All Posts Tagged With: "parti quebecois"
PQ’s Drainville cites “security concerns”
MONTREAL – The Quebec cabinet minister responsible for the government’s proposed charter of values pulled out of a debate on the topic Thursday because of security concerns.
Bernard Drainville said he had no choice but to cancel his presence at Montreal’s Concordia University because there was a real risk it could get out of control.
The Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia had promised to protest outside the event, describing the charter as ”xenophobic.”
Drainville said he decided not to take part in the debate because members of the group refused to commit themselves to keep the peace.
Student groups, police unions boycott hearings
The head of the Quebec government-appointed commission looking into the 2012 student protests has sought to reassure its critics with a promise to remain apolitical.
The commission has begun its work under a cloud of suspicion, with different sides in the historic student dispute expressing equal disdain for the project.
Student groups have indicated that they will boycott the panel’s hearings, which began Monday. Police-officers’ unions won’t take part either.
And the Opposition Liberals, who were in government during the memorable protests, have also said they’ll boycott what they describe as a political masquerade.
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
If this province doesn’t grow up, I might leave
As a Montrealer of Greek origin who is fluent in Greek, French and English, I look at Quebec and all the incidents that have occurred in the past few months and I ask myself this one, simple, question: what the hell is going on?
But there’s another question Anglophones and Francophones should be asking themselves: why can’t we embrace bilingualism in this province? Why can’t we accept that Quebec is a province of two official languages and both will be equally represented from now on? Why do we insist on pointing fingers at each other and accusing the other side of undermining the other’s language?
Since the election of the PQ government, things have seriously worsened. The Office quebecois de la langue française found new life after receiving unnecessary funding from the provincial government and put it to absolutely no use by attacking restaurants like Buonanotte, ultimately making fools of themselves and of the PQ in the process. These are old-school techniques that the younger, more open-minded generation of Quebecers simply doesn’t appreciate.
Leo Bureau-Blouin’s office hit with red paint
A former leader within Quebec’s student movement is taking flak from some of his old allies now that he’s an elected politician and tuition fees are going up.
Leo Bureau-Blouin, who was elected last fall under the Parti Quebecois banner, says he’s gotten threats and attacks on a Facebook page he uses to publicize a monthly meeting with constituents.
Some of the posters on the page called him a “loser” and “traitor.”
Bureau-Blouin’s constituency office was targeted in protests earlier this week and had red paint splattered on it during the night.
Premier Pauline Marois announced at the end of a summit on education on Tuesday that the government was rejecting calls for a tuition freeze. Instead, fees are being hiked three per cent in accordance with the cost of living.
That’s about $70 per year.
Protest proves Quebec tuition debate is far from over
Sure enough, a young man in front of me turned around, his face contorted, hands clasped over his ears. Yes, that was a stun grenade.
Thousands of protesting students, led by the radical Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), clashed with cops in the east end of Montreal and got pepper spray, tear gas and stun grenades in return on Tuesday afternoon following Quebec’s big education summit.
Across town at the summit, the collegial attitude of the moderate Fédération Etudiante Universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) student factions was greeted with handshaking and the imposition of a year three per cent tuition hike.
The protesting students in the east end chanted, “Parti Quebecois: Parti Bourgeoise!” They denounced erstwhile student leader cum PQ golden boy Léo Bureau-Blouin who ditched FECQ* for a seat in the National Assembly. They mocked former ally, now premier, Pauline Marois. They demanded the abolition of tuition fees.
Quebec premier says confrontations are “behind us”
Without the salvos of snowballs pelting police, the chunks of ice flying through the air, and the officers chasing protesters across a snowy plaza, this could easily have been a scene lifted from the “Maple Spring.”
The clash in downtown Montreal was a mid-winter twist on the student demonstrations that shook the city on a near-daily basis last spring and summer.
Thousands of people marched through the streets Tuesday in a protest that coincided with the end of Quebec’s summit on higher education.
This time, protesters were venting at a different government.
