Magazine article New Internationalist

Québec's Maple Spring

Magazine article New Internationalist

Québec's Maple Spring

Article excerpt

From Sept-îles to Jonquière, the sound of the casseroles (pots and pans) protest is drowning out the political cant of Quebec's political class. Night after night, these potbeating protesters are bearing witness to a population nervous about official efforts to roll back North America's most advanced social sector. The sap of revolt from Quebec's 'maple spring' marks the first major rupture with the austerity agenda being imposed by Canada's neoliberal establishment.

It started quietly enough, with student dissent over attempts by Jean Charest's Liberal Party to increase university fees over the next few years. The government hung tough, assuming the students would quieten down and go back to class. They didn't, and the carré rouge (the little red square which has come to depict personal bankruptcy thanks to the French phrase carrément dans le rouge - squarely in the red) popped up more and more on shirts and skirts.

Montréal is the epicentre of the movement. The nightly demos, which involve thousands of students, are being met by increasingly repressive police measures, including kettling and mass arrests - resulting in heavy fines for both young students and their organizations.

As the size and scope of the protests grew during April and May, Charest responded by bringing in - literally overnight - a draconian law (Bill 78) that severely restricts the right to assemble and express political dissent. This only increased the numbers and militancy of the demonstrations, with the feeling of political estrangement spreading to other sectors of the population. …

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