All Posts Tagged With: "Montreal"
Student groups demand full public inquiry instead
The Quebec government has named a three-person panel to investigate events related to last year’s student crisis that made international news.
Public Security Minister Stephane Bergeron said the panel will study the actions of students and police during anti-tuition demonstrations that rocked the province.
Bergeron told a news conference Wednesday that he wants to ensure there is never a repeat of clashes like those seen during 2012′s so-called “Maple Spring.”
Protesters accused the police of numerous abuses — including arbitrary mass roundups and fines, indiscriminate pepper-spraying, and violations of mobility rights.
A number had been demanding a full public inquiry into police actions.
There were expressions of disappointment Wednesday from groups that said the new mechanism fell far short of what they had demanded, and would continue to demand.
The investigative body will have no power to subpoena witnesses, will do its work in private, and will be unable to point to offences by individual officers.
The government made it clear that any disciplinary measures against individual police officers would continue to be handled by the regular provincial police ethics committee.
The panel has been asked to analyze circumstances surrounding the protests and identify factors that led to the deterioration of the social climate.
It will cost $400,000.
“The government is interested in learning lessons from the 2012 crisis, a social crisis of such a magnitude that we can never let it happen in Quebec again,” Bergeron said.
Students took to the streets for months, and many shut down their classrooms. They were protesting a planned tuition increase of 77 per cent over five years in Quebec, which has the lowest university rates in Canada.
The protesters won a partial victory when the Parti Quebecois took office, scrapped the initial plan, and introduced a permanent tuition increase of 3 per cent a year.
The new group will examine techniques used by police and protesters, as well as the financial impact of the crisis. There will also be a study of how other jurisdictions deal with similar movements.
The group will deliver a report to the government, including recommendations, by Dec. 20. Bergeron said he plans to make the report public within six weeks of its delivery.
Bergeron appeared to already have drawn some conclusions about what caused the chaos.
He blamed the previous Liberal government for introducing Bill 78, a controversial anti-protest law designed to get students back to class. He also said the crisis would never have happened if the previous “Liberal party government” had not introduced such “excessive tuition hikes.”
The minister said it was the Liberals’ behaviour that brought thousands into the streets for near-nightly protests in Montreal and elsewhere in the province.
Bergeron said the panel will conduct its hearings in private, so that anyone wanting to testify could do so without fear of reprisals. The panel will accept written, audio and video testimony.
He said the panel will not intervene in cases already before the province’s police ethics committee, nor seek out people who might warrant charges.
Bergeron said municipalities and police had to adjust their tactics, given the unprecedented event and the need to maintain social peace and safety.
“The vast majority of Quebec police officers acted with professionalism, given the circumstances,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron said he encourages people who feel they were treated unfairly to file a complaint with the ethics committee. Some 200 complaints have already been filed with the body, which has the power to sanction officers.
The committee will be chaired by Serge Menard, a former Parti Quebecois public security minister and federal Bloc Quebecois MP. The other two posts will be held by ex-union boss Claudette Carbonneau and former judge Bernard Grenier.
Opposition parties blasted the plan.
They called it a waste of money. And they also questioned its impartiality, noting that the PQ and union movement had clearly supported and — in the case of the labour groups even funded — the protest movement.
Coalition party member Jacques Duchesneau, a former police officer, said the announcement left a “bitter taste” in his mouth.
He said there had been 711 student protests recorded in Quebec last year and there had only been arrests at one-third of them.
“Is it the police’s fault that people threw smoke bombs on the metro?” Duchesneau told a news conference. He was once chief of the Montreal police force.
“Is it the police’s fault that people threw bags of bricks on the tracks to stop the metro? Is it the police’s fault that people wanted to take over the (Montreal Formula 1) Grand Prix?”
He said he was fine with the idea of a study — but said it should have been done in a public forum, like a parliamentary committee, and been more neutral.
The government drew entirely different criticism from student protesters. They wanted a more muscular mechanism.