The two-day summit saw the newly elected Parti Quebecois announce three-per-cent-a-year tuition hikes. The PQ’s new fees are significantly lower than the ones proposed by the previous Liberal government — about one-fifth as much.
Politicians’ offices vandalized
Quebec’s long-awaited education summit kicked off under heavy security Monday, a year after a student crisis rattled the province.
Steel crowd-control barriers, a gauntlet of security checkpoints and bag searches greeted participants at the Montreal building housing the two-day event.
Inside the venue, the discussions were courteous. School administrators, politicians, student leaders and social groups outlined their visions for Quebec’s post-secondary education system, talks that explored topics such as university funding and financial aid for students.
Outside the building, police officers circled the neighbourhood on bicycle, sat in vans packed with riot gear and discretely kept watch over the area from the shadows of residential doorways.
The streets around the hall were quiet, however, except for a small group of professors protesting tuition-fee hikes Monday.
It was in stark contrast to the months of massive, nightly protests that consumed Montreal last year in a student crisis sparked by the former Liberal government’s plans to hike tuition fees. The student movement dubbed itself the Maple Spring.
Student group says there won’t be second ‘Maple Spring’
Not even the most militant of Quebec’s student federations expects this week’s education summit to plunge the province into another Maple Spring.
Quebec gained international attention last year when a dispute over proposed tuition hikes boiled into a months-long uprising.
The unrest, dubbed the Maple Spring, saw thousands of protesters swarm Montreal streets night after night. The crisis eventually faded away, in part because the Liberals lost power and the incoming Parti Quebecois government cancelled the tuition increases.
The PQ stickhandled its way through the perilous political issue, during the election, by promising to come up with a new tuition policy at an education summit.
Some students are feeling disillusioned and boycotting the two-day summit, which starts Monday, because they believe the new government has tuned out some of their ideas.
The ranks of the restive, however, appear smaller than last year.
“We are aware… that there will not be a new Maple Spring,” said Blandine Parchemal of the ASSE student federation, one of the more militant groups within the movement.
“The Maple Spring is over.”
The once-powerful ASSE, led by its charismatic former spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, suffered several setbacks last week after it failed to gather support on a strike vote from a number of its associations.
The most symbolic setback came at a college near Montreal known as a bastion of activism, which was the first school to declare a strike last February in an event that kicked off the movement.
This time, College de Valleyfield not only voted against the strike, it tabled a motion to disassociate itself from ASSE.
That doesn’t mean the tuition divide between students and the government has disappeared.
One of the major sticking points is the PQ government’s intention to freeze rates, which are the lowest in Canada, but to introduce small increases indexed to inflation.
Some student federations that made up last year’s protest movement have drawn a line in the sand at an absolute tuition freeze.
They say they refuse to accept indexation.
ASSE, meanwhile, decided to boycott the summit completely over the government’s refusal to debate the group’s desire for zero tuition.
They view free university as an achievable goal, if only policy-makers would make it a priority like in many other jurisdictions. Former premier Jacques Parizeau, who as a young civil servant in the 1960s helped build the province’s university network, expressed support for their cause.
The federation is now planning to take its battle back into the streets. ASSE has planned to stage a protest Tuesday outside the summit venue.
With memories of last year’s clashes with demonstrators, Montreal police pledge to be present in large numbers and will maintain a security perimeter around the summit’s building.
Student associations representing junior colleges and universities affiliated with ASSE have also voted to hold a one-day strike on Tuesday.
But any protest revival from within ASSE faces an uphill climb. Several of its member unions voted last week against the strike, including those from some of the most militant schools during last year’s uprising.
“There’s a lot of exhaustion,” said Parchemal, ASSE’s secretary of academic affairs. She was referring to the compressed, intensive academic schedules students have had to endure after the 2012 strikes cancelled sessions.
She maintained, however, that the associations that voted against the strike still oppose indexation and support free tuition. Parchemal added that some schools that voted against strikes last year, actually supported the most recent one.
That stood in contrast to places like College de Valleyfield — where the vote was 366 against the strike and 124 in favour of it, said a student-union representative.
