Quebec Is No Egypt: Why the Student Protests Are Not a Revolution
For the last two months, Montreal has been more or less a battlefield between police and student protesters, who are on strike to protest a 75 per cent tuition hike, with three to four rallies per day. Yes, per day.
It has almost no precedent in Quebec in terms of scale and disruption. Blocking roads and bridges and the Montreal Port, for instance, the student activists have been impossible to ignore.
Echoing the Arab revolutions, some are calling it the Quebec Spring.
Which, of course, is preposterous. Egypt this is not and Jean Charest, Quebec’s premier, is no Hosni Mubarak: If there was ever any doubt, Mr. Charest ended this week by making concessions to the students, although not nearly as much as they’re demanding.
Still, there is more to this conflict than rising tuition fees (which are, historically, Canada’s lowest). Maybe this is our Seattle moment.
Remember Seattle, in 1999? The World Trade Organization (WTO) had chosen the city to hold multilateral free-trade discussions. But the real show was on the streets of the latté-sipping West Coast city, where left-leaning activists of all descriptions managed to steal the spotlight from bureaucrats, politicians and business people.
Clashing with police, protesters greatly disrupted the conference and conveyed their messages to a broad audience.
It was a galvanizing event for people everywhere in the West who felt left behind by a global agenda bent, in their view, to favour the rich and powerful - the same kinds of people who more recently came up with the “99 per cent” concept of Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots, and are now calling for an informal “general strike” on May 1, this coming Tuesday.
Progressive forces in Quebec always have been strong. For decades they flexed their muscle mainly through the unions and the Parti québécois. In the last 10 years, however, they have become active in a whole range of citizen groups and a new political party, Québec solidaire, with an unabashedly left-of-centre point of view.