal, another signatory to the letter demanding higher tuition and state repression of students, is former president of the Quebec Treasury Board, and was a cabinet minister in the Quebec government of Lucien Bouchard. Other signatories include Pierre Fortin, a professor emeritus at the Université du Québec à Montréal; Michel Gervais, the former rector of Université Laval; Monique Jérôme-Forget, former finance minister of Quebec and former president of the Quebec Treasury Board, member of the Quebec Liberal Party between 1998 and 2009, was responsible for introducing public-private partnerships in Quebec’s infrastructure development (which saw enormous cooperation with the Mafia), and is on the board of directors of Astral Media. Robert Lacroix, another co-signer, was former rector of the Université de Montréal is also a fellow at CIRANO, a Montreal-based think tank which is governed by a collection of university heads, business executives, and bankers, including representatives from Power Corporation (owned by the Desmarais family). Another signatory is Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, a prominent business organization in Montreal, of which the board of directors includes a number of corporate executives, mining company representatives, university board members, bankers and Hélène Desmarais, who married into the Desmarais family. Another signatory is Claude Montmarquette, professor emeritus at the Université de Montréal, who is also a member of the elitist CIRANO think tank, which as a “research institution” (for elites) has recommended increasing Quebec’s tuition costs for several years. Another signatory was Marcel Boyer, a Bell Canada Professor of industrial economics at the Université de Montréal, Vice-president and chief economist at the Montreal Economic Institute, is the C.D. Howe Scholar in Economic Policy at the C.D. Howe Institute, Member of the Board of the Agency for Public-Private Partnerships of Québec, and Visiting Senior Research Advisor for industrial economics at Industry Canada. At the Montreal Economic Institute, Boyer sits alongside notable elitists, bankers, and corporate executives, including Hélène Desmarais, who married into the Desmarais family (the most powerful family in Canada). At the C.D. Howe Institute, Boyer works for even more elitists, as the board of directors is made up of some of Canada’s top bankers, corporate executives, and again includes Hélène Desmarais. The Desmarais family, who own Power Corporation and its many subsidiaries, as well as a number of foreign corporations in Europe and China, are Canada’s most powerful family. The patriarch, Paul Desmarais Sr., has had extremely close business and even family ties to every Canadian Prime Minister since Pierre Trudeau, and all Quebec premiers (save two) in the past several decades. The Desmarais’ have strong links to the Parti Quebecois, the Liberals, Conservatives, and even the NDP, and socialize with presidents and prime ministers around the world, as well as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, and even Spanish royalty. Paul Desmarais Sr. has “a disproportionate influence on politics and the economy in Quebec and Canada,” and he especially “has a lot of influence on Premier Jean Charest.” When former French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave Desmarais the French Legion of Honour, Desmarais brought Jean Charest with him. Quebec author Robin Philpot commented that Desmarais “took him along like a poodle,” referring to Charest. The Desmarais family has extensive ties to Canadian and especially Quebec politicians, have extensive interests in Canadian and international corporations and banks, are closely tied to major national and international think tanks (including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg Group), and even host an annual international think tank conference in Montreal, the Conference of Montreal. The Desmarais family have had very close ties to Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, and even Stephen Harper, and to Quebec premiers, including Lucien Bouchard, who co-authored the article in the Gazette advocating increased tuition. The Desmarais empire also includes ownership of seven of the ten French newspapers in Quebec, including La Presse. The Desmarais family stand atop a parasitic Canadian oligarchy, which has bankers and corporate executives controlling the entire economy, political parties, the media, think tanks which set policy, and even our educational institutions, with the chancellors of both Concordia and McGill universities serving on the boards of the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada, respectively, as well as both schools having extensive leadership ties to Power Corporation and the Desmarais family. It is this very oligarchy which demands the people pay more, go further into debt, suffer and descend into poverty, while they make record profits. In March of 2012, Power Corporation reported fourth quarter profits of $314 million, with yearly earnings at over $1.1 billion. Canada’s banks last year made record profits, and then decided to increase bank fees. At the end of April, it was reported that Canada’s banks had received a “secret bailout” back in 2008/09, from both the Bank of Canada and the U.S. Federal Reserve, amounting to roughly $114 billion, or $3,400 for every Canadian man, woman, and child (more than the cost of yearly tuition in Quebec). And yet Quebec youth are told we suffer from “entitlement.” And now banks are expected to be making even more profits, as reported in early May. As banks make more record profits, Canadians are going deeper into debt. The big Canadian banks, along with the federal government, have colluded to create a massive housing bubble in Canada, most especially in Toronto and Vancouver, and with average Canadian household debt at $103,000, most of which is held in mortgages, and with the Bank of Canada announcing its intent to raise interest rates, Canada is set for a housing crisis like that seen in the United States in 2008, forcing the people to suffer while the banks make a profit. The head of the Bank of Canada (a former Goldman Sachs executive) said that Canadian household debt is the biggest threat to the Canadian economy, but don’t worry, Canada’s Finance Minister said he is working in close cooperation with the big banks to intervene in the housing market if necessary, which would likely mean another bailout for the big banks, and of course, hand the check to you! So, Canada has its priorities: every single Canadian man, woman, and child owes $3,400 for a secret bank bailout to banks that are now making record profits and increasing their fees, while simultaneously explaining that there is no money for education, so we will have to pay more for that, too, which is something those same banks demand our governments do to us. When the students stand up, they are said to be “brats” and whining about “entitlements.” But then, what does that make the banks? This is why I argue that Canada’s elites are parasitic in their very nature, slowly draining the host (that’s us!) of its life until there is nothing left the extract.

