Protests, Bills, and Violence

So yesterday marked the 100th day of the student strike that has been taking place in Montreal and all over Quebec.  Quebec students are fighting to keep tuition costs down and university accessible for everyone. Average full-time tuition fees in Quebec for 2012 are $2,519 vs. Alberta (where I went to school) they are $5,662.

As an ex-student and a maybe soon to be new student… I think the cost of going to school is getting out of hand.  Had something like this taken places when I was in school I would have been all over it.  I think the protesters are doing the right thing and I respect them.  I don’t think enough people stand up to the powers at be when they feel they are being wronged.  Most people just take it and believe nothing can be done.

 

Yet it seems as with any protest, violence always comes up as a common thread that is pulled and ends up undoing any possibility of discussion around the real issues. Since the inception of the protest the government quickly passed a bill. (Bill 78) Which makes it illegal to a) protest in certain areas b) protest with 50 or more people without prior approval by the police. But Turn… Isn’t that close to infringing on our right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly as laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Well, I guess it all depends on who you ask.

If you ask the people who were going to work a few weeks ago but found that the metro was shut down because some “protesters” put off smoke bombs in the metro lines and were therefore extremely late for appointments or work.  They’ll say we need to coral these students because left to their own devices they will be destructive and it would be beneficial to keep an eye on them.

On the other hand… If you ask the group of people who were sitting on a bar patio Saturday night, hurling insults and swears at the cops, which in turn got them all pepper sprayed at close range.  They’ll say the Bill gives the authorities added power to act with as much force as they wish to break up “illegal protest”.

At the end of the day there will always be people who believe an anarchistic approach is the best way to be heard and they tend to take advantage of a peacefully protests.  Look back to the protest of WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 in Seattle or G-20 summit protests of 2010 in Toronto if you disagree. What starts off seemingly peaceful… ends in violence.

In closing lets not forget the people who flat-out oppose the protests… I heard a guy say “Why are they complaining??? It would be like me living in Toronto paying my babysitter $30/hr and my friend in Montreal paying his babysitter $5/hr and then him complaining because his rate is going up to $7/hr…it’s still so cheap”

To that gentleman I say, maybe if you would have voiced your displeasure when your rate used to be lower… you wouldn’t be paying $30/hr.

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