2012 Quebec student protests

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2012 Quebec student protests
Grève étudiante québécoise.jpg
July 22 (left), May 22 (up) and April 15 (center) demonstrations and Victoriaville riots (down).
Date February 13, 2012 – September 7, 2012
Location Quebec, Canada
Goals Tuition freeze, Free education
Methods
Lead figures
Jean Charest, Premier of Quebec
Line Beauchamp, Minister of Education (until May 14, 2012)
Michelle Courchesne, Minister of Education (May 14-September 4)
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of the CLASSE
Martine Desjardins of the FEUQ
Léo Bureau-Blouin of the FECQ
Casualties
Injuries 23+ (as of May 25)
Arrested 2,500 (as of May 25)[1]

The 2012 Quebec student protests were a series of student demonstrations led by student unions such as the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec and their supporters against a proposal by the Quebec Cabinet, headed by Liberal Premier Jean Charest, to raise university tuition from $2,168 to $3,793 between 2012 and 2018.[2] As part of the protest movement, a series of widespread student strikes were organized. An estimated one-third of students agreed with the boycott,[citation needed] with the rest completing their courses.[3]

Left-wing groups endorsed the student protests, which evolved into generalized demonstrations against the provincial government. Opposition parties (Parti Québécois, Québec solidaire, Option nationale), workers unions (Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Canadian Union of Public Employees) and many "fringe" groups have demonstrated alongside the students in April and May 2012.[4]

On May 18, the Government passed Bill 78, an emergency law to manage how protesters conduct their demonstrations and ensure students who wanted to attend classes would not be barred from entering schools which led to further protests.

In the Fall of 2012, with a new school term beginning, student participation in the strikes and demonstrations dwindled. The leftist, Quebec nationalist Parti Quebecois was later elected as minority government and halted any tuition increases in line with a campaign promise.[5]

These protests are sometimes named Maple Spring,[6] from the French Printemps érable which suggests Printemps arabe (Arab spring) as well as the maple tree which symbolizes Quebec and Canada.[7]

Historical context

Until the 1960s, post-secondary education in Quebec was not broadly pursued, partly due to costs. Following the Quiet Revolution, the government took over the responsibility. Changes included the creation of a separate pre-university college level, a publicly funded college system, and providing universities enough funding so that it would be affordable to anyone who wanted to attend.[8]

University tuition fees in Quebec were frozen at $540 per year from 1968 to 1990. In 1994, annual tuition rose to $1668, after which it was frozen until 2007, when it grew by $100 per year until 2012, making it $2168. Overall, tuition increased an average of $37 per year or 300% between 1968 and 2012, not including other fees that are paid to universities (e.g. administration fees, student service fees, etc.).[9] However, the overall cost living inflation as measured by an aggregate inflation index commonly used by economists rose 557% from 1968 to 1990,[10] and Quebec had the lowest tuition fees in Canada.[11][12] Quebec students pay 10% of the cost and benefit from transfer payments from other provinces whose students pay up to three times more tuition.[13]

Quebec is a net recipient of transfer payments from the federal government, and it uses those payments to pay for social programs, including education. The transfer payments have become politically charged for people in provinces that give rather than receive.[14]

Events

One of the many night protests in the streets of Montreal, 27 May 2012.

On March 7, 2012, during a sit-in demonstration in front of the Loto-Québec head office, a demonstrator eye was wounded,[15] he alleged when a flash-bang grenade thrown by police exploded near his face, it was never proven and numerous projectile were trown by police and demonstrator.

During the morning rush hour on March 20, 150 student demonstrators blocked the Montreal-bound entrance ramp to the Champlain Bridge in Brossard using concrete blocks.[16] Upon the arrival of Sûreté du Québec police officers, the protestors fled through the streets of Brossard to coaches waiting for them at Terminus Panama. When officers arrived at the Terminus, they surrounded the buses and arrested around 100 demonstrators. Each was identified and fined C$494.[16]

On March 22, 2012, a march with tens of thousands took place in downtown Montreal. At its peak, the parade stretched up to 50 blocks. While there was no violence, the police confiscated sticks carried by some participants.[17]

On May 6, 2012, a demonstration took place in Victoriaville, which eventually turned into a riot when vandals started throwing projectiles at the crowd. At least ten people were injured, including some police officers who were attacked by protesters.[18] Two protesters were very seriously injured. The first one lost an eye. The second one sustained head trauma and a skull fracture.[19]

On May 14, 2012 Line Beauchamp announced that she would resign from her position as Quebec Education Minister and Deputy Premier. Beauchamp stated that she “lost confidence in the student leaders’ will to end this conflict.” Later that same day, Premier Charest announced that Michelle Courchesne would replace Beauchamp as Education Minister and Deputy Premier.[20]

