June 14, 2012 - No. 89
Quebec Students' Fight for the Right to
• Student Associations Denounce Plan to
Drastically Increase Student Debt
• A Carefully Planned Form of Theft -
• Brief of the Quebec Federation of University
June 22 Day of Action
• Students Continue Actions During Summer to
Affirm the Fee Increase Is Not a Viable Option
• Ten Thousand March in Montreal "Family
Demonstration" to Support the Students
and Political Profiling
• Charest Government Underscores Its
• Hearings on Motions to Oppose Special Law
Begin in Quebec Superior Court
• South Shore Workers Speak Out
Artists' Crucial Role
in Defence of Civil Liberties
• Singer-Storyteller Declines National Order of
• Artists Demand Public Apology from Minister
• Comedians Raise Funds to Oppose Special Law
Opposition to Charest Government's Plan
to Indebt Students
Student Associations Denounce Plan to Drastically
Increase Student Debt
The Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ) and
the Quebec Federation of College Students (FECQ) held a press
conference in Montreal on June 13 in response to the Charest
government's draft amendment to the Regulation on Student
Financial Assistance (AFE). The Charest
government calls its draft amendment an improvement to the AFE program
and claims it will
protect the poorest students from the effects of the tuition fee
increase. The announcement of the proposed change was made at the end
of April but the figures
have just been published. Martine Desjardins, President of the FEUQ and
Éliane Laberge, President of the FECQ each strongly
denounced the draft amendment as a carefully prepared government plan
to drastically indebt Quebec students, and as a form of theft from
students and the entire population. The FEUQ distributed its brief, Drastic Increases to
Student Debt that it will present to the Advisory
Committee on the Financial Accessibility
of Education on June 18, concerning the modifications to the loans and
bursaries program. The Committee will make its recommendations to the
Charest government on the draft amendment.
Laberge, President, FECQ (left) and Martine Desjardins. President,
Martine Desjardins opened the press conference by saying
that the Charest government presented these modifications to student
financial assistance as a global solution to the problems caused by
rising tuition costs.
The leader of the FEUQ referred to the new policy that
will increase the ceiling on loans by converting bursaries into
loans for students whose parents' combined
earnings are between $45,000 and $60,000.
"When we received the draft amendment to the
student financial assistance regulations, we were shocked to see an
explosion of lending limits and therefore an explosion of student debt.
A student will see his or her debt even triple in the first years of
implementing the so-called improved AFE program. What this means is
that for a student whose parents earn between $45,000 and $60,000 per
year who wants access to loans and bursaries, the ratio of
loans versus bursaries will be reversed from what it currently is."
She estimates that this and other measures specified in
the proposed amendment may increase the average student debt from its
current level of $14,000 to more than $20,000.
She added that a large number of students who work
during the summer and do not qualify for loans and bursaries will
suffer the full brunt of increased tuition fees and see their
purchasing power greatly reduced. She denounced the fact that
is increasing, limits for admissible expenses used to calculate loans
and bursaries such as housing or food will be frozen for the next seven
years. This means that for the next seven years, a student's eligible
food expenditure will continue to be $7 a day.
FECQ President Éliane Laberge said, "On April 27,
government proposed a blanket solution to supposedly end the crisis
we're in, a solution that would compensate all the students
most affected by the tuition fee increase. Meanwhile, we see that this
solution is tainted. It's not a real solution
since all the middle class students -- and by middle class I mean those
whose parents earn between $45,000 and $60,000 -- will see their debt
triple as of next year. [...] They tried to sell us a solution to end
problem of [decreased] access to education caused by the tuition fee
increase. Since when is debt a solution to
access to education in Quebec?" She said that student debt is one of
the main reasons for dropping out among students at the post-secondary
level. The Charest government's assertion that
raising the threshold of parental contribution from $35,000 to $45,000
by 2016-2017 protects the poorest students
is unfounded because while these students receive a bursary, they will
still incur debt
with a loan of $2,400 per year, she added. The two
student leaders said the government must stop trivializing student debt
as it is a major source of problems for students and jeopardizes
the future of Quebec.
