Thursday, May 24, 2012

There's something about Montreal

In 2010, the Ontario government passed a secret regulation to drastically expand police power to arrest, search and detain without any legislative vote or publication during the G20 summit; Ontarians hardly cared. In contrast, when the Quebec government passed an emergency law, Bill 78, to restrict any public demonstration over 50 people, the public in Quebec responded decisively.

The annual Earth Day in 2012 draws a quarter million Quebeckers to march for the environment and against climate change and the anti-science measures taken by the Harper government.  On May 22, 2012, tens of thousands of Montréalers again marched to mark the 100 days of student protest in Quebec and in defiance of the restrictions imposed by the recently passed (and very likely unconstitutional) Bill 78.

Even though a recent G20 report conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review director condemned Toronto police and their use of kettling and various police aggressions during the G20 summit, the Ontario government as well as the Toronto Police Chief Officer both refuse to apologize for the way police exercised their power during the G20 summit.

When authorities deny any wrongdoings, it is so no wonder that history is repeating itself in Montreal.

The Montreal police used their newly legislated power to “kettle" thousands of protesters and bystanders and arrested 518 people this past Wednesday, May 24, 2012.

It’s not a surprise to learn that many people, especially those from the English speaking part of Canada, berated these protesters for their supposed sense of entitlements about a free public post secondary education, or that these young protesters are simply punks with no jobs. What I found surprising, however, is that Quebeckers actually take their politics and their distinct Quebec Charter of Human Rights (for a free public education) seriously, unlike their peers from the rest of Canada. Quebeckers stand up proudly to march for their freedom to assemble and free education night after night despite severe police aggressions that led to the largest ever mass arrest in Canada's history.


Canadians need to take inspiration from the students in Montreal  and assert our dignity, which is being eroded by the Charest government, as well as the Harper government as they continue to bully unemployed and unionized workers, dismiss scientists, and restrict the voices of young people who can’t find a decent employment due to the increasing disparity and inequality echoed by the Occupy Movement.
The people in Montreal believe that civil rights, and social democracy are not “just words on a piece of paper”, it is time the rest of Canada joined in and keep our country and our streets from becoming a police state.