“We didn’t expect to be crushed like that,” said Cedrick Mainville, himself a supporter of the strike.
He blamed the loss on student fears that a Yes vote would lead to a prolonged strike like last year.
ASSE’s approach is much different than that of FEUQ, the largest student group in the province. The organization, which says it represents 125,000 students, plans to take its concerns to the summit’s negotiating tables rather than into the streets.
FEUQ president Martine Desjardins believes the student movement still has many potential avenues to explore before presenting a strike vote.
“Before that, you need to prove that you’ve tried everything that you could,” said Desjardins, who led FEUQ during last year’s protests.
When asked if students in her federation would be prepared to strike over indexation, she said it’s too early to know.
“We’re not planning strikes, for example, in two weeks,” she said. “It will take much more time to convince students to ramp up the pressure.”
Desjardins disagrees with ASSE’s decision to boycott the summit, a step she believes could hinder the process.
Last year’s student unrest was ignited by opposition to the Liberal government’s proposal to boost tuition rates by $325 per year, over five years. The government later tweaked the planned increases to $254 per year, over seven years.
Even though the hike still would have left Quebec with some of the lowest tuition in Canada, many students insisted they opposed the increase out of principle.
Some demanded a freeze to keep fees from inching closer to the higher rates in other provinces. Others called education a right that should be free, just like in some European countries.
The Marois government appears to be aiming for the middle ground with indexation, somewhere between a freeze and the increases proposed by the former Liberal government.
A recent poll suggested the PQ’s middle-ground indexation solution had strong public support.
That’s a far cry from the spring, when the PQ’s early alignment with the protesters — such as wearing red squares in the national assembly and banging on pots and pans in the streets — came to be viewed as a political liability.
But the PQ did take some steps to try distancing itself from the protesters in the weeks before the election.
It ditched the red squares, and started side-stepping questions about its own tuition policy by promising a summit.
Now that the moment has arrived, university administrators worry the meeting won’t address the serious issues they say are facing post-secondary institutions.
Relations between the PQ and the universities are already strained after the government announced a $124-million cut to universities in December, midway through the fiscal year.
Universities have gone on the offensive in the lead-up to the summit. At one of a series of town hall meetings, McGill University’s provost called the cuts “an unprecedented attack” on higher education.
Alan Shepard, president of Montreal’s Concordia University, said he’s concerned the summit will get bogged down in the debate over tuition fees and proposals like that one won’t see serious discussion.
Even with an increase tied to inflation, Quebec universities would remain woefully underfunded, he said.
“The difference is substantial when you compare the financing we have per student compared with the rest of Canada,” he said in an interview.
One idea being floated by Shepard and others is to introduce differential fees based on the subject, so that a student in dentistry or law school would pay substantially more than a history student.
If the funding issue isn’t somehow addressed, Shepard said Montreal risks losing what he called an “enormous jewel” – a hub for research and student learning at its four major universities.
Universite de Montreal rector Guy Breton said post-secondary institutions now realize they need to do a better job explaining their role. Last spring, he felt they were drowned out in a debate dominated by students and the government.
“The student message was two letters — n-o,” he said.
“Ours is much more complicated.”
—Andy Blatchford and Benjamin Shingler
The Twitter generation is engaged and deserves a say
Should 16-year-old Canadians be allowed to vote? The Parti Québécois thinks so. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, speaking in London, hinted as much following a quiet meeting in Scotland with First Minister Alex Salmond, whose governing Scottish National Party plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the country’s 2014 referendum on independence.
Members of Marois’ party have indicated their support for lowering the age to 16 in the past, and countries like Austria, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have made similar decisions over the years to combat flagging voter turnout. Considering young people are the biggest drag on Canada’s overall decline in turnout, it’s something we should consider nationally too.
Elections Canada reported 38.8 per cent turnout among people age 18 to 24 in the May 2011 federal election, well below the 75.1 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 who voted. Considering the under-25 set is told from the get-go that they’re apathetic, this isn’t surprising. Civics courses don’t help: I drudged through Ontario’s— a well-known online bird course at my high school.