9)            The student strike is being subjected to a massive and highly successful propaganda campaign to discredit, dismiss, and demonize the students: In the vast majority of coverage on the student strike and protests in Quebec, the media and its many talking heads have undertaken a major propaganda campaign against the students. The students have been consistently ignored, dismissed, derided, insulted and attacked. One Canadian newspaper said it was “hard to feel sorry” for Quebec students, who were “whining and crying” and “kicking up a fuss,” treating Canada’s young generation like ungrateful children throwing a collective tantrum. In almost every article about the student strike, the main point brought up to dismiss the students is that Quebec has the lowest tuition costs in North America. The National Post published a column written by a third-year political science student at McGill University in Montreal stating that, “Quebec students must pay their share,” and advised people to “ignore the overheated rhetoric from student strikers,” and that, “Jean Charest must go full steam ahead.” The student author, Brendan Steven, is co-founder of McGill’s Moderate Political Action Committee (ModPAC), which is an organizing mobilizing McGill students in opposition to the strike. Steven’s organization attacked striking student associations as “illegitimate, unconstitutional shams” and attacked the democratic functioning of other student associations holding general assemblies. Steven complained that the democratic general assemblies “are being invented on a whim.” Brendan Steven not only gets to write columns for the National Post, but gets interviewed on CBC. Steven’s anti-strike group sent a letter to the McGill administration complaining about pro-strike students on the campus, writing, “This group violates our democratic right to access an education without fear of harm,” and added: “We are demanding the McGill administration take action against this minority group before the current conflicts escalate into disasters. They have proven they will not remain peaceful.” As a lap-dog boot-licking power worshipper, Brendan Steven has a future for himself in politics, that’s for sure! Back in January, Steven wrote an article for the Huffington Post in which he explained that the reason why CEOs get paid so much is because “they’re worth it.” He referred to Milton Friedman – the father of neoliberalism – as a “great economic thinker.” Back in November of 2011, Steven wrote an article for the McGill Daily entitled, “Do not demonize authorities,” and then went on to justify police violence against protesting students engaged in an occupation of a school building, which he characterized as “an inherently hostile act.” Steven later got an opportunity to appear on CBC’s The Current. Margaret Wente, writing for the Globe and Mail, wrote that, “It’s a little hard for the rest of us to muster sympathy for Quebec’s downtrodden students, who pay the lowest tuition fees in all of North America.” She then referred to the striking students as “the baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know it.” Wente then attempted to explain the Quebec students by writing: “Now I get it: The kids are on another planet.” Interesting how she used the word “kids” to just add a little extra condescension. But it seems clear that Wente “gets” very little. In an August 2011 column, Wente tried to explain why poor black communities in Britain and America were experiencing riots and gang activity, placing blame on “single-mothers” and “family breakdown,” and explained that, “Rootless, unmoored young men with no stake in society are a major threat to social order.” Explaining this demographic in economic terms, Wente wrote: “They are, quite simply, surplus to requirements.” In another column, Wente argued that helping deliver much-needed humanitarian supplies to Gaza would “enable terrorists.” Wente also wrote an article entitled, “The poor are doing better than you think,” suggesting that it’s not so bad for poor people because they have air conditioning, DVD players, and cable TV. Wente has been consistently critical of the Occupy movement, and suggested in another article that, “the biggest economic challenge we face today is not income inequality, greedy corporations, Wall Street corruption or the concentration of wealth among the top 1 per cent. It’s the increasing failure of young men with high-school degrees or less to latch on to the world of work.” Of course, in Wente’s world, the inability of young men to get a job has nothing to do with income inequality, greedy corporations, Wall Street corruption or the concentration of wealth. In another article criticizing the Occupy movement, Wente managed to argue that it was not Wall Street and bankers that have destroyed the economy and left people without jobs, but rather what she refers to as the “virtueocracy,” blaming unions, single mothers who gets masters degrees in social sciences, and people who want to work at NGOs and non-profits, doing “transformational, world-saving work.” So it’s Wente’s “insightful” voice which is “informing” Canadians about the student movement in Quebec. Other Canadian publications writing about the Quebec student strike have headlines like, “Reality check for the entitled,” repeating the idiotic argument that because Quebec students pay less than the rest of Canada, they shouldn’t be “complaining” about the hikes. Andrew Coyne wrote a syndicated column in which he claimed that, “Quebec students know violence works,” framing the protest at which police almost killed two students as an action “of general rage the students had promised.” With no mention of the student who lost an eye, or the other student who ended up in the hospital with critical head injuries, Coyne talked about a cop who “was beaten savagely” and “lay helpless on the ground.” No mention, of course, of the police truck that drove into a group of students moments later, or the fact that the cop who was “beaten savagely” got away with minor injuries, unlike the students who were shot in the face with rubber bullets. By simply omitting police brutality and violence, Coyne presented the student movement as itself inherently violent, instead of at times erupting in violent reactions to state violence, which is far more extreme in every case. The Toronto Sun even had an article which claimed that the students have employed tactics of “thuggery” and “violent criminal behaviour.” Publications regularly ask their readers if Quebec students have “legitimate” grievances, if they are fighting for “social justice,” or if they are just “spoiled brats.” A syndicated column from the Vancouver Sun by Licia Corbella was titled, “How rioting students help make me grateful.” She discussed her latest visit to church where the pastor advised: “Parents, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them,” and mentioned how parents anger their children by “belittling them, underestimating them and not treating them as individuals.” Corbella then took particular note of how parents provoke and enrage children “when we give them a sense of entitlement.” With the word “entitlement,” Corbella naturally then began thinking about Quebec students, as according to Corbella’s pastor, “entitlement leads to rage.” Corbella wrote that rioting “is, in essence, what a spoiled two-year-old would do if they had the ability.” She further wrote: “In Quebec, these entitled youth, who believe the rest of society MUST provide them with an almost free education or else, have blocked other students from accessing the educations they paid for, burned vehicles, smashed shop windows, looted property and severely beaten up a police officer who got separated from the rest of his colleagues.” Again, no mention of the two students who were almost killed by police at the same event. Corbella quoted someone interviewed on TV, endorsing the claim that the student protests are “starting to resemble terrorism,” though she took issue with the word “starting.” This is the result of creating, according to Corbell, “an entitlement society.” Apparently, the pastor’s lesson about not “belittling” the young did not sink in with Corbella. An article in the Chronicle Herald asked, “What planet are these kids on?” The author then wrote that, “the irony is that these students now want the system to accommodate their desires and for someone else to pay the bill,” and that, “students should stop making foolish demands.” Other articles claim that students “need a lesson in economics.” After all, the fact that the majority of economists, fully armed with “lessons in economics,” were unable to predict the massive global economic crisis in 2008, should obviously not lead to any questioning of the ideology of modern economic theory. No, it would be better for students to learn about the ocean from those who couldn’t see a tsunami as it approached the beach. Another article, written by a former speechwriter to the Prime Minister of Canada, wrote that the student arguments were vacuous and that the youth were in a “state of complete denial.” Rex Murphy, a commentator with the National Post and CBC, referred to the student strike as “short-sighted” and that student actions were “crude attempts at precipitating a crisis.” Student actions, he claimed, were the “actions of a mob” and were “simply wrong,” and thus, should be “condemned.” The CBC has been particularly terrible in their coverage of the student movement. With few exceptions, the Canadian media have established a consensus in opposition to the student protests, and use techniques of omission, distortion, or outright condemnation in order to promote a distinctly anti-student stance.

10)            The student movement is part of a much larger emerging global movement of resistance against austerity, neoliberalism, and corrupt power: In the coverage and discourse about the student movement, very little context is given in placing this student movement in a wider global context. The British newspaper, The Guardian, acknowledged this context, commenting on the red squares worn by striking students (a symbol of going squarely into the red, into debt), explaining that they have “become a symbol of the most powerful challenge to neoliberalism on the continent.” The article also adopted the term promoted by the student movement itself to describe the wider social context of the protests, calling it the “Maple Spring.” The author placed the fight against tuition increases in the context of a struggle against austerity measures worldwide, writing: “Forcing students to pay more for education is part of a transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the rich – as with privatization and the state’s withdrawal from service-provision, tax breaks for corporations and deep cuts to social programs.” The article noted how the student movement has linked up with civic groups against a Quebec government plan to subsidize mining companies in exploiting the natural resources of Northern Quebec (Plan Nord), taking land from indigenous peoples to give to multibillion dollar corporations. As one of the student leaders stated, the protest was about more than tuition and was aimed at the elite class itself, “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.” The student strike has thus become a social movement. The protests aim at economic disruption through civil disobedience, and have garnered the support of thousands of protesters, and 200,000 protesters on March 22, and close to 300,000 on April 22. Protests have blocked entrances to banks, disrupted a conference for the Plan Nord exploitation, linking the movement with indigenous and environmental groups. It was only when the movement began to align with other social movements and issues that the government even accepted the possibility of speaking to students. Unions have also increasingly been supporting the student strike, including with large financial contributions. Though, the large union support for the student movement was also involved in attempted co-optation and undermining of the students. At the negotiations between the government and the students, the union leaders convinced the student leaders to accept the deal, which met none of the student demands and kept the tuition increases intact. There was a risk that the major unions were essentially aiming to undermine the student movement. But the student groups, which had to submit the agreement to democratic votes, rejected the horrible government offer. Thus the Maple Spring continues. Quebec is not the only location with student protests taking place. In Chile, a massive student movement has emerged and developed over the past year, changing the politics of the country and challenging the elites and the society they have built for their own benefit. One of the leaders of the Chilean student movement is a 23-year old young woman, Camila Vallejo, who has attained celebrity status. In Quebec’s student movement, the most visible and vocal leader is 21-year old Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who has also achieved something of celebrity status within the province. Just as in Quebec, student protests in Chile are met with state violence, though in the Latin American country, the apparatus of state violence is the remnants of a U.S.-supported military dictatorship. Still, this does not stop tens of thousands of students going out into the streets in Santiago, as recently as late April. Protests by students have also been emerging elsewhere, often in cooperation and solidarity with the Occupy movement and other anti-austerity protests. Silent protests are emerging at American universities where students are protesting their massive debts. California students have been increasingly protesting increased tuition costs. Student protests at UC Berkeley ended with 12 citations for trespassing. Some students in California have even begun a hunger strike against tuition increases. In Brooklyn, New York, students protesting against tuition increases, many of them wearing the Quebec “red square” symbol, were assaulted by police officers. Even high school students in New York have been protesting. Israeli social activists are back on the streets protesting against austerity measures. An Occupy group has resumed protests in London. The Spanish indignado movement, which began in May of 2011, saw a resurgence on the one year anniversary, with another round of anti-austerity protests in Spain, bringing tens of thousands of protesters, mostly youths, out into the streets of Madrid, and more than 100,000 across the country. Their protest was met with police repression. Increasingly, students, the Occupy movement, and other social groups are uniting in protests against the costs of higher education and the debts of students. This is indeed the context in which the ‘Maple Spring’ – the Quebec student movement – should be placed, as part of a much broader global anti-austerity movement.

So march on, students. Show Quebec, Canada, and the world what it takes to oppose parasitic elites, mafia-connected politicians, billionaire bankers, and seek to change a social, political, and economic system that benefits the few at the expense of the many.

Solidarity, brothers and sisters!

For a comprehensive analysis of the Quebec student strike, see: “The Québec Student Strike: From ‘Maple Spring’ to Summer Rebellion?”