On May 18, 2012, Bill 78 passed in the National Assembly of Quebec during the early hours of the morning and the municipality of Montreal passed a law prohibiting mask-wearing during any organization or demonstration. The nightly protest being held in downtown Montreal ended in violence and 69 arrests. There were reports of projectiles being launched by protesters, as well as molotov cocktails, and police responded by firing rubber bullets and using tear gas and noise bombs against the protesters. Police declared the protest to be illegal.[21][22][23]

On May 19, 2012, Montreal-based band Arcade Fire wore the "red square" solidarity symbol during a performance with Mick Jagger on the season finale of Saturday Night Live.[24]

On May 20, 2012, during an evening protest that turned violent, a protester was seriously injured by police officers in riot gear.[25] Upon attacking an officer, the victim was beaten by five officers with their clubs and forcibly neutralized.

On May 22, 2012, in response to the passage of Bill 78 and in commemoration of 100 days since the beginning of the student strike, another march took place, with tens of thousands of marchers and approximately 1,000 arrests[26] Organizers spun this event as "The single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history."[6][27]

By May 24, 2012, the "Casseroles" series of nightly protests had rapidly expanded to most Montreal residential neighborhoods outside of the usual protest routes.[28][29] Inspired by the cacerolazos of Chile in 1971, these involved residents banging on pots and pans from their windows or taking to the streets with their kitchenware at 8 o'clock. A viral amateur video[citation needed] of one such protest in the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood further fueled this phenomenon.

On May 31, the Quebec government stated that it was pulling out of talks meant to end the protest after four days of negotiations with student leaders, without having reached a stable consensus. By that day, more than 150,000 students were estimated to be on strike.[30]

After the announcement by ministerial decree of tuition freeze on September 5, 2012, the remaining student associations on strike voted to return to class.

Bill 78

Main article: Bill 78

On May 16, soon after the appointment of Michelle Courchesne, she and Premier Charest announced their plan to introduce Bill 78. The bill is titled "An Act to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend," and restricts freedom of assembly, protest, or picketing on or near university grounds, and anywhere in Quebec without prior police approval. The bill also places restrictions upon the right of education employees to strike.

While some students and law professors have been critical of the impact of Bill 78 on fundamental rights, Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier stated that there has been no equivalent respect given to non-striking students' rights to their education, and that the intent of the law is to return calm to Quebec society.[31] Some business leaders in downtown Montreal, the epicenter of the protests, supported Bill due to vandalism and disruption of local establishments.[32]

Symbols

Red square

The red square, symbol of the Quebec student protest against tuition fee increases.
  The red square is a symbol of the protest against the raise in university fees. It is the primary symbol that was used in the student protests of 2005 and 2012. The square first appeared in October 2004 when the Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté (Collective for a Quebec without Poverty) used it in a campaign against Bill 57. Throughout the 2012 student protest, red squares made of felt, worn by students opposed to tuition increases and their supporters, can also be seen on many monuments, and in the windows of educational institutions, businesses and residences.[33] A giant red square was briefly suspended from the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and the Mount Royal Cross by students from the Université de Montréal during a protest.[34]

Other squares

After the red square became a well-known symbol in Quebec, other groups decided to use squares of varying colours to promote their own viewpoints.

  •   The blue square is worn by people who are opposed to the tuition fee increases and opposed to the student strikes.[35]
  •   The green square is worn by those in favour of raising tuition fees.[36]
  •   The yellow square, recommended by commentator Richard Martineau but not widely adopted, would be worn by those who support delaying the tuition increases over a greater period of time.[37]
  •   The black square is worn by people who oppose Bill 78 and/or generally oppose police brutality and civil rights abuses.[38]
  •   The white square is worn by parents of students in the protest who would like the students and the government to reach an agreement and/or to show opposition to any form of violence.[39]

Controversies

On April 18, 2012 a group of 300 protesters broke windows and ransacked rooms st the University of Montreal and injured a security guard. Among the six that were arrested, Yalda Machouf-Khadir, the daughter of Quebec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, is being sued by the Universite of Montreal for $100,000 in damages. The legal documents indicate the she also shoved around the campus police officers and tried to remove a camera from one of their hands.[40]

On June 12, 2012, some protesters were referring to local police authorities as SS and anti-police pamphlets using the swastikas were distributed. The use of the Nazi symbolism was quickly decried by several Jewish organizations in the Montreal Gazette. Although it is said that protesters were using these symbols to condemn the recent tactics use by the local police, the CLASSE has implored its members to stop using these symbols.[41]