Liberal candidate weighs in on language bill and free tuition
Liberal leadership favourite Justin Trudeau waded Tuesday into two areas of provincial policy, at one point even taking shots at the Parti Quebecois government, while visiting Quebec.
Trudeau offered his opinions on Quebec language legislation and on tuition fees, while also reiterating his promise to increase federal involvement in education.
He delivered speeches and answered student questions at three schools on Tuesday, two of them English institutions and one French.
The crowds were similarly large at every stop — but the level of warmth of the reception varied from one official language to the next.
At the English-language Dawson College students asked him to sign autographs and pose for photos after the event. At the French-language Universite de Montreal later in the day, he was grilled on the Constitution and one student approached him afterward to debate the subject.
His first stop of the day took him to his alma mater, McGill University, where he offered indications that a Trudeau prime ministership would be a marked departure from a Harper era defined by a hands-off approach to provincial issues.
It may become more difficult to attend English CEGEPs
English-rights activists in Quebec are raising concerns about a proposed new language law they say infringes on their rights.
The new law is intended to build on Quebec’s landmark language legislation, Bill 101, to strengthen French language in the province.
But protesters, who gathered outside Premier Pauline Marois’ office on Sunday, say they feel under attack by the Parti Quebecois government. The group is worried about new rules designed to encourage French in small businesses, municipalities and post-secondary education.
Many waved Canadian flags and wore toques featuring the Maple Leaf as they stood on a frigid downtown street corner. As the demonstration wound down, the protesters broke into a rendition of O Canada.
“We still belong to the country of Canada and we still have our rights,” said Christopher Rose, a 27-year-old Montrealer.
“There shouldn’t be any quarrels here in Quebec… There’s nothing wrong with being bilingual, there’s nothing wrong with English, and there’s nothing wrong with French either.”
PQ youth want tuition frozen then eliminated
Quebec student groups didn’t get along well with the province’s Liberal government — and now things don’t seem too rosy with the ruling Parti Quebecois.
The two sides appear to be at odds over tuition rates in the lead-up to a summit on post-secondary education.
PQ Premier Pauline Marois says she wants to reduce the student debt load, but won’t rule out a tuition increase tied to inflation.
But many student groups are pushing for a freeze on tuition rates.
Huge protests erupted last spring over the former Liberal government’s planned increases, with thousands of students taking to the streets.
Marois scrapped the increases after the PQ took power in September.
At a PQ delegate meeting in Drummondville, Que. on the weekend, Marois faced some pressure from the youth wing to further reduce tuition rates.
Bully arrests, a sexist scientist, Bob Rae & The Bachelor
1. Eight girls in London, Ont. have been arrested over allegations of bullying at a high school.
2. This comes on the same day that more than 40 vigils are expected around the world to honour Amanda Todd, the B.C. teen who committed suicide after struggling with years of bullying.
3. A scientist from the University of Chicago posted a really dumb statement on Facebook after the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience: “There are thousands of people at the conference and an unusually high concentration of unattractive women. The super model types are completely absent. What is going on? Are unattractive women particularly attracted to neuroscience? Are beautiful women particularly uninterested in the brain? No offense to anyone..” Suffice it to say that offense was taken.
4. The dreaded premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may be a myth, according to University of Toronto researchers. They say that although the cramping, bloating and headaches are real, society overemphasizes the relationship between mood swings and menstrual cycles. (Maybe those perceived bad moods instead have something to do with male scientists’ Facebook posts?)
Lack of national news doesn’t meet licence mandate: study
A long-standing complaint concerning Quebec navel-gazing by the CBC’s French-language news service has been revived as the national broadcast regulator considers Radio-Canada’s licence renewal.
Sen. Pierre de Bane, a former Liberal cabinet minister under prime minister Pierre Trudeau, commissioned an exhaustive research study that suggests Quebec television viewers may be getting an “unrepresentative image of the Canadian reality.”