The FEUQ and FECQ leaders stated clearly that the
announced by the Charest government are not a solution to the crisis
caused by the tuition fee increase, especially given the more than
"These measures are a poor assessment of resources, a
poor evaluation of the situation," said Desjardins. "At the political
level the situation is dealt with by denying the reality of students'
living conditions. It's unacceptable. We've been on strike for more
than 17 weeks and the students have not done this to be told that
students and taxpayers will pay even more," she added.
Desjardins said that the government must
withdraw its plans. She said that the alternative to student
debt is, among other measures, a tuition freeze, the
enhancement of aid to match students' real situations and the revision
of the regulation on student
contributions that, for example, would permit students to save
the money they earn working over the summer.
A Carefully Planned Form of Theft
This is undoubtedly one of the Jean Charest Liberal
government’s most insidious plans, the Quebec Federation of College
Students (FECQ) and the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ)
announced. While the government proclaimed to anyone who would listen
that it would improve the Student Financial Assistance program (AFE),
at the same time it took the opportunity to
drastically increase student debt. "Once again, Jean Charest is
attacking the students, dangerously increasing student debt. It is
funding loans and bursaries at no cost by cutting the tax credit and is
mortgaging the future of Quebec by increasing student debt!
The students end up footing the bill twice: through rising tuition fees
and [the loss of] the tax credit. It is literally theft!" said FEUQ
president Martine Desjardins.
This is the main conclusion of the FEUQ's analysis of
the government measures, which it will present to the Advisory
Committee on the Financial Accessibility of Education (CCAFE) of the
Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports (MELS) on June 18.
Although students from families who earn less than $45,000
are relatively spared, as bursaries will cover the $1,778 increase
in tuition fees, students from the middle class are hit hard. And with
compensatory allowances -- a new form of loans created by the Charest
government -- student debt will more than double.
"Once again, the government is unmasked. While we were
negotiating in good faith with Ms. Courchesne, they were preparing a
plan to heavily increase student debt. For students from families
with a gross income of more than $45,000, it is an explosion of debt.
government keeps telling us that loans and
bursaries will compensate for the increase, but at what cost? This debt
that will become a real burden on the [next generation of] Quebec?"
added Éliane Laberge, FECQ president.
The most devious aspect of the government's plan is that
all these measures are implemented without indexing the allowable
expenses to which students are entitled. This means the amount loaned
to students is still insufficient to guarantee current expenses -- no
funds are allocated for their indexing -- to the extent that they will
continue to need to eat on $7 a day for the next
seven years. They will be forced to turn to compensatory allowances and
loans from financial institutions. "We still have the same problem --
have a Premier who plays the party leader instead of taking up his
responsibility as a statesman, who could
not care less about the consequences of his actions and lets the
situation deteriorate. Is this the kind of government that Quebec
deserves? No!" concluded the presidents of the student federations.
The FEUQ's analysis is
available at: www.1625canepassepas.ca/argumentaire
The Quebec Federation of College Students (FECQ) and the
Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ) together account for
over 200,000 students in Quebec.
Mathieu Le Blanc, Media Liason, FEUQ, office: (514)
396-3380, cell: (514) 609-3380, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter:
Charlotte Watson, Communications coordinator, FECQ,
cell: (514) 554-0576, office: (514) 396-3320, email: email@example.com,
Twitter: @ charlottewats
Brief of the Quebec Federation of University Students
At the joint press conference with the Quebec Federation
Students (FECQ) on June 13, the Quebec Federation of University
Students (FEUQ) circulated its brief entitled Drastic Increases in
Student Debt. The document is the FEUQ's response to the Charest
government's draft amendment to the Regulation
on Student Financial Assistance (AFE). TML is posting below highlights
from the brief. The complete brief in the original French is
According to the FEUQ, the proposed amendments introduce
three main measures:
1. The gradual increase of the threshold of parental
contributions from $35,000 in 2012-2013 to $45,000 in 2016-2017;
2. Raising the ceiling on loans for students whose
parents' combined earnings, in 2016-2017, are between $45,000 and
3. The creation of a new form of loan called
The FEUQ considers the increase to the parental
contribution threshold positive and thinks it should have been done
Raising the contribution threshold eliminates the parental contribution
reported for students whose parents earn $45,000 and less. Financial
assistance is granted by establishing student
expenses that are allowed by the loans and bursaries program, less
contributions (students, parents, spouse). The meagre salaries that
students earn during the summer, for example, are considered
contributions and therefore reduce the financial assistance granted.