For up to date news and information of student movements around the world, join this Facebook page: We Are the Youth Revolution.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on

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AGMarshall (Andrew Gavin Marshall)
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Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He has written for a number of publications, including AlterNet, Truthout, CounterPunch, Roarmag, and Occupy, among others, and has done a number of radio and television interviews, including with Russia Today and CBC Radio. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, head of the Geopolitics Division of the Hampton Institute, research director of’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show at BoilingFrogsPost.

8205 words


It would be helpful if you

It would be helpful if you had actual citations in this article to back up your points. What are the specific articles or books you are citing? Where are you getting the numbers?

You have some interesting facts, but the way you cite them is sometimes vague and it would be hard to trace back and find the specific sources you are citing, which kind of hurts the credibility of this piece. 


AGMarshall's picture

All the hyperlinks are in the

All the hyperlinks are in the text, which take you immediately to the original source. I don't understand what the problem is, sorry. Did some of the hyperlinks not work?




So, How Can Your Demands Be Met?

There are no solutions in this "article" whatsoever.

Stop explaining why you have the right to demand things and start explaining how it's economically feasible to arrange for the things you're demanding to become a reality.

You can play revolutionary and call yourselves heroes all year long if you want.  You can even tell yourselves that you're setting an example for students across the rest of the country (though the overwhelming majority disagrees with you).  You can run around naked in the streets and demand to be taken seriously at the same time.

But until you present a coherent economic explanation of how to make tuition free to students in Quebec, using only Quebec provincial money, without sacrificing the quality of the education or other social services, and without plunging Quebec deeper into debt, than nobody is going to give you any credibility whatsoever.  Because you haven't earned it.



Perhaps if provincial and federal governments stopped excessive subsidies to the oil and gas industries as well as subsidies for huge mega mining and hydro projects in the north, there would be more money for education and health and working towards a more sustainable future. Its not a matter of no money being available but rather a misallocation of tax payers money to subsidize outdated industrial and environmentally devasting projects.


off topic

This is way off topic. There's nothing more telling of a left wing agenda than pointing directly to "environmentally devastating projects" at the first opportunity you get. Seriously, hydro is the environmental foe here? Should we vilify solar next?

Instead of talking environment, let's talk economics, since that's the issue. The three industries you just mentioned we should gut happen to be three of our biggest exports. In other words, our 3 biggest money makers. I suppose you could dispute Wikipedia as a source, but looking at Quebec's Exports, I'm seeing: 

  • Minerals and mineral products: US$10,598 million
  • Chemicals and petrochemical products: US$3,877 million
  • Electricity: US$832 million

So your plan would take ~15billion dollars out of our economy... so that we can reallocate just millions to education? Did you even do the math?

For the time being, we need these "environmentally devastating projects" for the province to be fiscally viable. It's a reality that every society contends with: resource management, and balancing all necessary evils that go with it. Subsidies are part of those necessary evils. You don't get a 10 billion dollar industry without the subsidies. Let's be realists here. It doesn't happen. There are many other mountains to destroy. We're not the prettiest hooker in the bar. You take away subsidies, and the companies that get them will go with it. That's how business works. The subsidies are not "misallocated", they are part of the operating cost of a global economy. And, frankly, the subsidies are only a tiny portion of the money they bring in, so right now the system is still a huge net win for us.

In other words: try again.

re: off topic, missing variables

Is what you're saying that the industries we're talking about here receive in subsidies a "tiny portion" of what they win back, yet they need these subsidies to survive? 

Is there a reason that you have left the profits of the companies receiving the subsidies out of the equation?

Also, is there a reason that all this money they bring in to the province will not be redistributed to fund things like schools? Afterall, are the companies receiving the subsidies for their survival not—at least in some minimal sense—in debt to the public? Why couldn't the money the government would gain from tuition hikes instead be taken from subsidies to these industries, which they apparently don't really need?

something is still missing in your picture: "try again."
also, please consider the notion that economics is not primarily, or even necessarily about numbers (then we'd probably be talking about accounting—boring), but rather a way to talk about power arrangements. I make this suggestions because what I find annoying about your post is that it tries to cloak itself in the deception that (quasi-)mathematical logic and "reality" are indisputable. maybe that's just careless writing, which we've all done on message boards, or you really do see a "reality" which casts the biases of capital as absolutely natural/neutral.

Quebec students are heroes

An efficient workforce requires a well educated, healthy workforce. In order to achieve that, we have to provide educational options for all citizens, whether or not they have the financial means to participate. When the present Conservative government came to power, Canada was running a surplus of roughly 39 billion dollars a year. In true Conservative fashion, the Harper Government set about lower the tax rates of wealthy individuals and corporations, which in turned the surplus into a 50 billion-dollar deficit. Then, using the deficit they created as an excuse, the Harper gang set about cutting government services in all areas and regulations where environmental issues are concerned. After all, Harper would not want any serious scrutiny of his oil sands project or of the enviromental catastrophe it has created.

They also cut funding to education, raised the age at which Canadians can draw on THEIR Canada Pension Plan, cut funding to the public see the pattern.

Many of the corporations receiving tax breaks and subsidies actually do their manufacturing offshore. Would it not make more sense to keep that money ONSHORE and used to fund education and health initiatives?

My colleague in Denmark had his education funded entirely by the government. He had to maintain a good average and had to work in Denmark after his graduation. If he failed to do either, he would have had to pay back the entire cost of his education...or if some offshore company hired him, that company would have had to pay the entire sum back to the Danish government. Is that not something that we should be considering?

The students in Quebec are heroes. I hope the movement spreads all across North America this summer. It worked during the Viet Nam war. Now it's time to fight the Conservative agenda, whether it be Harper, the Conservative or Charest, the Conservative masquerading as a Liberal.


Isn't it obvious?

With all the corruption scandals going on in QC, it's clear that that is the place to start. Government funded projects should not be lost to companies linked with organized crime. There's a reason so many corporate higher-ups have resigned in the recent years - it's because their hands are dirty and they're afraid to get caught with all the money they've funneled away from taxpayers.

But if you want more concrete ways to generate funds, QC could do more to tax the rich. Right now there are only 3 tax brackets - people who make over $150,000 pay the same amount of taxes as someone who makes over $80,000 in QC. Does that really make sense? Doesn't seem to for me. What about those who make over $200,000? $250,000? $300,000, like McGill's principal? Is the tax rate higher? Nope. It's all the same if you make over $80,000. Not to mention all the ridiculous severance packages that have been delivered recently. (

Then there's this:

Millions of dollars down the drain.

Oh yeah, did you know McGill University bought a bunch of iPads to lend to their students? Seems worthwhile, right? Since they don't already have Macbooks and other laptops available... 

One thing is for sure: public money is being mismanaged everywhere, and this has to stop. Charging students more for tuition will only facilitate more mismanagement - this is not an option without proper oversight, which does not seem to be on the horizon. If universities are forced to buckle their belts and find ways to spend money efficiently, then improvements within the system should take place. 


Student Strike

Homelessness, poverty, discrimination, womens' rights, stigmatization of people with disabilities - all valid reasons for social activism. But university tuition costs that after the increase are still less than half of other provinces in Canada. Not to mention what post-secondary education gets you in terms of earning potential. C'mon people let's get serious about real social justice issues rather than one that reflects pure self - interest.

re. Point 1

I believe it would be much more accurate, at this point in the conflict, to point out that what "this is about" is resistance to neo-liberalism. Concern for debt is an extension of the essentially (or mostly) individualist concern for tuitions.

In fact, it is about all of those things, as they are all very much interconnected. But as the conflict grows, its protagonists are radicalizing, and the conflict itself is becoming more radical, in that we're getting closer to the roots. From tuition, to debt, to neo-liberalism, to the capitalist system itself.

Debt is just one aspect of this.

AGMarshall's picture

I agree entirely with your

I agree entirely with your point, thanks! I should have phrased #1 better, in stating the "spark." The real issue is as exactly as you say. And it's interesting how you mention "radical" and "getting to the roots" because the word 'radical' has been so demonized, but it's Latin origins mean exactly what you said: "to get to the root." Thus, radical ideas are the only ones worth holding... in my opinion. Thanks for the comment, cheers!

Solidarity Forever


Solidarity Forever from Shah Alam, Malaysia. There are members of the Malaysian Left who have been following the Quebec Student Strike. "Le monde entier nous regarde!"A


Perhaps if provincial and federal governments stopped excessive subsidies to the oil and gas industries as well as subsidies for huge mega mining and hydro projects in the north, there would be more money for education and health and working towards a more sustainable future. Its not a matter of no money being available but rather a misallocation of tax payers money.