The more hardline student group, ASSE, said it would continue to demand a real public inquiry as well as an abandonment of all charges or fines levied against 3,500 people during the crisis.
“This is a far cry from the independent public inquiry on police behaviour, demanded by 91 Quebec civil-society groups,” said a statement from the group.
“We’re not asking Mr. Bergeron to share his reflections on social movements. This special committee should instead be weighing in on the actions of those who are supposed to be protecting us.”
-With files by Sidhartha Banerjee
Quebec ups oversight
The Quebec government has appointed an overseer to bring the finances of one of Canada’s top teaching hospitals under control in the face of a staggering deficit.
Government experts have tabled a report that says the McGill University Hospital Centre is headed toward a $61 million deficit by next March that could balloon to $115 million by adding non-recurring deficits to the total.
That deficit — larger than that of all other Quebec hospitals, combined — is only the latest bad news to hit the scandal-plagued institution.
The hospital has responded in a statement, saying it agrees with the findings and points out that it is in a period of transformation.
The devastating report cites risky real estate transactions that that were done without approval from the provincial Health Department or Montreal’s health and social services department.
More Quebec protests, oil debate & democracy at U of T
1. It’s that time of the month again. Several thousand students marched in Montreal Thursday to demand free tuition, despite already winning frozen tuition from the Parti Quebecois government. The demonstration was supported by the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, whose now-disbanded CLASSE wing was considered the most radical student group during the protests that shut down campuses earlier this year. Speaking of shutting down campuses, some students blocked certain entrances to the Université du Québec à Montréal on Thursday, reports the Montreal Gazette.
2. The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s annual general meeting drew a lot of angry voters who refused to approve the agenda at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting. While most AGMs are poorly attended, students waited in line for hours to get in to this one. Sam Greene, who heads of Trinity College, urged members to not approve the agenda unless the UTSU considers electoral reforms. Corey Scott, vice-president internal for UTSU, told The Varsity that the way students vote showed their “privilege.”
3. There is support among some of Canada’s premiers to ship Alberta oil to Eastern Canada. Two men whose provinces don’t have much oil themselves, Manitoba’s Greg Selinger and Nova Scotia’s Darrell Dexter, say they are interested, and Alberta’s Alison Redford and Quebec’s Pauline Marois agreed Thursday to examine the benefits and environmental effects of such a project.
Election speculation continues
With provincial elections looming, students in Quebec are back on the streets and making their voices heard. For the first time in weeks, thousands marched through downtown Montreal on Sunday to protest the provincial government’s proposed tuition hikes, the Gazette reports. Students have been protesting publicly for over five months, but the numbers had dwindled while students went home for the summer break.
While tuition hikes are the primary cause of the protests, students are also concerned about the government’s stance on environmental and economic policies, according to the CBC. In light of widespread speculation Quebec premier Jean Charest may call an election on August 1 for a vote in early September, student groups are trying to mobilize their followers to oust the Liberal Party.
“Our role will be to get out the vote. We think that if a larger number of young people go to the polls, we’ll have a government that’s more representative of Quebec society,” FECQ leader Éliane Laberge told the CBC.
The streets are quiet but plenty is happening
The nightly demonstrations against the Quebec government that crippled Montreal in the spring have dwindled to nearly nothing this summer. But that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Here are three important updates from the past few days:
1. Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUC), says that protesting students are now focused on defeating the Liberal government in the next election. (She also says the “strike” will resume when classes start up at 14 junior colleges (CEGEPs) and some universities on Aug. 17.) Pundits expect Premier Jean Charest to call a September election. At least the students and the government can agree on one thing—it will take an election to settle the dispute. See The Gazette.
Jun Lin’s suspected killer is back in Montreal
The main suspect in the case of the death and dismemberment of Chinese student Jun Lin returned to Canada aboard a military plane Monday evening.