Students affected by the increased threshold of parental
contribution will be entitled to full bursary, but the FEUQ notes that
they will still incur debt through a loan of $2,440 per year. The FEUQ
argues that the allowable expenses are well below actual expenditures
that students must incur. Therefore these students that Charest has
said will be protected will also become
further impoverished with tuition increases. In addition, a gross
salary for both parents of $45,000 per year in 2016-2017 is roughly the
minimum wage while the parental contribution threshold is not very
Raising the loan ceiling for students whose parents earn
$45,000 and $60,000 is the main measure contained in these measures
that will increase student debt, according to the FEUQ. Raising the
loan ceiling is achieved by converting declared parental contribution
amounts into loans. According to FEUQ
it will a lead to a major conversion of bursaries into loans. The FEUQ
document contains a projection of test case students whose parents earn
between $45,000 and $60,000 and concludes that this category of
student debt will double and even triple. In 2012-2013 the FEUQ
calculates that in some cases a student's
debt could go from $2,440 to nearly $6,000.
The supplementary allowance is a new form of loan that
students who receive financial assistance of an amount less than the
allowance. This special allowance is itself a loan introduced in 2007
for students who receive only loans and are eligible for loans up to $
2,440. The amount of the special allowance
corresponds to the amount of the increase in fees since 2007. This is
debt added upon debt, ostensibly to counter the effects of rising
tuition. By 2018-2019, the FEUQ believes that this additional
allocation will increase a student's debt from $2,440 to $4,718.
The FEUQ also denounces that all these measures, which
will cost $39
million, will be funded by the elimination of 3.5 percentage points
in tax credits for students' tuition and examination fees.
The FEUQ study makes the following recommendations:
1. That the Government of Quebec withdraw the
implementation of the
increase to the loan ceiling for families earning more than the first
threshold of parental contributions.
2. That the Quebec government withdraw the
of the supplementary allowance.
3. That the special allowance covering the increase in
be given as a bursary to all recipients without exception and must not
involve any increase in loans.
4. That the Quebec government freeze tuition as of
5. That the parental contribution threshold be adjusted
based on the Consumer Price Index from 2017-2018.
6. That the AFE increases the amount of allowable
expenses for the
recipients of student financial aid, including additional amounts for
expenses and transportation costs for students who do not have access
to public transportation. Transportation costs for non-residents and
internet fees should also be included
in the allowable expenses
7. That the Department of Education, Recreation and
an automatic annual indexing of all allowable expenses in the
calculation of the AFE. This indexation should be equivalent to the
Consumer Price Index for that year.
8. That the amount of maximum income protection of the
AFE be raised
to $1,445 per month, and adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price
Index and that this indexation should be automatic.
June 22 Quebec Day of Action
Students Continue Actions During Summer to Affirm the
Fee Increase Is Not a Viable Option
22 -- 2:00 pm
Quebec National Assembly
For information: Facebook
22 -- 2:00 pm
Place du Canada
For information: Facebook
The student associations, Quebec labour centrals and social and
community organizations have called for a Quebec Day of Action on June
22 to support the
students and oppose the Special Law, with major demonstrations planned
for Montreal and Quebec City.
Originally called for just Quebec City, organizers decided to
have two simultaneous actions so as to have the maximum number of
people participating in Quebec's two largest cities.
Click to enlarge
"We invite the entire population to mobilize for this
day. Whether in Quebec or Montreal, we must all be in the streets
to demonstrate against rising tuition fees and Bill 78," states
the Broad Coalition of Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE).
The date of June 22 marks not only 130 days since the
students began their
strike against the tuition hikes, the 22nd of the month is now
a national day of action. The 22nd of each of the past three
months has been marked by massive turnouts of students
and Quebeckers from all walks of life: March 22 -- 200,000
students and supporters marched in Montreal; April 22 -- a quarter
million people were in the streets of Montreal on Earth Day; May
22 -- half a million people were on the streets of Montreal to
oppose tuition fee hikes and the Special Law.
In related news, the Broad Coalition for Student Union
(CLASSE) plans to use the summer to continue its discussions with the
population. It wants to "dismantle certain prejudices" that some may
have developed, states CLASSE.