"It has been estimated that

"It has been estimated that in 18 years, a four-year degree for Canadian students will cost $102,000."

I feel like this should have been hyperlinked to a source- can the article's author, or anyone else

a) back this statement up with economics logic, or

b) give some logic showing how it's hyperbolic?

AGMarshall's picture

It was in the hyperlink

It was in the hyperlink posted just prior. It was a TD Bank report, if memory serves.

k great, thx.

k great, thx.


The most obvious solutions are to cleanup the corruption in the government. When millions if not billions are going to line the pockets of mafiosos and their cronies its pretty clear where the system is broken down. If Quebec could curb its internal corruption it could not only keep tuition affordable but I daresay the escalators on the metro would work, bridges wouldn't be falling down and the highways wouldn't be full of holes.

We also have to look at the schools and other government run institutions and ask ourselves whether they're operating efficiently or if they're wasting lots of money on superfluous bells and whistles. Every university I visit these days is remodelling or constructing new buildings. Does the colour of the tile on the floors really impact a students' ability to learn?

At the end of the day however all of these economic arguments are but tiny tactical moves in a much larger game. The root of the problem is that our central bank funded capitalism has reached the end of its usefulness. It was created during the days of imperialism, colonialism and exploration. It was relatively easy to cover debt by invading new countries and stripping their natural and human resources. Even if we ignore the terrible ethical consequences of that kind of exploitation the fact of the matter is that capitalism has run out of new places to exploit.

The next prong of the problem is that we've gotten too good at getting our needs met. As machines continually make us more and more efficient the labour required to feed, clothe and shelter everyone becomes less and less, and yet we're still locked into this system where you need to work 40 hours in order to make enough money to live. The trouble is we're so efficient now that we don't need everyone to work 40 hours to get those needs met, but the system still demands that of us.

We have an opportunity here to radically change our economy, to reduce the role of debt, to increase our free time and to distribute the wealth of our society more equitably.

huge bias

Are you aware of the enormous bias in this post?

"Obviously, it is naïve to assume that the National Post has any sort of understanding of democracy."

Really? None at all? Are you really one dude on the internet trying to discredit an entire news organization? Who the fuck are you? The funny part is, I don't believe you really mean that statement. But if you want to write an honest and objective reporting of the situation, lose the hyperbole. You don't like the National Post, we get it, but don't editorialize something that is supposed to be fact based.

For what it's worth, the NP article had a good point. You claim that the student unions are "direct democracies" (and link to some unrelated article to support your claim), but not all of them are. I can't speak for other schools, but it's clear you are not a Concordia student. If you want to talk about corrupt bodies of power, you don't need to look any further than the CSU. Calling the CSU a "democracy" is kind of like calling Russia one. I started collecting a bunch of articles but I had to stop because there are just too many, here are a few:

The amount of bullshit that goes on in our union makes me WISH we had a Liberal government in here to do the job.

So at least in our case, it's questionable whether democracy really was at work behind the initial student strike. The fact that a left-leaning party wrestled its way into power is the only thing you can really grant us. The rest is just a product of the CSU speaking at the behest of their own interests. Making it sound like we did some special thing "for the first time ever" is actually tremendously disingenuous. You obviously have little understanding of how most unions work. Again, I am just extrapolating here, but in our case the union does not represent its electorate at all. The Gazette recently came out with a report that cited fewer than 40 students were officially "on strike" in this semester, which is supposedly smaller than their normal dropout rate. If the students were truly behind the cause, you wouldn't end up with a group that couldn't even fill a bar (or wouldn't even need to notify the police of a protest under Bill 78!).

I would argue your other points but your bias is clear. This article does NOT tell the full story in an objective fashion. Please notify your readers of such bias.


"We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are". ~ Anais Nim

Andrew, as I read your article the words that come to my mind are, "oh please!" I realize that I am observing the student uprising from a different perspective from yours (that of a 51-year old taxpayer whose formal education is far behind him), and I realize that my bias is therefore not the same as yours. That being said, please understand that referring to those who may disagree with your bias as "the parroting public" does not earn you any points for objectivity or a democratic spirit. I'd advise you, for the sake of enlightenment, to go through your document and remove the incendiary language—whether it be "propaganda", "demonize" or "fascist methods"—and already you will have a text that I could read with more empathy and openness to what you would have me understand.

I'll just comment on your first three points:
1) tuition vs. debt?
No, it's about tuition. We all deal with debt, including those of us who may be your fathers and mothers. And often our debt comes from wanting too much too soon. Yeah, here's the "when I was young" comment you knew was coming: I took an extra year to finish my Ph.D. studies at U of M in 1999 so I could finish my studies debt-free. Yep, no student debt after completing my 3ieme cycle. I lived in student poverty, didn't go to the bars on Friday (have you seen how much a beer costs?! Now there's unjust fees for you), was not able to graduate sooner since i had to work, and didn't update my computer system every two years. Maybe that's how I did it. Oh, and I had neither student loans nor grants, and my parents didn't help.

2) example for youth across the continent?
Well, an example of entitlement and self-focus. "Ca se plaint, le ventre plein". I don't think other students have much sympathy to the cause at this point. The main message seems to be "if you really, really want something, persist in making life difficult for your opponents and eventually you'll wear them down and get what you want". Kind of like a tantrum for a four-year old.

3) democratic
Yes, it started off this way—but unless 'democracy' means "everybody who agrees with me getting what they want without having to compromise", it has not continued this way. Granted, a small number of hooligans, shit-disturbers, anarchists, revolutionaries, whatever you choose to call them, has distorted the perception of us observers. But democracy means 1) listening to dissenting voices (i.e., the government ... students who are not for the general strike ... the taxpaying public) and not remaining in the echo chamber, and 2) being willing to find and accept a workable compromise, and not refusing to budge.

I'll stop writing because you've likely stopped reading. I hope not, though: there is a great need for mutual understanding and empathy if ever we are able to coexist in a harmonious society. We must find common ground.

Interesting comments.

(FYI, I am not Andrew. ;) )

1. I agree that the language in the article is loaded, at times. However, the truth is that fascist and violent methods of discipline have been recommended by a few people. His use of the word 'fascist' was not an overstatement. The media has also demonized students. This is the truth. You only have to go so far as reading some of the links Andrew has posted.

2. It's about both. Finding a job is getting increasingly difficult these days for youth in Canada. There are 27,000 less jobs for youth available this year than there were last year, and the reported unemployment rate is lower than the actual number, as stated later in the article. You are talking about how you took a year off to finish your Ph D. Well, most people these days can't even escape their undergraduate studies without accumulating debt. It's not like a good chunk of them haven't looked for work, or don't work at all. Some of them volunteer or participate in programs - so many of them are unaccounted for. Just because it seems like students don't make money, it doesn't mean that they're being unproductive. Furthermore, working while attending school has shown to negatively effect grades, so many students don't want to take the risk in doing so. (If you REALLY want me to go fish an article on that one, I can, but it's pretty obvious that work would cut into study + personal time, which is essential for a balanced life.) One option that remains is to take a year off school and just work, but it's not an attractive option. Of course, the choice still remains, and it would be a responsible one, but why be forced into such a position when the government is in bed with mafiosos? You yourself stated that you lived in student poverty. Do you honestly think everyone should live in student poverty like you did? I'm not advocating for luxurious student life, but I'm just saying it's not optimal and things can be better, especially when the $ is being mishandled left-right-and-center by the people who are supposed to be helping people to live better lives.

While you critisize Andrew for being biased, you are also clearly biased by stereotyping students, suggesting that they update their computer systems every 2 years and that you didn't go to bars on Friday nights. Well neither do I, and neither do many students. I've had my laptop for at least 5 years. I use a first generation iPod Touch - I repeat, FIRST GENERATION iPod Touch - given to me as a Christmas gift - that must also be at least 4 years old. I cringe every time someone mentions how all the students are using iPhones - they probably include me in that group. Anyways, I don't speak for the entire student population, but neither of us know the numbers. So let's put the stereotypes aside. They are silly and don't work well in arguments.

3. If other students don't have empathy, it's because they don't understand what is going on. The lack of English articles doesn't help the issue. The cost of education is always something that is on a university student's mind. I have friends from BC who complain about it all the time, and they would love to pay what QC students pay - or less. What sparked the strike was the initial hike, so it seems that they are mostly concerned with fighting the trend of rising costs of education. I don't understand what you don't understand. There have been protests in Chile, protests in the US, protests in Spain... Voices, all over the world, speaking out against the rising costs of education, while the rich get richer. There's even a comment from Malaysia here, lending support.