See also

References

  1. ^ Banerjee, Sidhartha (2012-05-25). "Quebec Student Protests: 2,500 Arrests And Counting". The Canadian Press. Retrieved 25 May 2012. 
  2. ^ "La grève étudiante sur le web". Radio-Canada. 2 April 2012. 
  3. ^ Courvette, Phil. "Emergency law considered in Quebec student protest". Associated Press. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Droits de scolarité au Québec : un débat de société". src.ca. 
  5. ^ Michael, Lindsay. "Quebec's student tuition protest: Who really won the dispute?". CBC. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Amy Goodman (May 25, 2012). "Maple Spring: Nearly 1,000 Arrested as Mass Quebec Student Strike Passes 100th Day". Democracy Now. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  7. ^ (French)Printemps érable : cinq choses à savoir sur le conflit des étudiants au Québec Sophie Malherbe, L'Express, 23 May 2012
  8. ^ Mathieu Pigeon. "Education in Québec, before and after the Parent reform". McCord Museum. Retrieved October 11, 2010. 
  9. ^ Ouimet, Michèle. "La belle vie". La Presse. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  10. ^ Bank of Canada. "Bank of Canada Inflation Calculator". Bankofcanada.ca. 
  11. ^ "National – The Globe and Mail". M.theglobeandmail.com. 
  12. ^ "How much will it cost you?". Government of Quebec. Retrieved May 19, 2012. 
  13. ^ McDonald, L. Ian. "Students don't know how good they have it". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  14. ^ Hopper, Tristin. "Time for Quebec to end equalization addiction: Montreal think-tank". The National Post. Retrieved June 18, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Un étudiant risque de perdre l'usage d'un oeil". La Presse. lapresse.ca. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Santerre, David. "David Santerre, Pont Champlain bloqué : plusieurs étudiants arrêtés". La Presse, March 20, 2012. 
  17. ^ "March stretched more than 50 city blocks at its peak". CBC News. March 22, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Victoriaville: une dizaine de blessés, une centaine d'arrestations". La Presse. lapresse.ca. Retrieved May 4, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Blessés à Victoriaville: enquête indépendante demandée". La Presse. lapresse.ca. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  20. ^ Séguin, Rhéal (May 15, 2012). "Education minister's exit leaves Charest holding the bag". Globe and Mail (Canada). Retrieved May 17, 2012. 
  21. ^ Canada. "Molotov cocktails launched in Montreal protests following legal crackdown". Globe and Mail (Canada). [dead link]
  22. ^ "Conservative MP Blake Richards’ proposed crackdown on masked protesters goes too far.". Toronto Star. May 9, 2012. 
  23. ^ TU THANH HA AND Les Perreaux (May 5, 2012). "Anti-protest legislation passes in Quebec". Globe and Mail (Canada). 
  24. ^ "Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire — The Last Time". Saturday Night Live. NBC.com. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  25. ^ Gabrielle Duchaine (May 20, 2012). "27e manif nocturne: plus de 300 arrestations". La Presse. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  26. ^ Myles Dolphin (May 22, 2012). "Massive Montreal rally marks 100 days of student protests". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  27. ^ James Mennie (May 23, 2012). "Peaceful day march, heated night demo". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Casserole Pan-Demonium in Quebec". Interactive Graphic (CBC News Canada). Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Casserole Protests Ring Out Across Quebec". CTV News Montreal. Retrieved May 27, 2012. 
  30. ^ Posted: May 31, 2012 4:39 PM ET (2012-06-01). "Quebec student talks collapse and more protests loom — Montreal — CBC News". Cbc.ca. Retrieved 2012-06-13. 
  31. ^ Les Perreaux And Rhéal Séguin (May 1, 2012). "Quebec’s emergency law blasted by critics". Globe and Mail (Canada). 
  32. ^ Patrick Lemieux (May 18, 2012). "Bill 78 - Quebec Employers Council President offers comments". Canada Newswire. Retrieved May 19, 2012. 
  33. ^ Gaudreau, Valérie (31 March 2012). "Le tour du carré rouge (French)". Le Soleil. Retrieved August 8, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Un carré rouge flottant sur le pont Jacques-Cartier". TVA Nouvelles. 6 April 2012. Retrieved August 8, 2012. 
  35. ^ Marc Allard (8 March 2012). "Grève étudiante : vifs débats dans les cégeps". Le Soleil. 
  36. ^ "Le carré vert nouveau symbole". Le Quotidien. 23 February 2012. p. 6. 
  37. ^ Julie Marcoux,« Carré jaune », TVA Nouvelles, 27 March 2012.
  38. ^ Ian Bussières,« Les manifs ne s'essoufflent pas », Le Soleil, 27 May 2012.
  39. ^ Marie-Pier Duplessis,Conflit étudiant : place au carré blanc de l'armistice », Le Soleil, 10 May 2012.
  40. ^ "Amir Khadir’s daughter named in student protest lawsuit". The Globe and Mail. June 6, 2013. Retrieved September 15, 2013. 
  41. ^ Sidhartha Banerjee (June 12, 2012). "Bill 78 - Jewish groups decry Nazi salutes at Quebec student protests". The Gazette. Retrieved June 13, 2012. 

External links