"What people see about the student strike in the media
are images of confrontation and violence," said CLASSE co-spokesperson
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. "We want to speak directly to them, answer their
questions, take their criticisms and respond to them," he added.
The aim will be to disregard the media and reach people
where they are, he explained. CLASSE representatives plan to go to
public places, metro stations in Montreal and major events to meet the
people. "There may be some tensions, but if people can clearly see we
are there to discuss, most will be happy,"
As for the resumption of negotiations with the
government, CLASSE believes that the initiative must come from
Education Minister Michelle Courchesne, since it was she who ended them.
"We could easily resume the dialogue, but if the
government's position hasn't changed, we won't get any further than
time," he said. "If we are invited, we will go, but it's the
government's responsibility to convoke us," he added.
For its part, the Quebec Federation of University
Students (FEUQ), has
prepared new proposals to present to the Education Minister in
anticipation of a possible resumption of talks.
"We held several meetings this week with economists and
tax experts who have studied some solutions, before we give the
government other proposals," said FEUQ President Martine Desjardins.
The Quebec Federation of College Students (FECQ) held
its congress June 8-10. Following the conclusion of the FECQ's
meetings, Éliane Laberge, newly-elected president of the FECQ,
held a press conference to present the FECQ's plan of action for the
Laberge, President of FECQ
She began by reaffirming that the FECQ's main message
remains the same -- the tuition fee increase is not a viable option.
She then acknowledged the different actions in support of the student
movement, in particular the manifestations des casseroles, "have
allowed people to take to the streets, to unite with their
neighbours to say what it is they want for their future."
Elaborating the students' plan of action for the summer,
Laberge announced that mobilizations will start June 17-22, culminating
in the demonstrations in Montreal and Quebec City on June 22. This day
is being organized
in conjunction with CLASSE and the FEUQ. She
invited everyone to join in the rally as a way to kick off an active
summer of mobilizations.
She affirmed that the June 22 mobilization will be
tuition fee increase but also against the crisis provoked by the
Liberal government shutting out an entire generation of youth. The
objective, she added, is to demonstrate how the Charest government has
taken decisions that don't correspond with Quebec's
values. This will be achieved through events organized with community
organizations and MNAs from different regions, she explained.
Regarding the requests for mediation, she said that the
FECQ considers that "the crisis is still full-fledged. Perhaps the
student associations will want to continue the strike in mid-August.
The logical and responsible way to resolve the crisis is through
discussion. Mediation is also a responsible choice. We think
it's possible; it depends on the government's openness."
Referring to the violence and profiling in the recent
demonstrations surrounding the Montreal Grand Prix, she said, "It's
dangerous if Quebeckers are afraid to say what they think. It's one of
the government's worst faults -- not listening to the population. [...]
No one is comfortable with acts of violence. The message
is always better received without it. We also think that there is a
responsibility on the part of the police who are very repressive.
People should not fear violence when they want to express themselves in
In Quebec City, the Quebec City Regional Action Front of
the Association for Student Union Solidarity (FRAQ-ASSÉ)
supported by the Confederation of Students from Laval University
(CADEUL) are organizing a festive family demonstration on Saturday,
June 16. It will be the first of its kind in Quebec City.
"This big family demonstration aims to be a joyful and
inclusive rendezvous of anyone who is concerned with education and the
defence of our fundamental principles," said Émilie Tremblay,
"We have contacted the Quebec City police (SPVQ) to give
them the route, organizers' names, and to ask them to minimize as much
as possible their presence to avoid scaring the children and to
encourage everyone to join us," she added.
"With about 500 arrests [in Quebec City], the
population is scared to take to the streets to demonstrate its
discontent with the government's decisions. Confidence in law
enforcement is low. With this plan, we hope to reassure the people,"
explained Martin Bonneau, President of CADEUL.
Ten Thousand March in Montreal "Family Demonstration"
to Support the Students
On June 2, despite pouring rain, more than 10,000 people
took part in the "Family Demonstration" in Montreal called by the Broad
Coalition for Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE) to defend the right to
education and oppose the Charest government's Special Law. People from
all walks of life were there, with
teachers in particular making their presence known with a large banner
declaring their opposition to the tuition hikes, as well as their union
See the Friday, June 15 edition of TML Daily for further coverage of
actions across Quebec and Canada in support of the Quebec students.
