I Went To Montreal May Day and All I Got Was Tear-Gassed
For the last two and half months students in Quebec have been striking against proposed tuition hikes by the government and just like the rest of the dis-empowered youth of the world–they’re getting absolutely nowhere. In fact, Premier Jean Charest has completely shut down talks with student unions causing widespread protests, riots, and general disillusion in la belle province. The other problem is nobody else in the rest of Canada gives a flying fuck about the plight of the young Quebecois, which has only served to piss them off even more.
Now it’s becoming a rallying point for students to rebel against unemployment, mass governmental debt, and the general Anglicization of French Quebec. People are even starting to talk about Separatism again, as alienation and political unrest foment in the streets of Montreal exactly like they did during the Referendum of 1995 and the terrorist FLQ crisis of 1970. Not to mention, a lot of these students aren’t protesting rising tuition costs as much as they’re demonstrating against the mismanagement of finances by the Ministry of Education and universities that give swollen tenureships to pretentious professors who already favour the elites. What’s more amazing is that students in the rest of Canada are content being ass-raped by tuition fees that don’t really go anywhere but into the pockets of governments that are too busy granting favours to corporations than guarantee quality educations to youth they implore to attend university.
Some pundits are calling this “Quebec Spring” while others consider the protests purely juvenile. To make matters worse it seems like every shit eating neo-con boomer is jumping on the bandwagon of calling these Quebec students ingrates and everything of the like. Margaret Wente, some hag who writes for the Globe and Mail (for no other reason but to drive traffic for their otherwise decent publication) is just one of these shitty critics who probably paid a tenth of what students pay now for her own degrees. Eric Duhaime is another in the sea of right wing boner jams against these protesters and he even had the balls to say “[t]here have been riots in downtown Montreal almost every night since the boycott started,” which is factually untrue and completely dishonest. There has been peaceful protest after peaceful protest, night after night; even the Montreal Police would agree. Riots, however violent they’ve been, and admittedly, they’ve been shit-shows, are considerably isolated.
Whatever the movement is, things seemed destined to come to head on May Day, as radical student unions joined the infamous Black Bloc anarchist group to demonstrate against the heavily indebted, corrupted, and mafia infiltrated government of Quebec. The result was a day that was equal parts mayhem (cop fights and Molotov cocktails) and tranquil demonstration (over 10,000 students marching peacefully in unison). Since, the provincial government of Quebec has continued to offer fuck all in talks and has instead maintained their medieval negotiation tactic of zero-interaction-until-you-give-into-my-demands. No doubt a coercive strategy Line Beauchamp, Education Minister extraordinaire, must have learned at breakfast with the mafia.
Judging by my own experiences covering May Day in Montreal, these students, and even the militant Black Bloc anarchist group, are making a serious statement about how the youth feels about itself relative to their governments and societies. They’re tired of being passed over by politicians who pander to their 45-65 electorate, totally overlooking the needs of a generation that, if global politics serves me correctly, are militarizing quickly and getting very fucking angry with an establishment that oppresses them. Jean Charest has laughed in their faces, unemployment among youth is sky rocketing and policy makers are about to make them pay more for degrees they need to maybe, just maybe, get a fucking job. It’s high time the rest of Canada understands their cause instead of just seeing them as “whiny Peppers protesting again,” which by the way underlies every piece of English criticism on this fiasco.
The sad thing is, given the crooked state of the Quebec government and its unwillingness to listen to anything under the age of 50, this movement might only get worse before it gets better.
Photos by Kara-Lis Coverdale and Ben Makuch