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[désolé, texte seulement en fran ç ais]
This speech was given by the co-spokespeople (Jeanne Reynolds and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois) of the Coalition Large de l'Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (CLASSE), following the historic demonstration on March 22nd, 2012 that saw over 200,000 people take to the streets of Montreal against tuition fee increases. The speech was heard live by a crowd of hundreds at a free show at the Metropolis featuring artists supporting the students' strike.
The CLASSE has intimated that the massive demonstration on March 22nd was just a beginning, rather than a culmination, of the students' organizing efforts to ensure that the tuition hikes proposed by the Charest government don't go through. The CLASSE also demands a free and accessible post-secondary education for all. Since the historic demonstration, there have been a multitude of actions by students throughout the province of Quebec, including an escalation of tactics that have included economic disruptions, civil disobedience and various forms of direct action through a diversity of tactics.
The students have also referred to the demonstration on March 22nd as being the point when the student movement evolved into a broader people's movement.
Below is the English translation of the speech.
Video by OM 99% Média.
Translation by Samir Shaheen-Hussain (with input from several individuals).
You are beautiful. Quebec is beautiful today! We were 200,000 in the streets of Montreal. A historic demonstration for a historic movement.
We are showing the government that they were wrong to suggest that we were only a minority. The Charest government thought that our movement would run out of steam. But we declare today that we are not finished with them! And that we’ll continue to intensify the pressure until he backs off on these anti-social and unjust tuition hikes!
Today, the province of Quebec is at a crossroads. Today, Quebec has a choice to make.
A choice between a Quebec for sale. A Quebec where culture would be for sale, sold at a great price to the highest bidder, sold to the highest bidder among the rich minority. This Quebec, we can choose this, but there’s another choice. We can also choose another Quebec, a Quebec that is ours. A Quebec that we can re-appropriate, where education will not serve the economy, will not serve the bosses, but where it will serve autonomy, free thinking, passing on culture, for everyone, irrespective of how thick their wallet is!
Minister Beauchamp asks us to return to school to learn. Well, I have some news for Minister Beauchamp. By striking, we learn, we learn a lot. During this strike, we learn about the disdain of the government, we learn who the government serves. During this strike we learn what the function of the police is and what role it serves through its violence. During this strike, we learn what social injustice is, what neoliberalism is and how it disadvantages the people of Quebec.
And we resist because we are not a commodity, and because we do not want to become a commodity! All over the planet, all over the planet, in England, in Greece, in the Czech Republic, in Colombia, students are fighting against tuition hikes, always in solidarity with the workers, who are also fighting against austerity measures.
We assert once again our solidarity with the students of Chile, who were on strike for eight months. Solidarity with workers, from here or abroad, who are the victims of lookouts at Alma at the Rio-Tinto-Alcan factories and, notably, at Avéos more recently. We are in solidarity with these people. Solidarity with all women in the world who are the first victims of these non-egalitarian and unjust policies. Solidarity with all those who bear the burden of oppression.
And, above all, above all, we’re here this evening to tell Ministers Bachand, Beauchamp and Charest, that what they call a “cultural revolution” will not be allowed to pass. The students, the people of Quebec, will not accept, will never accept, the destruction and the privatization of its public services. Sunday, we were 30,000 people in the streets. The majority of the people were not students. It was the families of Quebec that took over the streets of Montreal with us to say “no”. This evening, it is the artists who are in the streets, who were in the streets, who are here on-stage with us, to say “no” to the hike, to say “no” to privatization, to say “no” to the Quebec of commodification and capital.
Everyone -- the youth, the workers, the artists, everyone -- is in the streets with one and the same message. This tuition hike is an injustice. It’s an injustice. And, this injustice ... it will not pass!
But, instead of listening to the people, instead of listening to those it is supposed to represent, the Liberal government prefers answering us with batons, grenades, tear gas. We know what this means, we know where it comes from. We know it’s because the government doesn’t serve the interests of the population. This government, we know who it listens to. This government has ears only for the demands of the rich, for the demands of bosses, for the demands of the mining companies that will benefit from its “Plan Nord” that is full of crap. It is more receptive to these people than it is to its citizens, and this is unacceptable.
After today, the fight against tuition hikes should never again be depicted as a student struggle. As of today, the fight against tuition hikes should be called by its name: it’s a people’s movement, it’s a class struggle!
They have tried to reduce us to silence. But, I have some bad news for the Liberal government over there in Quebec City. We will not stop fighting. We will not stop fighting during our strike and after our strike for public education, for free education, and even more, for a Quebec that’s more just, a Quebec that’s more egalitarian, a Quebec that’s more human.
I don’t know if you’ve read the newspapers recently. Mister Bachand was speaking about his last budget as being not only a cultural revolution, but also as a second May ’68. I’m not sure if Mister Bachand has taken history classes, but let’s remind him about what happened in May ’68. In May ’68, there was a student strike. In May ’68, this strike became a social strike. In May ’68, there were barricades, there were people in the streets, and so if he wants a May ’68, that’s what he’ll get!!