Intensified Repression and Political
Charest Government Underscores Its Illegitimacy
Police detaining and
arresting people on the metro and at the site of the Grand Prix in
Montreal, June 10, 2012.
The past week has seen heightened state repression and
intimidation by the Charest government and its police against those who
are part of the student movement, all those who show their support for
the students' fight for the right to education or who oppose the
Special Law for its attacks on the rights of all.
Unable to give a political argument to justify their actions and
provide themselves legitimacy, Premier Charest and his Ministers have
continued to slander the students as violent in order to dismiss their
just demands, cover up the role of the police as the ones who incite
violence and create a situation to justify further
political repression. Over the weekend, police used the Grand Prix
race events in Montreal as an opportunity to intensify their political
profiling, stopping and searching hundreds of people who wore the red
square, had on red clothing or anything else deemed to be in support of
The Broad Coalition of
Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE) denounced the political profiling and
attempts at intimidation as illegal and called for an independent
inquiry into the hundreds of searches over the weekend and the last
four months of protests. "When a minister one day calls a red square
of violence and two days later you see hundreds of policemen searching,
stopping, detaining and arresting hundreds of citizens because they
wear the same square, I think we have to ask serious questions as
about the link between political power and the police forces," said
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, CLASSE
co-spokesperson. "It is absolutely necessary that full light be shed on
these troubling accounts. We must not accept that police arrest and
detain citizens under the pretext that they are wearing a political
symbol. The public has a right to know what has happened," he added. He
also said CLASSE is currently looking
into any and all recourse to expose the events.
CLASSE pointed out that the events in recent days are
part of a larger wave of political and police repression. "The Human
Rights Commission should examine not only the weekend's events, but
also the actions of the different police forces since the start of the
dispute. We're talking about brutality and mass
arrests at demonstrations, and also intimidation and illegal and
arbitrary searches of citizens wearing the red square. This cannot go
on," said Camille Robert, CLASSE co-spokesperson.
Similarly, President of the Quebec Federation of
University Students (FEUQ) Martine Desjardins stated, "We are highly
concerned that several arrests and searches were based on flimsy
pretexts, such as simply wearing a red square or being dressed in
black. I think this crosses a line."
Éliane Laberge, president of the Quebec
College Students (FECQ), concurred, saying police activities were
"completely disproportionate" to the situation. "It's normal to have a
police presence, but preventive arrests against persons wearing the red
square or who appear to be protesters, seems excessive
to me. People should feel at ease and comfortable to demonstrate and
express their views," she said.
Political Profiling, Repression and Arrests at Grand
A reporter from McGill
student newspaper Le Delit is
detained by police on June 10, 2012 despite having press credentials in
plain view; at right, a transit user is detained by police for 15
minutes for wearing a red square.
On Saturday, June 9, the Montreal Police (SPVM), the
Quebec Provincial Police (SQ) and their riot squads
waged particularly violent attacks against demonstrators. The police
had received marching orders to prevent demonstrators from getting
close to the Grand Prix race activities at any
cost. Twenty-eight arrests were made.
Many people wearing the red square were stopped,
searched or "preventatively arrested" in the metro or on the Grand Prix
site on Ile Notre-Dame. Two reporters from Le Devoir who put on the red square
on June 9 to verify if accounts of arbitrary arrests were true, were
arbitrarily arrested after being searched twice in the metro. After
extensive questioning they were directed to leave the site. A cameraman
arrested, his camera confiscated and its contents deleted.
"We don't know what the hell to do with these images," an officer said.
Other incidents included a woman with red hair being barred by police
from buying a ticket to attend the Grand Prix. A Canadian Press
reporter who didn't have a Grand Prix ticket was forced back into the
Arrests and systematic searches were also carried out
the following day, Sunday, June 10 at the Montreal Grand Prix on St.
Helen's Island. The SPVM carried out 34 "preventative
arrests" at the doors of the Jean-Drapeau metro station and
forcibly removed nearly one hundred people wearing the red square from
the Grand Prix site.
Despite the many eye-witness accounts of these activities of the
SPVM, Police Commander Alain Simoneau declared at a press conference on
Sunday afternoon, "I can guarantee that there was no discrimination
against anyone, people with red squares or without, students or not.