A scientifically vigorous sample of 2010 newscasts on Le Telejournal, taken by a Carleton University researcher, found that 42 per cent of the coverage focused on Quebec, a third dealt with international news and just 20 per cent covered Canadian “national” news.
A Bieber fan attacked, James Franco & #RIP Amanda Todd
1. A Vancouver Justin Bieber fan had her night nearly ruined. Simran Mann wrote her name inside a heart with a Bieber reference on a pillar outside Rogers Arena. The problem was that pillar was a memorial for Canuck’s player Rick Rypien. Hockey fans tracked her down on Twitter and unleashed a fury: “Please hang yourself, so I can destroy your grave,” wrote one. Ouch.
2. Speaking of the Canucks, Kevin Bieksa and Daniel Sedin will play a charity game at UBC on Oct. 17. Both men are angry that sold-out tickets are being re-sold by scalpers on Craigslist.
3. Canadians are standing up against bullying with the hashtag #RIP Amanda Todd, in honour of the 15-year-old B.C. girl who killed herself after releasing an anti-bullying video on YouTube.
Cancellation of hike isn’t enough for them
One Quebec student group says that with tuition hikes officially off the table, it will now champion the idea of free education.
The new Parti Quebecois government scrapped a controversial increase in post-secondary tuition fees this week and a hardline student group is now turning to free education as its long-term goal.
CLASSE, which speaks for 100,000 Quebec students, says free education is entirely achievable and used a march attended by several hundred people on Saturday to highlight the issue.
“Our struggle for accessibility to higher education is not yet over,” said Jeremie Bedard-Wien, a spokesman for CLASSE.
Free education is not a position that is shared by the province’s two other major student associations and with the proposed hike by the former Liberal government formally cancelled, Quebec has the lowest tuition in the country again.
Price will return to $2,168
The tuition increase that triggered such social strife in Quebec was cancelled Thursday during an action-packed first full day in office for the Parti Quebecois government.
The new government repealed the fee hike, by decree, in its first cabinet meeting less than 24 hours after coming to power.
Student leaders cheered the news.
“Together we’ve written a chapter in the history of Quebec,” said Martine Desjardins, head of the more moderate university student association.
“It’s a triumph of justice and equity.”
Freshman 15, politics in the classroom & anger at OCAD U.
1. Yesterday there was a flash sale from Chartwells at the University of Prince Edward Island during which poutine was 50 per cent off for a few hours. Cadre reporter Josh Coles took on the breaking news assignment: “This poutine was weighty. Heavy. Thick. I would compare its weight to that of a litre of chocolate milk,” he wrote.
2. The poutine and chocolate milk diet seems like evidence for that legendary Freshman 15 weight gain, but another study suggests the weight gain isn’t really 15 pounds. Researchers from Auburn University in Alabama showed that the Freshman 15 is really more like the Four-Year 12. After four years at the college, students in the study had gained an average of 11.7 pounds.
3. Homecoming will likely make a homecoming next year at Queen’s University after students finally behaved in public with just 12 arrests over the weekend compared to 124 in 2008. In an email sent Monday to the Queen’s community, Principal Daniel Woolf wrote that he’s working with “various members of our community, including alumni, to plan for the potential safe return of fall reunions in 2013.” The University Council asked Woolf to reinstate the tradition, which was barred after many years of alcohol-related arrests. See The Perils of Drinking on Canadian Campuses for more.
PQ says it will index tuition to rate of inflation
Quebec student leaders are ready to face off against any plans the newly elected Parti Quebecois may have to increase tuition fees.
Students claimed a cautious victory after premier-designate Pauline Marois promised to reverse tuition increases for college and university students.
Less than 24 hours after the PQ won a minority in the Sept. 4 election, Marois announced she would undo the hikes introduced this year by the Liberal government of outgoing Premier Jean Charest.
For now, the near-daily protests in Montreal have come to a halt.
The downtown park where hundreds, and often thousands, of protesters gathered nightly for marches over the past few months has gone quiet. Classes have resumed at Quebec’s junior colleges and universities.