All Posts Tagged With: "quebec"
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.
Anti-tuition protests became riots
MONTREAL – Quebec provincial police say they underestimated the threat level at a student demonstration that turned into a riot last year.
Marcel Savard, the force’s assistant director, told a commission looking into the student protests of 2012 that police underestimated demonstrators outside a provincial Liberal meeting in May 2012.
He also confirmed fences erected to keep demonstrators away from the gathering in the central Quebec town of Victoriaville were inadequate and there was a breakdown in the communication of intelligence information.
Savard said police have learned valuable lessons from the experience.
He said maintaining the peace is a shared responsibility between police and demonstrators and that such weapons as rubber bullets were not used indiscriminately.
Students protested last year in opposition to tuition fee increases imposed by the provincial government, which argued fees had not been raised in years. Many demonstrations were held in Montreal and some of them turned violent.
Montreal Police spent $17 million on overtime
MONTREAL – The head of a Quebec government-appointed commission looking into the 2012 student protests hopes his inquiry helps future demonstrations take place peacefully.
Serge Menard, a former public security minister, today kicked off public hearings by saying the events of last spring led to a crisis of confidence regarding police.
He says that, according to the information collected, the public seems skeptical about measures in place to take disciplinary steps against officers.
The raucous protests were staged against tuition increases by the former Liberal government, which were eventually pared back when the Parti Quebecois came to power.
Prof. Pettigrew on religious accommodation
Every Friday, my university cafeteria serves fish and chips. I’m not a big fan of fish and chips myself, so I don’t particularly look forward to it, but it does always make me pause and recall the ways in which even generally secular universities often hold on to their religious pasts.
The fish and chips, of course, descend from the days when Catholics were expected to avoid meat on Fridays, itself a remnant from older practices of fasting ahead of the sabbath.
Even as one whose views of religion at universities ranges from the skeptical to the hostile, I can’t get too worked up over these last vestiges of religion in public funded schools. I doubt very many people even realize why they serve fish on Fridays and, someday, they likely won’t.
But tolerating the not-quite vanished traditions of a dying tradition is one thing: encouraging faith-based observances at a public university is quite another.
And so it was with some concern that I noted that the University of Regina has gone so far as to install special sinks to facilitate the washing that observant Muslims do in preparation for their prayers. U of R has also created a dedicated prayer space for Muslims as well.
Protesters blocked Marc-Antoine Dumas from classes
Marc-Antoine Dumas, a former Laval University student, has won $1,220 in small claims court from his former history students’ association to cover lost tuition fees after he was repeatedly blocked from attending his classes by protesters last year and forced to drop his semester, reports CBC.
Student groups across Quebec held meetings last spring to vote on whether to skip classes and join widespread protests (which they called strikes) against a tuition hike of $1,625 over five years. Because student leadership was in favour of joining the protests, those opposed faced hostility at the meetings where students voted by show of hands. Most didn’t attend, but that didn’t stop groups like the Concordia Students’ Union from declaring themselves “on strike,” encouraging protesters to block whoever tried to attend classes. The CSU’s strike vote included only about five per cent of undergraduates. Dozens of protesters blocked students who tried to write their final exams there.
In his ruling, judge Daniel Bourgeois wrote that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not give students a right to strike. “In fact, nowhere in the law does one find clauses that allow for the triggering of a strike vote or powers that compare to the rights granted to unions,” he added.
Students critique coverage of Quebec, Occupy movements
The Quebec student strike of 2012, also known as the Maple Spring, generated global headlines and led to the cancellation of large tuition increases. The sometimes violent protests also raised questions about how the media covers student-led movements. In the Quebec case, many students gave the coverage a failing grade.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the most visible leader of the Quebec movement, says that at one point bodyguards accompanied some journalists covering the protests, because students were so angry about coverage they saw as shallow or biased, that reporters worried for their safety.
“After 20 weeks, people were very angry,” recalled Nadeau-Dubois, who served as the chief spokesperson of the student group CLASSE. “They were being beaten by the cops and they were not being listened to by the government,” he added, “so they turned against the journalists.”
Yalda Machouf-Khadir named in ransacking suit
There are more legal problems for the daughter of a prominent Quebec politician who already faced charges following last year’s raucous student protests.
Yalda Machouf-Khadir, the daughter of Quebec solidaire’s Amir Khadir, is among six protesters being sued by the Universite de Montreal for a group total of $100,000 in damages.
The university is seeking compensation after a security guard was injured and dozens of rooms at its campus were vandalized on April 12, 2012.
Court documents say it started off as a peaceful protest by Quebec student associations fighting tuition increases.
But they say there was a deliberate plan to ransack the university, hatched by a number of individuals who did not belong to the student groups.
Windows were shattered and doors were smashed when about 300 protesters forced their way into the university.
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.
Bylaw bans masks, requires itinerary for demonstrations
A philosophy professor who famously wore a panda costume to lighten the mood throughout last year’s Quebec student protests has found a new cause.
Anarchopanda, the unofficial mascot of the Quebec student strikes, has completed a fundraising campaign to contest fines levied against protesters in recent months.
More than $31,000 has been raised according to Anarchopanda — whose real identity is Julien Villeneuve, a philosophy professor at the College de Maisonneuve.
He became a local celebrity during the student strikes where, clad as the bamboo-munching bear, he peacefully marched with students, offered hugs to police, and spread the authority-resisting gospel of anarchism.