None at all!"
What criteria the police used remains to be seen. One woman who went to
Jean Drapeau Park with a friend for a picnic and was carrying a picnic
hamper stopped to ask some students what was going on whereupon she and
her friend were detained. After hours of sitting manacled in the hot
sun and on a bus, she started passing out from dehydration and had to
be transported by ambulance to the hospital.
To justify their arbitrary arrests and profiling of so-called
suspicious elements, the SPVM used Article 31 of the Quebec Criminal
Code which states, "the peace officer is justified in arresting any
person whom he finds committing the breach of the peace or who, on
reasonable grounds, he believes is about to join in or renew the breach
of the peace." Serious questions have been raised that the limits
inherent in Article 31 when acting under its auspices were transgressed.
The SPVM also said that nine other people were arrested
the night before in association with Grand Prix events, five of whom
are accused of criminal acts including assault, threats to police
officers and obstructing police.
Before the Grand Prix began, police had stepped up
attempts at intimidation of activists through early morning searches of
people's homes. On Thursday, June 7 at 6:00 am the SPVM
conducted eight searches -- seven on the island of Montreal
and one on the South Shore.
In Montreal the searches took place mainly in the
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhoods. In the
Plateau, a 19-year old woman, Yalda Machouf-Khadir, and her
boyfriend were arrested. Nima Machouf, Yalda's mother told police, "I'm
watching you to make sure you don't ransack
my home and humiliate my family and the neighbourhood."
She recalled, "Everyone was asleep. At 6:00 am the
doorbell rang. I
opened it and saw that something was happening. I saw several people.
They told me they had to question my daughter. I asked them for a
warrant and they showed it to me. I looked at it and said, 'OK, I will
get her.' They said 'No, we're coming in.'"
Later the same day, three events in support of the
student movement were held at the opening events for the Grand Prix.
The SPVM and the SQ who surrounded the site
didn't hesitate to attack demonstrators with chemical irritants and
truncheons. Twenty-seven people were arrested.
The next day, June 8, at the 46th consecutive night
protest, 12 people were arrested. Again the police used chemical
irritants against demonstrators.
Police violence near the
Grand Prix events in dowtown Montreal, June 7, 2012.
Since the start of the student strike, reports indicate
that more than 2,671 arrests have been carried out. The SPVM claimed
that as of June 1, since the start of the student conflict, it has made
1,595 arrests for criminal acts or violating laws. It is not clear
whether the discrepancy refers to people detained and released without
Meanwhile, the government continues to defame the
students as violent and those who intimidate and threaten. Minister of
Finance, Raymond Bachand, who attended the Grand Prix, reiterated on
that occasion that he had no intention of yielding to the students'
demands and that the conflict would be settled in the next general
election. "I am not the type to shy away from intimidation. Because the
day we start to give in to intimidation is the day democracy dies," he
said turning truth on its head since it is the government, not the
students, which has suspended civil liberties and refuses to negotiate.
It has shamelessly stuck to its self-serving and intransigent position
which continues to aggravate the situation.
The criminalization of the right to dissent and
collective and individual profiling of those opposing the anti-people
program of the Charest government raises the question of what the
Charest government is up to. Why won't it negotiate with the students
who have put forward alternative ways to fund the system of higher
education? Why does the government persist in its defamation campaign
to associate the students with violence when experience shows that
the police instigate attacks on peaceful demonstrators or bring agents
provocateurs, the students are intent on peacefully raising
political demands. TML
calls the attention of readers to the instructions received by the
police in Ontario on the occasion of the G8/G20 protests to help answer
these questions. (See TML
Project No. 22, June 2, 2012 for further discussion on the
significance of these developments.)
Hearings on Motions to Oppose Special Law Begin in
Quebec Superior Court
On Tuesday, June 12, the Quebec Superior court began
hearing the two motions filed by the Quebec Federation of College
Students (FECQ), the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ),
the Broad Coalition for Student Union Solidarity (CLASSE), the Quebec
Students Roundtable (TaCEQ), as well
as the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ), the Confederation of National
Trade Unions (CSN), Quebec House of Labour (CSQ) and the Congress of
Democratic Trade Unions (CSD). There are some 140 claimants from 70
organizations who are part of the two legal actions.