4. Democracy regarding the student assemblies has been questionable at times. Regardless, I don't think any union has the power to prevent students from going to class (without doing so physically). I don't agree with this tactic, and many don't. Anyways, it's a moot point - these 'strikes' are not legitimate, only symbolic. But the symbolism is just as meaningful, and it shouldn't be looked over just because of the violent acts of a few individuals - just like how the police force shouldn't be abolished entirely because a few of their members abuse their powers.  Stereotyping is a weak way to look at things.

5. I agree that both sides have to get back to the negotiating table and address the issues they face. This is going no where if things only continue.


It would be fair to note that the government did not begin to talk about using draconian measures against students until after students had adopted violent tactics, committed vandalism, attacked  (wearing masks) their fellow students in their classrooms and forced them out, distributed smoke bombs in the subways, and threw bricks, stones and Molotov cocktails at police. No civilized and democratic society can tolerate those kinds of thuggish tactics. The students did not condemn these activities nearly forcefully enough, and one student group gave those tactics their tacit support. This same student group was responsible for the breakdown of talks with the government which might have led to a mutually acceptable resolution of the situation. Don't get me wrong; I think post-secondary education should be free, as an investment in our children and in our country. However, the violent tactics being used to achieve this end should not be rewarded. It would set a bad precedent for all future negotiations of this type in Canada. It's now up to the students to end their demonstrations and for the more reasonable factions to work with the government instead of against them to achieve a mutual understanding and cooperative solutions to this problem. The students have already lost too much. There is no possible outcome for which their present course will allow them to claim victory.

Giving the violent minority too much recognition?

1. Police brutality has had a large role in inciting the violence you are referring to.

2. The violent protesters are a minority. Consider the riots in Vancouver. 

You stated that 'violent tactics beng used to achieve this end should not be rewarded'. I agree. But what about the rest of the students? You would say it's reasonable to deny them a reasonable agreeement just because of the acts of a small group of people? 

Police violence

I can't agree that police violence had anything to do with smoke bombs in the subways and masked thugs invading classrooms, or molotov cocktails being thrown at the police (that's attempted murder), and certainly not the vandalism.  I do agree that these hoodlums are a minority, but it's up to their fellow students to turn them in to the authorities if they have any respect for law and order, and if the want to dissociate themselves from the violence and regain the respect that they deserve.

Yes and no...

Almost everyone recognizes that these acts of violence aren't constructive, only cost taxpayers more money, and that they tarnish the image of the student movement. It's really unfortunate that they happen, and that it leads so many people to believe that the people committing them are the prevailing voices of the rallies.

I'm sure a number of people who have committed criminal acts have been reported by their fellow students. People have usually been pretty open about their protest activities and I would definitely report someone I knew if they've behaved illegally at the protests.

The smoke bombing of the subway is just silly. It only aggravates the general population, much of which supports the students. However, I think the molotov cocktail throwing is mostly a response to police brutaliy. Students have been outraged by reports of injuries to students, and the police have used tactics of intimidation thoughout this entire debacle. I'm not defending the act of throwing molotov cocktails, but I think it was provoked. I could be wrong though. Either way, it's dumb and these people should be arrested, just the way that overly violent police should be punished.

Thanks for the moderate tone of your post.


Are you telling me thay happened to have Molotov cocktails in their backpacks just in case they were 'provoked'? How about the students who violated their fellow students' democratic rights and, masked, invaded their classrooms and forced them out? Is this the way to promote democratic rights as they claim? This entire 'manifesto' is based on false premises and self-serving lies. If the student movement would distance themselves from the violent faction, accept the government's olive branch, and negotiate in good faith, they might regain the goodwill and support of the people.

Of course not...

I'm not saying a few people 'happened' to carry around Molotov cocktails one day, ready to be provoked by the police so they could have a reason to throw them. People don't just carry around Molotov cocktails without considering the possibility of their use, but I think people had them because of previous occasions of police brutality and government oppression. After a quick skim of a Google search, I don't see any reports of a Molotov cocktail being thrown before 5 days ago, which was when Bill 78 was introducted. I may be wrong, but increased student violence seems to be the result of government oppression. So yes, I'd say people were provoked into using them, but not the way you imply. Of course, such violent acts should be punished, and all the disruption of peace that happened before Bill 78 is not acceptable either - two wrongs don't make a right. However, the government is also at fault for stirring the pot even further by introducing Bill 78 and not negotiating in good faith, which you claim the students should do. 

Both sides need to, for this conflict to end.


"How about the students who violated their fellow students' democratic rights and, masked, invaded their classrooms and forced them out? Is this the way to promote democratic rights as they claim? This entire 'manifesto' is based on false premises and self-serving lies. "

Yes, what they did was wrong, and they should be punished. However, your last statement here doesn't hold water since you are speaking of a minority.

violence everywhere all the time :(

oops double post.

violence everywhere all the time :(


It would be fair to note that the protestors did not begin to use "violent tactics" against glass windows, cop cars and cops (people with guns and armour) until after the elected "representatives" of the people—in collusion with the interests of private investors demanding austerity—chipped away at accessibility to higher education, planned to submit a new generation to the trauma of indebtedness, and the passage of a law that requires those expressing their indignation over these "minor inconveniences" to inform people with guns and armour, when and where they will be walking and shouting. It should also be noted that disobedience of this law may possibly lead to being shot in the face with rubber bullets, beaten, being involuntarily (read: violently) placed in a cage, and being threatened with pain in general. Actually, those things kind of do happen even when the demonstrations took place within the "acceptable" parameters. I guess it's true that whoever has the gun makes up the rules. So who's really being violent here?

Why can't "reasonable people" account for the underlying violence (which is indeed, not a spectacular violence but a persistent low-intensity violence) that drives students and anyone who protests, to at first speak up, then on occasion and in isolated cases give physical form to this rage. Do they think that people breaking bank windows and burning cop cars are simply crazy and/or stupid? That would be dismissive and condescending to say the least and would say more about the relative comfort and privilege of the critic of violence. Or maybe this critic is not so comfortable, but is fortunate enough to have tough, thick skin. But is it then fair to dismiss and infantalize those with "thinner skin?" (characterizations of protestors as "spoiled brats" seem to be common). Is that how a just, democratic and egalitarian society works?

In other words, if one finds such expressions of violence to be incomprehensible/unreasonable, could it be likely that one has either not experienced or have been subjected to other forms of violence/exclusion/denial/silencing/humiliation/etc? What the condemnation of the violent actions of the oppressed reveals is a complacency with the violence that provokes said violence... unless again, one believes the lashing out of the oppressed to simply be something like the behaviour of crazy, mindless zombies. Show of hands if you believe in zombies!

Violent tactics should not be rewarded? Well, that's probably right, but only because successful violent tactics allow the victors to take what they want! Violence is how the state was created and how it maintains itself! In other words, violence seems to work! The existence of states is proof of it. And the state proves everyday that it is almost impossible to beat it on the level of violence. That's why social movements and experiments with democratic forms are so crucial towards making the state (and the market it generates) irrelavent, so that *perhaps* they fade away...

Maybe that's idealistic and naive, but so is the condemnation of violent resistance, and maybe even "thuggish" vandalism. Actually, such condemnation could even be considered dangerous and proto-fascist because what it really does is say that the underlying forms of violence that constitute the state under which we are subject, is neutral and that we just have to deal with it on the terms and spaces granted to us by the state. 

All in all, i find that the condemnation of violent outbursts against a persistent structural violence, and the apologetics of police violence and even encouragement of protestors policing eachother to be thoroughly and absolutely repugnant. Can one say with a straight face to a person being raped, a person with a rifle aimed at them, indeed a tennant being evicted from her home, a student being handed a bleak future, a people dispossesed of their land—that they should engage in a reasonable discussion, to have patience and try to understand the other side, to use words not weapons... Absurdity.

If the violence is to end in any meaningful way, the side with the guns should put them down and sit down at the table of the people who had no guns to begin with.

Violence everywhere

"...the side with guns should put them down and sit down at the tabvle...". How about the side with Molotov cocktails and bricks should put them down and sit at the table? The government has offered to renew negotiations, but all we hear from the students is that it would not accomplish anything. The students seem to have little knowledge of  how things get done in a free and democratic society, and are intent in accomplishing whatever their latest 'agenda' is, while trampling on the rights of citizens and their fellow students in the process.

you just missed the whole point.

if you had a bottle of gasoline and a lighter, and your opponent had helicoptors and guns, would you really believe that they see you as an equal negotiating partner? Enough to warrant sitting down at their table? You say things like "free and democratic society," but what exactly do you mean by that? Are you talking about a place where laws are created spontaneously that empowers people with guns to arrest people with bricks because they didn't tell them where they were marching?