News of Luka Rocca Magnotta’s arrival prompted wide coverage from the country’s news outlets. Tuesday morning’s headlines are all about the operation to bring Magnotta back and what’s next for the man dubbed “Canadian Psycho” by the European press. Here are just some of the details:
Security was tight at Montreal’s Mirabel airport, where “a large convoy of marked and unmarked vehicles” awaited. Magnotta disembarked from a Royal Canadian Air Force Airbus CC-150 Polaris just after 7 p.m. Monday from Germany, the Globe and Mail reported.
“To his parents, he was a loving and considerate son.”
The family of Jun Lin, a Concordia University student and alleged murder victim of Luka Rocco Magnotta, has released this statement:
As Jun Lin’s family, we would first like to express our deepest appreciation to different levels of both the Chinese and Canadian governments, the related embassies and consulates, the Montreal police, Concordia University, the Chinese community and many other kind-hearted people for their good will and humanitarian support for us at this exceptionally difficult time. Through the kindness of many people, we were able to arrive in Montreal at the earliest possible time.
Villeneuve tells students to go back to school
It’s Grand Prix weekend in Montreal, Quebec’s biggest annual event when 300,000 mostly wealthy people arrive and spend money.
As tourists arrived on Thursday, police “kettled” student demonstrators and arrested 20 people.
At a “naked protest” in the afternoon, they shouted “Formula One! Polluter! Sexist! Thief!,” reports National Post. Some marched in their underwear, some were topless and many covered their faces with veils or sunglasses. Rather than being scared away, tourists snapped photos.
John Geddes on Montréal
I admit I’ve always felt ambivalent about mass youth protest. I came along just after the Sixties generation, you see, and so my undergrad years fell in the early 1980s. My demographic coterie had heard about enough from our older siblings, high school teachers, and younger professors about changing the world by taking to the streets. It was getting a bit stale and sentimental. Pierre had rediscovered the virtues of a decent haircut. Phony Beatlemania had, we were given to believe, bitten the dust.
By the time the next round of serious street demos rolled around with the anti-globalization movement that hit the news big time with 1999’s “Battle of Seattle,” we were way past donning gas masks. Last year’s Occupy encampments forced some of us to alter our preferred dog-walking routes. I touch on all this to candidly frame the way I’ve watched, from afar, the Montréal protests: I can’t see my younger self in the images. So if my perspective seems detached to those, say, a decade older or younger than my 50 years, I think that could be partly a matter of my lack of nostalgia.
Forget tuition. It’s all about Law 78 now.
For the past five days, it has begun each night at around eight p.m. Thousands of people across the City of Montreal step out of their homes, into the street, and start banging on pots and pans.
On Friday night in Saint-Henri, southwest of downtown, I watched a small crowd gather at the local metro station. The protest seemed to have no organizers—most had just followed the sound.
It was the same story on Sunday in the Plateau. People on balconies and staircases banged on pots and pans. At one intersection, a couple families marched around in a little circle.
Students invaded hotel and set off “pyrotechnic device”
About 60 people who were part of a group demonstrating against tuition fees were arrested in Montreal today, reports The Canadian Press. Montreal Police said via Twitter that protesters engaged in mischief, including incidents at the Eaton Centre and Queen Elizabeth Hotel, where they overturned tables, broke dishes and set off a “pyrotechnic device.” Many student groups in Quebec are opposed to a tuition increase of $1,625 over the next five years. Some have promised to disrupt the economy if their demands aren’t met.
Thousands of students on strike
Montreal police arrested 37 protesters early Friday morning after they broke into and vandalized a college, the CEGEP du Vieux-Montréal.
“These people may face charges of mischief, assault, and armed aggression against a police officer,” Montreal police spokesperson Daniel Lacoursière told CBC News.
The late-night vandalism came after four arrests and the release of pepper spray on Thursday as protesters blocked access to the Montreal stock exchange and a nearby hotel, reports 680 News.
Thousands of post-secondary students are striking in Quebec. They’re skipping classes in order to protest a tuition hike of $1,625 over five years that begins this fall.