The lawyer for the Association for Student Union
Solidarity (ASSÉ), Giuseppe Sciortino, told the media during a
break that, "If this law is found unconstitutional a year from now,
there are people who will have been arrested and convicted although the
law was unconstitutional. That's why we are asking for
According to media reports, Sciortino argued before the
court that with this law, the Charest government has chosen not to
respect the students' democratic decision-making, but instead to negate
their right to strike, leaving them only the right to boycott their
classes. Despite the fact that this government treats the student
associations like trade unions and imposes the same responsibilities on
their members, it is stripping them of the rights accorded to trade
unions, he pointed out.
He added that the government's recourse to the courts
(rather than negotiating with the students), forcing a return to class
and giving itself the capacity to sanction offending student
associations through the Special Law, has given Education Minister
Michelle Courchesne the power to find students guilty of contempt
without a trial.
The lawyer said that the Special Law also gives police
arbitrary powers with regard to the right to demonstrate if they find
the schedule or route provided by the organizers unsatisfactory.
The second motion, which aims to invalidate the entire
law on the basis that it is unconstitutional, could be heard as soon as
Workers Denounce Special Law
South Shore Workers Speak Out
TML spoke with workers on Montreal's
South Shore about Quebec's Special Law that was passed on May
Forklift driver, Iberville: Charest is
everything he can to maintain power. He's only interested in
serving his rich friends. He thinks he can rise in the polls and
win the next election by attacking the youth. I don't know how they
conduct their polls [to find support for the Liberals is going up] but
up to now I haven't met anyone who supports the Liberals.
Truck driver: With this Special Law,
attacks everyone, not just the students. By taking away the
students' right to strike with the 50 plus one rule and picket
lines that respect the students' choice under the fraudulent
pretext of defending the right to education, Charest is preparing
to do the same to the workers. I'm sure of it. In my opinion, he
could put through a similar bill that modifies the labour code
and uses the same system of injunctions that was used against the
students, but under the pretext of the right to work. In that way
he could circumvent anti-scab laws.
Meat cutter, St-Hyacinthe: This situation
the October Crisis of 1970. At that time, the aim was to crush
the people's demand for Quebec's independence; today it's to
stifle our desire for political change and a change in the
direction Quebec should take. We all know this Special Law not
only affects the students but also threatens the workers with
what could happen if we don't accept to worsen our working conditions.
were already hit with injunctions and riot police at our last
strike in 2010. They want that to be the norm all over Quebec now
and any time the workers defend themselves.
Forklift driver, Iberville: Not being
wear masks doesn't make sense. It is the police who are covered
from head to toe with their helmets, gas masks and shields. A
truck driver from Blainville told me a good one the other day.
His son, who goes to Lionel Groulx CEGEP in Ste-Thésese, was
attacked by police last week. He said when you see parents
beating their kids you call the police. But when the police beat
your kids, who do you call?
Maintenance Worker, St-Hyacinthe: We have
rid of the Liberals, that's clear. But how? We can't just do
nothing and allow ourselves to be criminalized and turned into
slaves working for $10 an hour. We have to see how to renew the
unions and how to guarantee that we kick out Charest.
Meat cutter, St-Hyacinthe: As long as
Charogne" (carrion) is there, we will be in a state of constant
crisis. That guy really thinks Quebec belongs to him and that he
can give whatever he wants to his rich mafia friends. But with
the Special Law, he's plunging Quebec into the darkness of the
Duplessis era. It makes no sense. We can't go back there -- we
have to find a way out.
Railworker, St-Hyacinthe: The media has
dirty role, as usual. They sowed confusion to rally a bit of
public opinion to Charest's side. It's disgusting. During our
strike in 2010, we hadn't done anything but the media peddled all
sorts of lies about us -- that we were vandals and all sorts of
things. People looked at us like we were criminals. They're doing
the same to the youth. We can't accept this.
Technician, St-Damase: I think it's
we discuss together and not just keep to ourselves or we feel
powerless, like we're imploding. They want to scare us so we
don't support the youth. It won't work. Between defending our
youth, who are right to want to decide their future, or the
corrupt Liberal government, the choice is simple.