And yes indeed, rights are being trampled on all over the place, that's precisely why whats happening now can be understood as a conflict. People like you and the government (and their investors) believe that they have a right to maintain the status quo. The protesting students and their allies believe they have a right to oppose this.

But don't worry sciencguy, even if you're understanding of the situation is a little clouded, your side is winning. Good for you.

missed the point? not me, you!

"If you had a bottle of gasoline?" Why would you just happen to have a bottle of gasoline? Would not one expect the police to be better equipped than the rabble in the streets? I'm referring to the situation pre-legislation, where thugs and hoodlums took over the streets and committed illegal and violent acts that necessitated the government acting to restore order. If you  don't yet understand the term 'free and democratic society' then the problem is yours. It encompasses respect for the rights of all peoples, not just the ones who have an axe to grind and feel that it's their right to trample all over the right of others to get it. Do you support masked thugs invading classrooms and basically telling students they don't have the right to an education? Do you really  believe militant students can achieve their aims through demonstrations, lawlessness, and thuggery alone? Negotiations frequently involve one party  holding the prerponderance of the power. Does that mean that negotiations should not take place at all? What do you suggest as an alternative? That the government surrender unconditionally? Not going to happen!

yes it's legal but....

well well, it's precisely the Legal and violent acts/policies/legislation that drives some people to put gasoline in a bottle and intentionally carry it on to the street. Yes—It is very much deliberate, that is not in dispute. I'm also referring to pre-legislation and the problematic existence of such a thing as police that simply obey the orders of politicians.

"Do you support masked thugs invading classrooms and basically telling students they don't have the right to an education?"

Let me turn your question around: Do you support well-dressed politicians (and the investors that back them) making it harder for poor people to go to school at all? What about their right to an education? Shouldn't the right to an education mean that tuition fees should be abolished completely? $2500 a year may not be a lot to you, but to many, it's a like a fucking prison wall keeping them out of a dignified future. Or do you mean that the right is reserved for those who can afford it?

Anyway, do you really think that even the most militant student protestors are telling other students that they don't have a right to an education? You have to explain to me which ass you pulled that idea out of and how it makes sense. Or did you just say that because you're willing to say anything to demonize people you disagree with?

"Negotiations frequently involve one party  holding the prerponderance of the power. Does that mean that negotiations should not take place at all? What do you suggest as an alternative? That the government surrender unconditionally? Not going to happen!"

Is it really a negotiation when one party holds a preponderance of the power? Are you saying negotiations never happen unless this is the case? My suggestion was for the state to lay down it's arms and really enter into negotiations—and this is obviously an absurd demand which is definitely not going to happen (here we completely agree!), since the state would indeed see entering into negotiations as a form of surrender!

Please pay attention here: The purpose of raising such an unrealistic demand is to make the point that people throwing bricks at bank windows and burning cop cars is nowhere even close to the violent capacity of the police and the people who support them—who give this government the luxury of not really having to negotiate. Because guess what, if people do NOT fight, then whatever stupid idea is made policy/law will become real. There is a word for that: it starts with an "F" and ends with an "ascism." Don't you think Bill 78 was a tactic to intimidate protesters to the negotiation table, or at least give up? Is it a negotiation table when one party is forced there by the other? Don't you think the position you're taking is kind of like demonizing the victim for lashing out at their attackers? Do you usually blame the victim?

yes it's legal but ...

Did you not see the news reports and the cell phone videos just a few weeks ago of masked thugs invading classrooms and chasing actual students out, students who were attempting to exercise their democratic and pre-paid rights to get an education? That did not come from my ass. They were acting just like the Red Guard during China's Cultural Revolution. And jsut what does that have to do with men wearing suits? Do try to keep up with current events.  As for negotiations, how is a surrender to discuss your grievances directly with the other side? That's just irrational. The students can't possibly put forward their case or gain concessions without doing that. The students cannot forever play the 'vicitim', especially when they are the aggressors. Your ludicrous use of the word Fascism proves that you have no understanding whatever of its meaning.  The students have to start acting less like children throwing a tantrum and more like grownups who are ready to enter society and to stop blaming everyone else but themselves for their bad behaviour (I was 'provoked' into carrying Molotov cocktails just in case I felt the need for a hissy fit in which I would attempt to murder cops.) That's nuts!


I'm not sure what to add after someone says something like "democratic and pre-paid rights."

Democratic and pre-paid rights:

I was referring to students democratic right to an education, unhampered by masked thugs bursting into their classroom, and to the fact that they had already paid their tuition and had the right to be there. Speaking of masked thugs, I have no respect for those who support a cause, but don't have the courage of their convictions in terms of putting their face where their cause is. They commit acts that might be unacceptable to society at large, but are too cowardly to stand behind them and accept the consequences of those acts. In my youth I marched for civil rights and against the Viet Nam war, and never once hid behind a mask. Only cowards and bullies do that.


Why would someone want to accept the consequences of their actions? If you were doing something against a more powerful foe, would you do it openly, unmasked? One may be considered brave and "honourable," but then you might get shot or thrown in jail. It takes courage and conviction enough to stand up against an oppressor, you must recognize that at least.

Great that you marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam war, but don't diminish the struggle, suffering and scarifices of those who had no choice but to turn to armed conflict. It wasn't only the hippies and liberals in the West that ended those conflicts (if at all)—No, the Viet Cong were kicking ass, and in the US, there was a rising spectre of black militancy, i.e. Black Panther Party.

According to the value system you're advocating, the Viet Cong don't count deserve your respect because they hid in holes from napalm.

Also, when you say pre-paid democratic rights, it sounds like you mean that democratic rights are something that can be bought and sold.

Democratic rights

I did not say pre-paid democratic rights; I said democratic rights and pre-paid rights, meaning that the students had pre-paid their right to be in their classrooms. Masked thugs had no right, under democracy and under commerce, to drive them out like so many Red Guards did in the Cultural Revolution in China. I agree that it takes courage to stand up against an oppressor. Study how Gandhi did it, and won! Study how Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers conducted themselves, in the face of attack dogs, high pressure hoses, and beatings, and won. The U.S. could have won the Viet Nam war, but weakening of their support at home directly weakened the will of the military to use some of the stronger measures that had been proposed, like the use of strategic nukes. It was peaceful marches that were mainly responsible for the defeat of the U.S. The Black Panthers were a fringe group who had nothing whatever to do with that issue. I lived through the 60s and 70s and was part of the whole peace movement. It's too bad that the students marching in Quebec today have not strongly denounced violence, have not refused to march with masked thugs intent on evil. It would go a long way to lending credibility to their cause. Bill 78 was necessitated by the vandalism, violence, and hooliganism that was disrupting peace and order. I support peaceful protest marches for a reasonable cause. These students have nothing to say in support of an equitable society as long as they continue to associate themselves with fringe groups and allow themselves to be used as dupes. BTW: I support free post secondary education. If governments and students could work together to make that happen, they'd have my full support (e.g. a 1% tax on all corporations' profits dedicated only to education and health care)..

your patronizing comments are naive

I still can't get over your equation of democratic rights and pre-paid rights.

first of all the "thugs" (or are they "red guard?") you mention have also paid tuition and see government austerity measures as an infringement on their right to affordable education and to have their government free from the influence of private investors demanding austerity to guarantee their dividends (give me a break... "intent on evil?"). second, it sounds like you are saying that "rights" that one pays for should take precedence over rights to agitate and disrupt the smooth operation of a terrible system. These "thugs" paid for their masks—they have a right to wear them (masks cost money too!) and disrupt a class of scabs for 10 or 15 minutes (this sounds absurd obviously. but it's to point out how ridiculous it is to claim that one can pay for rights).