Why Montreal’s new research hospital is a billion dollars over budget and a decade behind schedule
Late last March, Quebec Premier Jean Charest went to the site where the Université de Montréal’s new teaching and research hospital will eventually be built. Mugging for the cameras, he dug a shovel into a pile of dirt. Finally, a groundbreaking to kick off construction of what has become the province’s most elusive medical facility? Of course not. That ceremony simply marked the start of the research-centre portion of the CHUM, as the project is known to Quebecers. And although officials boasted that it represented “a turning point” in the planned hospital’s tortured history—and while it may have been a relief for the provincial Liberals to see something resembling construction get under way—it’s unlikely many in the province will soon forget the countless delays and cost overruns that have marred the project over the years.
The Charest government promised in 2004 that 2010 would mark the end of the CHUM’s construction, not its beginning. Since then, nearly $1 billion has been tacked onto the original $1.1-billion price tag. And yet, more than 15 years after it was first proposed by Jacques Parizeau’s PQ government, the hospital is nowhere in sight. Revised estimates now put the end of construction at 2019, though the CHUM’s Annie-Carole Martel says the bulk of the work will be done by 2015, when 486 of the hospital’s 772 beds will be operational.
Robert Lacroix, the rector of the Université de Montréal from 1998 to 2005, blames the protracted debate over the hospital’s location for the delays that have turned it into a provincial laughingstock. “It’s inconceivable,” says Lacroix, the co-author of Le CHUM : une tragédie québécoise, published last fall, “that it would take 25 years to build a 700-bed hospital.” Until the Liberals came to power in 2003, the CHUM was destined for a lot in the Rosemont neighbourhood of Montreal, northeast of downtown, and was expected to be completed by 2007. The decision to put it there was made by the Parti Québécois government in 2000. According to Lacroix, there was pressure inside the new Liberal government to put the hospital elsewhere.
In 2004, a government-appointed commission headed by former prime minister Brian Mulroney and former Quebec premier Daniel Johnson gave voice to that pressure, recommending the province build the hospital in the heart of downtown Montreal and push back its deadline for completion to 2010. Lacroix, for his part, promoted a third alternative: an abandoned CP rail yard near the university’s main campus in Outremont, extending the debate over the hospital’s location into 2005. Charest himself was on board with the Outremont site, Lacroix insists, but the premier lost a power struggle inside his government to health minister Philippe Couillard, one of the chief proponents of the downtown site. “It’s a patent case of a project going adrift because of politics,” he says.
Couillard, who left politics in 2008, denied having so much influence in a letter published in La Presse last September. He dismissed Lacroix’s claims as a “sinister conspiracy theory.” One thing, however, is indisputable—the project now ranks among the most unwieldy in the province’s recent history.
Just before Christmas, the Liberal government announced it would push ahead with a controversial plan to have the facility built and operated by a private-sector company, which will be selected in March. Construction can then begin in earnest this spring. That’s the plan, anyway.
Another reason to prefer small universities is the access to full-time profs.
There’s a lot of talk these days about the disappearance of the tenured professor. We now regularly hear that most of the undergraduate teaching these days is done not by the experienced, expert, tenured professor, but rather by the “ill-paid, overworked lecturer.” When statistics are given, they are for the country as a whole, but those numbers, I suspect, paper over vast differences among different kinds of schools.
In my department, for instance, there are seventeen teaching positions in total. Of those, thirteen are full time and eleven of those are tenured or tenure-track. Of the four who teach part time, one works at the university in another capacity, another is a professional writer married to a tenure-track member. The third is employed elsewhere, and the last is a woman who has just finished her MA and is teaching part time while she applies for her PhD. They each teach the equivalent of one full course per year, generally in areas where the course offerings and enrollments cannot justify full-time positions. Overall, our under-paid part-timers teach about ten percent of our course offerings. Even if you include the full-time sessionals (who are paid using the same grids as tenure-track people, and who have similar benefits), around three-quarters of our courses are taught by tenured and tenure-track faculty.