Artists' Crucial Role in Defence of Civil
Singer-Storyteller Declines National Order of Quebec
Singer/storyteller Fred Pellerin declined to
be named to the National Order of Quebec at a ceremony on June 6 in the
Legislative Council Chamber of the National Assembly.
In an open letter he outlined his reasons for declining
the honour. "I accepted this nomination without hesitation. Under the
present circumstances, however, my beloved Quebec -- on which I want
to build a vision for our children -- is mired in social crisis. I
think of going to Quebec City today to accept
this medal. One's deepest convictions are more important than awards.
[...] To set aside my convictions for the sake of this award would
besmirch [this honour]."
He added, "It so happens that the people who I am being
asked to honour as a member of the Order, are currently deep in crisis.
I would be disappointed with myself if I were to raise a glass to toast
these people under the current circumstances, when our very democracy
is being shaken to its foundation. My
heart follows my people and my people have no heart for such
Pellerin's concerns with the
political situation in Quebec were confirmed by Minister of Culture
St-Pierre's response to his rejection of this honour. She resorted to
repeating the government's slanders of the students and their
just demands as violent, underscoring the government's inability to
deal with the crisis on a political level. "[Fred Pellerin] has the
to wear the red square; we have freedom of expression, but we know what
the red square means. It means intimidation, violence and it also
blocks people from studying. For us that's what it means, and for a
large, large, large majority of Quebeckers, that's what it means," she
Artists Demand Public Apology from
Minister of Culture
Nearly 3,000 artists in the cultural community published
on June 13 a letter demanding a public apology from the Minister of
Communications Christine Saint-Pierre, for equating the wearing of the
red square with support for violence. Artists have given their support
to students since the early days of
the strike, including actors, directors, film makers, writers,
college and university professors, cultural journalists and
In their letter, the artists stressed that the
Minister's remarks are for purposes of playing politics and lowering
the level of debate.
The signatories emphasized that those who oppose the
government's vision are the ones that create a humanistic culture, a
culture which is "in opposition to the corporate culture that violates
freedom of thought."
They denounced the government's use of fear-mongering in
the name of establishing "order," pointing out that such methods "bring
to mind very bad memories of a not too distant past."
The artists denounced the violence perpetrated by the
government through "a police force that multiplies the acts of
brutality against peaceful demonstrators," and embodied in the
Minister's "lies and contemptuous words."
According to director Dominic Champagne, the Liberals
are leading a campaign of fear for political ends, one that is
reminiscent of the campaign in the 1970s when the aim was to "associate
the FLQ with the PQ to attempt to discredit anything that could be
progressive in Quebec."
Minister St-Pierre begrudgingly apologized on Wednesday
morning, June 13, but then returned to her offensive remarks
which reiterated the government stand justifying the suspension of
civil liberties based on its fabricated pretexts that the students are
"Nobody in Quebec can forget the violent acts that have
been committed in recent months. [...] I'm talking about threats,
intimidation, colleagues who have found gas cans in front of their
houses," she said.
She had nothing to say about the police brutality,
political profiling and mass arrests or the fact that too often claims
of weapons caches and such things loudly advertised by the police and
government have turned out to be nothing of the sort.
Comedians Raise Funds to Oppose Special Law
A group of 15 Quebec comics who call
themselves the Coalition of Outraged Comedians (CHI) has announced they
will participate in a fundraising performance to help finance legal
fees to challenge the Special Law. Their slogan: "There's nothing like
a comedian to show the farce has gone on too long."
"When the youth started taking to the streets, the
government didn't listen to them. I find this contemptible, not just
for the students but also for us," said Luce Rozon, one of the
"The government no longer listens to us. It is steering
the boat by itself and sneers at the rest of us on board. With the
Special Law [coming into force], the artists told us that we couldn't
let this pass and that we had to do this show, now," Rozon said.
"Between the red and green [squares], people will laugh
until they're blue in the face," he said and explained that the
performance was not directed against Gilbert Rozon [head of the
Just for Laughs festival who supports the Special Law -- TML Ed. Note],
manifs de casseroles
and against the Special Law.
The CHI performance will take place June 18 at 6:30 pm
at the Théâtre Saint-Denis. Tickets range in price from
$25.78 to $52.78 and are available here.
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