It is naive to believe that polite negotiation leads anywhere for the side that doesn't have any actual power. It is also extremely naive to believe that Gandhi and MLK Jr. "won" anything. First of all, they mobilized mobs and mobs of people, i.e. more people, more threatening. These figures are readily celebrated by the state to create the myth that 'non-violent' agitation can bring substantial change. You have to remember even MLK Jr. had no delusions about the efficacy of "non-violence." He was very aware that his movement was the palatable foreground of a much more frightening and militant rage—and that if his tactics were ineffective, insurrection would ensue. By going along with the myth that "non-violence" alone solved anything, you also white-wash the blood spilled by people who paid the ultimate price for the side of the oppressed. The black panthers had *nothing* to do with the gains of African-Americans? Are you crazy? How did the BPP try to prevent black people being shot in the streets by white cops who knew they'd get away with it? by flashing peace signs? Again, hippies in the streets of the US did not defeat the U.S. military, the Viet Cong did. I don't know how else to dispel this disguisting hippy/liberal myth, whose only effect is to demonize people who actually have no choice but to fight back violence with violence. Fuck that. The reason the U.S. didn't use nukes was because the Soviets would have gone ape shit and retaliated. To be taken seriously by a violent enemy, one has to present an equally credible threat. Stop kidding yourself into thinking that "non-violence" solves anything. Don't tell me that you think the Jews of Europe during WWII could have resisted their extermination through "non-violent" protest. Would you have labelled as "thugs" someone for vandalizing, let's say, a Nazi post-office, over the issue of merely having to wear a patch on their sleeves? Please stop spreading the myth of "non-violence." It's naive, and dangerous to demonize oppressed people who can't do anything but lash out back at their oppressor because you give the oppressor a complete moral pass.

A movement could be "non-violent" if it chose to back itself up with a credible threat, but not unleash that threat unless provoked. I also support peaceful protest to the extent that it demonstrates the presence of a mob that can actually disrupt the status quo of power and oppression.

The students in Quebec DO strongly denounce the violent imposition of austerity policies by rising up the way they did. Do you expect the movement to start policing itself? Would that make a strong effective movement you think? 

You said I don't understand what fascism is, but then you think Bill 78 was "necessitated" by something other than an immoral corrupt elite trying to protect themselves. Don't you think that in a democracy some things, like the right to even merely protest injustice, is a sacred right? 


I had intended to take your irrational rant apart point by point, but I see no possiblilty for a meeting of minds with somebody who characterizes students who merely want to get an education and to be above the fray as 'scabs' (a pejorative term that bespeaks a radical, unreasonable, and fanatical mindset), and someone who posts that masked thugs also paid their fees (how could you possibly  know if they were masked), and that paying for their masks entitles them to wear them. I'm 71 years old; I lived through those times in history where you attempt historical revisionism. I've studied history and politics with great interest all my life.  You know nothing. Please stop displaying your ignorance in public and please stop harming the movement with your radical rants. Normal people read these things and might think that you actually represent the mindset of reasonable students.


I'm not going to comment on the first half of your response, b/c either you haven't read my post carefully, or I haven't written it clearly enough. fine. whatever.

But, what in your 71 years gave you the arrogance to condemn people who can't but lash out "violently" against their oppressors? (remember oppression never takes the form of polite reasonable discussion at a negotiating table that you hope protestors would submit to). 

Please try to keep your privilege in check: this naive, middle-class, liberal myth of "non-violence" is more dangerous to oppressed people than any "thug" who breaks a window or even burns a cop car. It effectively gives the cops a moral green light the moment the truncheon cracks the protestor's skull.
To make it clear when you condemn violent resistance to violent oppression (oppression is always violent), you are saying that the oppressor's violence is "normal" and acceptable while the violent resistance to that is "unreasonable" and abberant.

Again I ask, when you were marching against the Viet Nam war, you and the Viet Cong were on the same side—you both wanted to end the war by getting the U.S. out of that country. Now, who do you think made a bigger contribution to that task? Try to leave any Western hubris out of the equation when considering the answer.

I keep insisting on this because I think its very dangerous that the point of view you are advocating is actually quite dominant. And you're right, I don't represent the mindset of "reasonable" students because I don't enjoy the same luxury and privilege of being "reasonable." 

RE: O.K.

"when you were marching against the Viet Nam war, you and the Viet Cong were on the same side". No. Our goal was to end the killing, mostly of civilians on both sides. The Viet Cong's goal was to continue the killing and to take over and entire country. It's almost always the case (the G20 being a glaring exception) that violence is met with violence. The vandalism, the rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown at police, the physical confrontations (unless the media faked the videos) early on in the demonstrations provoked counter-violence from the police and caused the government to respond with Bill 78. Over the past few days, peaceful demonstrationshave been met with a passive response from police. I invoked the examples of Gandhi and King as examples of passive resistance. You demonstrate, you negotiate, but you only use violence as a last resort. I assume that you're probably around 22, 23 maybe, and ignorant of the ways of the world. Meeting force with force when you're up against a superior enemy is insanity; you're sure to get crushed. Your only reasonable path is either negotiation or guerilla warfare. The former is always the preferred way to go. Violence is only going to get a lot of people hurt or killed. In the present case, there are already collateral losses. Thousands of students will lose half a year of school, damage to the Quebec and Montreal economies will cost both taxpayers and students dearly, innocent businessmen and citizens are suffering losses due to the demonstrations, violence has driven tourists away. This whole thing could have been solved in a matter of weeks had not the students broken off negotiations and taken the violent path. They are not only the authors of their own misfortune, but the misfortune of uninvolved innocents. You do nobody any favours by attempting to justify violence.

"The Viet Cong's goal was to

"The Viet Cong's goal was to continue the killing and to take over and entire country."

it was war, a U.S. invasion...what have you proven with this statement? that they shouldn't have done that? b/c you think the U.S. wasn't trying to do the same? give me a break. 


"It's almost always the case ... that violence is met with violence"

this is precisely what I am saying! The underlying violence of our economic/political system is met with violent outbursts on the part of the oppressed, who you are inadvertently demonizing and betraying by condemning their outbursts and justifying the sustained violence of the state. Please consider for a moment that this is even a remotely possible, and see if it changes your perspective on things.


"The vandalism, the rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown at police, the physical confrontations (unless the media faked the videos) early on in the demonstrations provoked counter-violence from the police and caused the government to respond with Bill 78"

Does this not sound to you like a crass justification for the suspension of basic democratic rights? Here is the structure of your logic: 1. Gov. dumps shit on the people 2. people protest, get angry, smash some windows in demonstration against unresponsive Gov. 3. Gov. criminalizes the democratic expression to protect windows, 4. people get rubber bullets in their faces and thrown in jail for being angry that they have shit dumped all over them.


"Over the past few days, peaceful demonstrationshave been met with a passive response from police."

And, peaceful demonstrations have also been met with aggression... at best, this new "passiveness" is to avoid actually looking like fascists.


"I invoked the examples of Gandhi and King as examples of passive resistance. You demonstrate, you negotiate, but you only use violence as a last resort."

Agreed. But how do you know when it is and when it isn't the last resort for someone who is being violent when you condemn that violence? The state uses violence as it's first or second resort, don't you think? Why don't you say anything about that?


"Meeting force with force when you're up against a superior enemy is insanity; you're sure to get crushed."

Yes, agreed, I've already said this above. So doesn't it make you wonder why people still go for it anyway? Do you think they are crazy, stupid, or what? Perhaps you do tend to assume that people are stupid and crazy when they don't do what you would have done. I wouldn't put it past you. you've demonstrated a bit of a superiority complex throughout this discussion.


"Your only reasonable path is either negotiation or guerilla warfare. The former is always the preferred way to go."

Of course.


"Violence is only going to get a lot of people hurt or killed."

Of course. Poor people get hurt and killed every day. Even worse, they Live in destitution, insecurity and misery everyday. Consider what violence force exists to keep them in such a situation. It starts with a "P" and ends with an "olice." For example, if a poor family were to claim their universal human right to shelter, and squatted an unused building, guess who's gonna be there to stop them!

"In the present case, there are already collateral losses. Thousands of students will lose half a year of school, damage to the Quebec and Montreal economies will cost both taxpayers and students dearly, innocent businessmen and citizens are suffering losses due to the demonstrations, violence has driven tourists away."

let me rephrase that so that it doesn't sounds completely like economically rationalized populist blackmail aimed at delegitimizing the exercise of democratic rights and the manifestation of dissent:

""In the present case, there are already collateral losses. Thousands of working class and poor families will not be able to send their children to school without increased debt burdens. They will be shut out of a chance to participate with dignity in the reproduction of their society (and possibly transform it for the better), damage to the Quebec and Montreal economies will cost both taxpayers and students dearly because middle-class liberals will continue to blame poor/precarious people when they get angry about the situation, and support the violent suppression of this anger (instead of letstruggling for taxing a fair share from the richest exploiters), innocent businessmen and citizens are suffering losses due to the demonstrations, police violence has driven equality away."

Why do you insist on blaming the students for drawing out this crisis? b/c of not giving in to tuition hikes and creeping fascism?

"You do nobody any favours by attempting to justify violence."