To be sure, our part-time faculty members are not paid as much as full-time members, but, by the same token, they do not have non-teaching responsibilities either. They are not expected to maintain a research program, for instance, nor do they have to sit on the various committees, boards, and task forces that the rest of us do.
In other words, no “roads scholars” here.
The reason a university like mine does not employ an army of sessional instructors is not because we are superior in terms of virtue. It’s practical. We simply can’t. In Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal, there is a veritable sea of PhDs looking for work, and universities take advantage. In Cape Breton we only have the sea, not the PhDs, and to attract scholars we need to offer tenure-track — or at least full time — work. I suspect much the same situation obtains in Antigonish, and Brandon, and other small places removed from major centres.
So while at many universities, students can get through much of their degree without ever meeting a tenured faculty member, at a small school like mine, you can easily meet five of them the first week. There are some disadvantages to a small-town school, but laments about the state of “today’s university” ignore some of the real advantages.
Not only do striking Quebec students reveal tensions within the province, the action is disingenuous
103! That is the number of mice released into the office of Quebec premier Jean Charest in February 2005. The mice represented the $103-million in student grants that the Charest government had converted into student loans, thereby magnifying debt loads for many of Quebec’s poorest students. The stunt came at the onset of a student strike that lasted for several weeks and at one point counted over 200,000 student participants. The action had the immediate effect of convincing the government to give in. And it seemed that when Quebec students skipped class, the government was sure to listen. In fact, the tuition freeze enjoyed by Quebec residents since 1996, though recently lifted, was itself the result of a three-week student affair with the province’s streets.
Outside of Quebec, the spectacle of students marching in the streets and actually getting what they want, leaves student union activists in the Rest of Canada positively green with envy. Amanda Aziz, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students and former president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union has said that if she’d been a student activist in Quebec things would have been “easier.”
Getting students out to the provincial legislature once a year to bark about tuition is hard enough, but a student strike that lasts for weeks remains an unrequited dream outside of Quebec. Prior to the Ontario election, there were threats of a student strike if tuition wasn’t lowered. However, all that met that unheeded demand was tumbleweeds.
This week, the covetous eyes of student activists in the Rest of Canada will once again turn toward la belle province as student associations across Quebec prepare to strike in protest of the Charest government’s plan to raise tuition $100 a year in each of the next five years. Average tuition in Quebec reached just over $2,000 this year, while out of province students pay over $5,000 a year. In response, there will be three days of demonstrations across the province beginning tomorrow, with Thursday to be the biggest event in downtown Montreal.
But while the Quebec student movement appears united, it is in fact deeply divided. Moreover, the idea of a student strike is more than a little disingenuous.
The Association for Solidarity Among Student Unions(ASSE)has been pushing for action for months and had originally hoped for an unlimited province-wide strike with an initial start date of October 15. However, several ASSE members, particularly its CEGEP members, voted against an unlimited strike arguing the action is ideological, divisive and too soon after the 2005 strike. Though some were in favour of an unlimited strike such as the student association representing social science students at the University of Quebec at Montreal.
Having not met the threshold of student governments representing 25,000 students, which the ASSE had set for itself, the mostly French student government lobby group settled for the tamer three days of “strike.”
“We don’t want to be doing nothing this semester, so we decided to hold a few days of strike,” an ASSE spokesperson told the McGill Daily.
But the ASSE was emboldened last week, when students represented by student governments in favour of a strike grew to over 30,000.
“People just needed something to start the escalation of action,” another ASSE spokesperson told the McGill Daily.
But, that the ASSE is willing to call a three day protest a strike should confuse even the most dedicated of activists. A strike, as it is generally understood, entails picketing until a settlement is reached, not promising to skip school, placards firmly in hand, for a few days. In fact, the only apparent difference between tomorrow’s planned strike and a regular protest is that student governments sought mandates from students, whereas a protest could have been organized without such formalities.
Still, even an unlimited strike would be a misnomer — a weak attempt to link student governments with workers unions.
