Despite nightly demonstrations, and a protest of 75 000 that took over streets in downtown Montreal for hours last week, Canadian media is pretty much on the same page that the anti-austerity, anti-petro-economy movement in Quebec, Printemps 2015, is not going to get very big.
The National Post, for example, published an article "Another 'Maple Spring'? Likely not" on March 25th and since then has been publishing stories mocking protesters and describing how the student strike is being shut down.
In the Globe and Mail, Konrad Yakabuski came out swinging in "Quebec students get a lesson in austerity" (March 30), saying "So far, there is no public sympathy for the striking students, who have been roundly ridiculed for their lack of focus." The Globe then neglected to cover the 75 000 people out in Montreal's streets on April 2, instead publishing a story on how the movement may be falling apart because of one internal argument in one prominent organization. A story and video of an Irish folk dancing festival in Montreal were also published. Today, the Globe managed to provide coverage of a large anti-austerity protest in the francophone metropolis of Paris, France.
English Canada might get the sense the movement is fizzling, or never took off. But this misses some widely unreported developments, including that:
- Yesterday after police came onto a major university campus, UQAM, and arrested people for enforcing strike mandates voted on at general assemblies, a bunch of UQAM professors got in between police and students, eventually leading to police leaving the premises
- Hundreds of students then held an occupation in the building lobby until police smashed in the doors and windows and forcefully removed people, then protests went out into the streets where police used pepper spray, rubber bullets, tear gas, batons and shields. Looking back at #occupationUQAM on Twitter gives a good sense of what happened
- The very next day, today, students are back disrupting courses with strike mandates. Meanwhile, the professors union at UQAM, as well as many students, are calling for the removal of the rector (president). The Minister of Education, Blais, stands with the rector.
- 28 000 students are still on strike
- Around 75 000 people got out on April 2 and shut downtown Montreal traffic down for hours in the middle of the day
- A massive gathering of the climate movement is happening in Quebec City this weekend coinciding with a Premier's meeting, and uh, the biggest proposed tar sands pipeline (Energy East) just got delayed 2 years through a combo of lawsuits from enviro groups, massive public pressure, and low oil prices. That movement is setting its sights higher than ever before, and starting to intersect more with the anti-austerity/neoliberalism movement
- Hundreds of community groups all over Quebec will be on strike May 1
- A lot of profs will be on strike May 1
- A bunch of union locals will be on strike May 1
- Tens of thousands more students will be on strike May 1
- Some McGill teaching assistants are on strike for the first day of exams
- The anti-capitalist demo on May 1 in Montreal, which always gets shut down quickly by police (sometimes with hundreds of arbitrary arrests), is going to be massive this year, likely way too big to shut down, for the first time, um, ever
- Public sector unions are also holding their annual May Day celebrations on May 1. 550 000 of those employees are in contract negotiations with the Quebec government and the two sides are nowhere close. They could go on a legal strike soon, rocking the province
- An all women & trans folks night demo in Montreal earlier in the week was going along peacefully then got broken up with teargas and pepper spray and flash-bang grenades and hitting. Add that to the government directive of reducing the number of abortions doctors can perform and people are all around pretty pissed (en beau tabarnak)
- The government continues to steadfastly refuse to engage with the movement, which while insulting is actually a great help to the movement
- The big confrontational student group ASSE (representing 80 000 students) is in full mobilization mode after tossing its executive for suggested a strategic withdrawl and end of the strike for the spring term
- There's a bunch of strategic talk of what could happen in the fall
- Uh ya, and the rhetoric of the IMF, the ex-President of Harvard Larry Summers and some Nobel Prize winners is all in line with that of the movement. And pretty much all the heads of universities in Quebec (except UQAM) are against the government's plans
So how is English media, the Globe & Mail for example, so quick to dismiss the movement and cover almost none of this? What does this acheive?
Update: The Toronto Star this afternoon (Thursday April 9) published a story "Protests at Montreal university breathe new life into student movement"