You have done precisely that without being aware. You are doing the police a huge favour by demonizing the popular reaction against police violence. You justify police violence by claiming that democratic outbursts are completely out of place or that the "thugs" started it. What do you know about these "thugs" anyway? As you said, people aren't crazy, they know they will get their asses kicked by the cops, but they still do it... Think about why! Please try to really think about why someone reacts violently to violence before condemning them. Please.

"I assume that you're probably around 22, 23 maybe, and ignorant of the ways of the world."

... we're running out of space here, has it come to this?

Re: The Viet Cong's goal was...

No, the Americans did not invade South Viet Nam. They were invited in by the government of the day as advisors to the South Viet Nam army to attempt to suppress the Viet Cong, who later joined with the North Viet Nam army to take over South Viet Nam. Do try to get your history straight.

 "1. Gov. dumps shit on the people 2. people protest, get angry, smash some windows in demonstration against unresponsive Gov. 3. Gov. criminalizes the democratic expression to protect windows, 4. people get rubber bullets in their faces and thrown in jail for being angry that they have shit dumped all over them."

Sounds about right. Why would the government NOT fight violence with violence, and what right do people have to foment violence just because they're angry? There are other, civilized ways to settle our differences. Suppose I got angry with a point you make here. Would you think me justified in coming to your house and throwing rocks through your windows? Ridiculous justification on your part.

"The state uses violence as it's first or second resort, don't you think? Why don't you say anything about that?"

You know that's not true. Perhaps in a third world country, but here they attempt to use more civilized means before employing violence (the G20 police riot being a notable exception). If the police are attacked or face an armed (bricks and Molotov cocktails) insurrection, they're compelled to meet violence with violence.

"What do you know about these "thugs" anyway?" I know that they're masked cowards who  unjustly foment violence for the sake of violence, but squeal "injustice" when they get caught. They use masks to evade responsibility and consequences for their acts. They only do harm to the cause they pretend to support. 

Throughout my life I've opposed the establishment more than I've supported it, but as I got older and wiser I became aware of better means than violence to advance my causes. Ghandi and Dr. King and their followers met violence with quiet dignity, and won because they won over people to their cause. The violence by the police lost them support. So it is with most causes throughout history. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

I very much fear that our democracy is in danger. We should be banding together to fight the establishment to defend our democratic, social, and economic rights, instead of this ridiculous argument that even imagines that violence could be a solution in a (temporarily) free and democratic country like Canada. We must use civilized means to battle the despot in Ottawa. Make no mistake; there's one who would love any excuse to turn the army loose on you, then where will you be? Syria?





First and foremost, why pretell are these so called 10 points about why you are doing this coming out 3 MONTHS after the fact, please, do not insult my intelligence, you have seen how this has basically back fired against the students and now that you guys have lost control of the whole thing your coming out with this non sense.

This started because of a little hike in tuition, that is it, so again, don't insult me, everything after is just BS, plain and simple.

I wonder just how many students deem themselves too good to work for minimum wage, news flash for you, its pretty much always been that way, you don't get part time jobs paying 20 something an hour, the only time you did in the past is if you had parents in say the government or perhaps places like General Motors and the like.

So far as the youth unemployment rate goes, another news flash for you, for all intents and purposes it has always been much higher then the country average, so considering we are still in a recession or at best just getting out of one, its hardly a shocking number.


No need to be insulted.

There is little anglophone text that has strived to cover fundamental aspects of the strike in such an in-depth manner. Yes, some biases exist in the article, but there are also a myriad of sources to back up the author's point. I'm puzzled as to why you are insulted by this.

Some tiimes, it takes change to incite change. Movements need to be sparked somehow - this one is no different. There's always a point that has to be reached before a large number of people become inspired to do something, before people say 'enough is enough' - this is normal and is no reason to view a cause as illegitimate. 

Your last point is that high student unemployment rates shouldn't be shocking. Well, I don't see anyone saying that it is - the fact is that it's a problem, and increasing tuition will put students in an even more dire situation since there are less jobs out there to offset it.

Are you aware or not

Are you not aware of what our whole educationial infrastructure has in common, at all levels, UNIONS, you think that just maybe this has something to do with the cost of a tuition, curious how they are supporting you though, you have your worst enemy the closest to you.

Its ironic.

Having said what I said here and in my other post, in other places that I travel on the interwebz I am one of the first people to say that democracy is broke and capitalism is broke.

But, if any of you truly think that there is a better way, then there really is no point in continuing to try and debate with you all, I mean for crying out loud, look what democracy and capitalism has been able to create in the last few hundred years, nobody else has countries like Canada and the USA, yes I know there are others, but for the most part, we got the ball rolling.

So yes, things have to be tweaked for sure, look at the crap with the Facebook IPO and the J.P.Morgan, that drives me up the wall, but change will come, doing what you young folks are doing is only going to make the establishment clamp down even harder.

I reviewed everyone of the posts that were made in response to people like myself that don't agree with whats going on over there, for the most part, it has not been debating on your part, it is what we used to call back in my day making excuses.

Off topic but on topic as well, all of your kind and I'm talking the anit-capitalist folks, where do you think Canada would be without Alberta and their treasures right now, nvm the huge transfer payments to Quebec, because of Alberta's success, I just don't get you all sometimes.

As I said above, it case you fail to remember while responding, I most definetely agree we need some change in democracy and capitalism, but to think like some of you are suggesting a complete overhaul of our way of doing things is just silly, to put it politely:)  

The root cause

Time to get real and look at the root causes behind what motivates governments and angers most of the rest of us (at least those who are peripherially aware of what's going on in our cuntry). The 1% (the self-interested rich and the corporations) control government. Government does their bidding and acts in their interests. Evidence: every time a major strike looms, the Harper government steps in on the side of the corporations. With CP, the excuse is 'national interest'; with Air Canada it was 'we can't have families' vacations disrupted'. We'd all be better off if we could return Canada to a real democracy. We'd all be better off if the 1% didn't drain off 24% of the total national income, leaving us, the 99%, to scramble for their leavings. And don't imagine for a minute that the 1% aren't plotting to get as much of that remaining 76% as they can manage to divert into their offshore bank accounts (it's estimated that, worldwide, there's $6 to $10 TRILLION in offshore bank accounts, untaxed). Now may be a good time to form alliances with not only unions, but the Occupy Movement, to harness that energy and become a true revolutionary movement, eschewing violence, and to put pressure on governments to act in the interests of the citizens for a change. It has been done before in history. It can be done here and now. Sieze the moment.. 

Quebec students are heroes

Their hearts are in the right place, but their protests aren't. They should be uniting with like minded organizations like the Occupy Movement and marching on Ottaws. By protesting in Quebec, they're costing the government and their own communities tremendous amounts in lost revenues and taxes when they drive away tourists and shut down events. Many of those tourists will never come back. Those lost revenues could have gone to fund their demands to hold the line on tuitions, but with each passing day, that possibilioty becomes more remote. They're shooting themselves in the foot. I support free post secondary education as an investment by Canada in our youth and in the future of our country, but the students are going about it all wrong. If they're protesting the emergency measure bill, it has an expiration date. They should just shut up until it expires. If they're worried about funding and civil rights, it's Herr Harper and his Fascist Blueshirts they should be protesting against.

Quebec Students are Heroes

Funny, those who sing the praises of the current capitalist system never mention that little country...Norway...where they have socked away close to 600 billion dollars of resource revenue for future generations. Private companies scramble to drill in the North Sea even though their royalty regime is around 70%, compared to the paltry sum the Alberta Government (which, incidentally, is now running a deficit) charges in that big environmental disaster called the oil sands. It is also a place where everyone can afford to be educated because they place education at the top of their priorities list. The countries of Northern Europe have weathered this economic mess quite well. Maybe that's the example we should be emulating, instead of defending the 1%.

Quebec has traditionally been a more progressive province than most in Canada. Alberta has, for the past couple of decades, been living on the edge. Their heritage fund is gone, their surplus gone (as is Canada's, thanks to Albertan Stephen Harper), and their healthcare system is in crisis, thanks to their short-sightedness and that of their hero, Ralph Klein, who created this mess. Now their only way out is to weaken environmental regulations and increase the volume of oil being produced at McMurray and when it's time to pay the piper, their children and grandchildren can figure it out.

The students in Quebec are marching for many reasons. One of those reasons is the fact that the Harpers of the world love to give tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations, which in turn, starves the treasury. Then they cry poverty when it comes to funding education, healthcare and infrastructure. If the students weren't marching, none of the above would be discussed anywhere. The media (and people in general) only pay attention when there is some drama involved. God bless the students for creating a little drama. If it means we all start paying attention to the damage being done by the right-wing fundamentalists running the show right now, we will all be better off.

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