Although the strikes ended last year, the most committed core of protesters carried on this spring. First they fought the smaller tuition hikes introduced by the Parti Quebecois and, lately, have been contesting an alleged crackdown on civil liberties.
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
Prospective students worry about disruptions
Almost a year ago, I was a prospective student touring McGill University for the first time. I remember the excitement, the nerves and the shock of seeing more than 100 people protesting on campus. For the dozen or so students on my tour, it was our first impression of McGill and, to be honest, it was a bit of a deterrent.
I recall a parent on the tour asking how disruptive the protestors were for classes. It was a serious concern of his and many others. Of course, we were assured that it was not disruptive at all and that the protests had very little to do with McGill. That alleviated the concern in my mind, but I’m sure that it was not the case for others.
In the past few months, I’ve been receiving emails from friends back home in Vancouver who are currently in their graduating year of high school and are now attempting to navigate the confusion of choosing a university. While I’ve gotten the classic questions—“How are the professors?” and “What’s the nightlife like?”—the one theme that keeps coming up is Quebec’s student movement. My friends’ concerns include not only how protests affect classes, but whether they are violent or too intense. I have assured everyone asking these questions that the protests are not an issue; they stay out of McGill’s way, they are not violent and they do not affect the classrooms.
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.
What students are talking about today (March 20th)
1. Students at the University of British Columbia celebrated cycling culture with electronic music and glow sticks at the UBC Bike Rave on Friday night. It was organized by student residence advisors and was funded by a community grant. Unlike the drug-fuelled all-night parties of the 1990s that inspired the bike rave, this one was, according to The Ubyssey, “good clean fun.”
2. A student writing in The Varsity at the University of Toronto reports that the stress seminar she attended is a sorry excuse for counseling. “I had hoped that this “Coping with Stress” workshop, run by U of T’s Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) would help me, but instead it left me frustrated and angry,” writes Amanda Greer. “After a hard first semester, I approached CAPS about meeting with a counsellor. I was told there was a four month waiting list and to start looking for other options.” She points out that despite much discussion about the mental wellness of Canadian students, including in a recent cover story in Maclean’s, students often can’t access the one-on-one counselling. It’s a shame, but I think the explanation is obvious: tight budgets.
Bottles and chunks of ice thrown at police
People who thought they’d seen the last of the nighttime protests in Montreal streets against tuition fee increases heard the familiar drone of police helicopters over the city core Tuesday night as the noctural gnashing of teeth by students over the cost of their education was renewed, boiling over into a battle with police.
Montreal’s first nighttime tuition-fee protest in several months was almost a mirror image of the demonstrations that filled the city’s streets last year. The biggest change was that protesters were chanting against Premier Pauline Marois instead of Jean Charest, who also tried to jack up tuition when he was premier.
And like some of last year’s marches, Tuesday night’s protest ended with the crash of breaking plate glass splitting the night, the scream of police sirens and the clatter of batons against riot shields as police charged the thousands of demonstrators.
It was the second repudiation in a week of Marois’ declaration that student unrest had been put to rest.
Social peace was one of the Parti Quebecois premier’s campaign platforms in last year’s provincial election and she declared mission accomplished at the conclusion of a summit on education last week. That was where she also announced her government would increase fees by three per cent, which was less than the Liberals.
Students protested after the summit and Tuesday night they were out in force again, this time rekindling the nighttime march which was a fixture of last year’s student unrest. Most were peaceful, but some of those marches turned violent and led to mass arrests.
The call for Tuesday’s march summed up that little had changed from the marches of the past.
Man, 29, accused of possessing explosives, threats
A man arrested on a terrorism-related charge during a student protest this week in Quebec will remain behind bars for now.
Denis Marc Pelletier was in a Montreal courtroom Thursday for what was supposed to have been a bail hearing, but the case did not proceed as planned.
A new lawyer and evidence disclosure pushed the bail hearing back to at least March 8, and perhaps later.
The Crown has already indicated that it will oppose bail in Pelletier’s case due to the nature of the charges against him.
The 29-year-old man is facing at least seven charges, including possession of explosives, possession of an arson device and uttering threats.
A charge of inciting terrorism stems from alleged postings on a social media site that police observed last weekend.
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.
Anarchists, arrests, riot police and plenty of red squares
Montreal freelance reporter Justin Ling snapped these photos of Tuesday’s anti-tuition protest in Montreal where 13 were arrested. To learn more about the debate in Quebec, check out this report from The Canadian Press and read Ling’s commentary on Premier Marois’ missed opportunity.
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.
Within hours, protesters clash with police
Apart from the barrage of snowballs being pelted at police, the chunks of ice flying through the air, and officers charging at protesters across a snowy square, this could easily have been a scene lifted from the “Maple Spring.”
The clash in downtown Montreal was a mid-winter variation on the kind of event that occurred on a near-daily basis, making international headlines, last spring and summer.
Thousands of people marched at the end of a tuition summit Tuesday in which the new Parti Quebecois provincial government announced three-per-cent-a-year tuition hikes.
Its new fees are significantly lower than the ones proposed by the previous Liberal government — about one-fifth as much.
Premier Pauline Marois left the conference feeling confident enough to declare that Quebec’s era of social unrest was over.
“We have succeeded in putting the confrontations behind us,” Marois said in the closing address of a two-day summit that assembled students’ associations, university leaders, unions and social groups.
“The social crisis is behind us.”