Whereas a workers’ strike has the potential to place pressure upon employers through the withholding of services, what does a student strike aim to withhold? The pleasure of seeing angry students walking the halls? Or perhaps the insightful commentary first-year students provide in a principles of economics class? Or is it the half-eaten portions of poutine strewn about the cafeteria that will be missed? Could the absence of students compel administrators or the government to enrol “scabs” to replace the truants?
Clearly, choosing to borrow union nomenclature and “going on strike” is meant to give a sense of political weight, a sense of radicalism, and a sense that students who “strike” are somehow more committed to the cause than those who simply “protest.” And that is dishonest. It is also the source of some of the divisions among Quebec student associations.
The ASSE has criticized the Federation of Quebec University Students(FEUQ), a moderate student lobby group, for stalling strike efforts. But, it is the FEUQ that has taken the more genuine approach as they bucked the temptation to call their protest, to take place one week after the ASSE event, a “strike.” Though both events will carry the moniker “day of action.”
And divisions don’t lie only along the political spectrum. There is also tension along linguistic lines. While the ASSE has struggled to get its mostly French-speaking members on board, the “movement” is even further behind in Quebec’s English-speaking universities.
On October 24, a group marched through McGill University carrying a coffin to symbolize the “death of accessible education.” And one protester complained into a megaphone that English students should follow their French counterparts. “Historically, anglophones have been lacking in the student movement in Quebec . . . In this situation, francophone students should serve as an inspiration,” the protester said. According to the McGill Daily “students in the cafeteria ate their lunches and looked on in silence.”
The Student Society of McGill University failed to meet their quorum requirement of 500 students, with at least 250 of those students being from a faculty other than Arts, and could not pass a strike vote on Tuesday. The over 600 students, of which only 218 were not liberal arts students, voted 80 percent in favour of supporting a day of action on Thursday. Though it is unclear how many students showed up to vote for a strike, or because they have been enticed by a group calling themselves Students Organized Against Protest(SOAP).
SOAP had a number of motions tabled, all centring around William Shatner, and include building a shrine to Shatner and giving McGill buildings Star Trek themed names. All the motions passed.
At Concordia University, things have been following a similar pattern. A strike vote was to be held at a general assembly for the Concordia Students Union last month, but there wasn’t even a chance of meeting quorum, as barely 100 students showed up. While a good many of the paltry 100 were there to support strike action, there was, according to the Link, some dissent: “When I talk to people they don’t care about the $100 increase,” one engineering student said. “The ‘60s are over, man.”
It is not difficult to see why the movement is languishing in Quebec’s English-speaking universities, as many of their students are from out-of-province, and are not privy to Quebec’s extraordinarily low tuition fees. Around 30 per cent of all first-year students entering McGill in 2005 were from out-of-province, while another 22 per cent were international students. That’s a lot of people to convince that it is in their interest for other students to avoid a $100 increase, while they themselves pay more than double.
While student associations “representing” 30,000 students have agreed to take part in what bored education reporters can only hope will be mayhem in Montreal, it will be interesting to see if students themselves participate in numbers greater than an intro to psych class at McGill. More interesting will be to see how much the support for this week’s events would extend to an unlimited strike.
In fact, stopping to think about it begs the question: are demonstrations such as these even in students’ interests? Students are not being paid to provide a service, they are paying for a service. Is a $100 increase worth missing valuable class time and threatening your grades over?
At best, a student strike could be considered a consumer boycott. But if so, it is a boycott of a very strange variety. Given that the vast majority of students have already paid their fees this boycott is akin to refusing to use your internet service after you’ve already had it installed and paid the bill. You just wouldn’t do it because no one would care. Besides, would you boycott health care because the government allowed the introduction of user fees?
If the demonstrations in 1996 and 2005 were successful, it is because they were successful protests and nothing more. Calling a protest a strike may convince activists that they are indeed being radical, but it doesn’t make it so. It does, however, make it painfully obvious that entrenched within the student movement is dishonesty. Or, if you prefer to give the benefit of the doubt, delusion.