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Siobhan Curious

Siobhan Curious
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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Siobhan Curious teaches English literature at a CEGEP in Montreal.

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MAY 23, 2012 9:44AM

Who's to Blame for the Mess in Montreal?

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Does anyone know where this image originated? If so, please inform me.

Until now, I haven't commented on the madness happening in Montreal streets concerning tuition hikes.  I haven't commented because my feelings about the tuition hikes, and the resulting student strikes and protests, are, as a friend recently described his own, "nuanced."

I am not in principle opposed to tuition hikes in Quebec.  I AM opposed to wasteful government and university spending, and I am most certainly opposed to the ludicrous Loi 78, a "special law" passed a few days ago which severely restricts the public's right to protest.  This law, an attempt to quell increasingly fevered protests around the city, has made things much, much worse, and it's hard to believe that the provincial government actually thought the effect would be otherwise.  (Everyone else in the province seemed to understand, as soon as the law was proposed, that it was a really bad idea.)

I mostly haven't commented because I haven't felt clear enough about the issue to put my feelings into words, especially my feelings that I wasn't entirely on the side of the people protesting.  So I was relieved, today, to come across this elucidation by (formernly local) curmudgeon and wonderful writer Mike Spry.  He'll break it down for you:

100 Days of Blame

In particular, at the end of his post he explains the problems with the student argument and the perspective that the students needed to take from the beginning in order to win public sympathy.  It is helpful to anyone who feels conflicted.  I'm still not entirely clear about my position (except my position that Loi 78 is a stupid, stupid law - who does that?)  Spry's article, however, has articulated a few things I wasn't able to straighten out for myself.

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Allow me to detail the actions of the protesters prior to inaction of Loi 78:

The protestors have been protesting for months
The protestors have blockaded the classrooms
The protestors smoke-bombed the subway
The protestors have had violent scuffles with the police
The protestors are often seen wearing masks
The protesters seem to have expanded their protest to include corrupt capitalism

Now put yourself into the shoes of a student that wants to go to class but is blocked by the protestors, what would you suggest the Government have done?

Perhaps Loi 78 is too harsh but to suggest the Bill has made things “much, much worse” is to give the protestors a pass for everything they have done. In other words, the protestors only have themselves to blame Loi 78.
I'll have to read Spry's article, and another one posted on Facebook this morning. I had heard, rightly or wrongly, that tuition in Qc was lower than elsewhere in the country, and SOMEboyd's gotta pay for things. On the other hand, is it so that in Scandinavia education is 'free' from kindergarten thru university? They pay lots in taxes for all the great things they get, yet they seem to thrive and, last I heard, weren't part of the general Euro economic malaise. It's a matter of what as a society we value - and surely education should be one of the top things.

Demos and all are a drag - yet how else but a mass protest of the population will get the government's attention? Has to be mass - there were small protests when the feds shut down the prison farms, but not enough people. Have to flood the streets to, again, get the government's attention.

I may be back later with more thoughts once I've better informed myself.
I'm disappointed that you haven't included at least the following link in your article. It would have provided a more balanced insight to those who are not upto date with what has been happening in Montreal, which has affected and gained support around the world.

http://montreal.mediacoop.ca/story/ten-points-everyone-should-know-about-quebec-student-movement/10896

I am still reading and informing myself through varied sources, although I am with the students in principle and share in their frustration against the fat cats of Charest and Harper governments.
Fusuna made some good points ..Thanks for sharing yours here too! hey we are Montrealers. I am in Hampstead but heading north to St Adele.
I admit that I don't fully understand the entire issue in Montreal as I'm an Okie (therefore uniquely qualified to say I understand very little of anything), not a Canuck. But one thing I do fully understand is that the worldwide discontent is not a single issue, it is a massive collection of issues long ignored by the few who have the power to do so and thrive.

There is no coincidence in a movement that transcends borders such as that taking place today. This is about education in California and freedom of speech in Canada; it's about illegal search and seizure laws in Chicago, and civil liberties in Arizona, corporate greed VS individual needs in New York, Illegal and immoral invasion and occupation of one’s country in Iraq and Afghanistan, austerity for the masses VS prosperity for the few in Europe and yet they are all simultaneously and inseparably linked to all of us collectively.

In all of these issues, there exists one commonality and that common thread is the social inequality that exists beyond anything we’ve seen in many eons of generations and there is but one common group advancing that one common thread; those who impose upon us for their own gain those inequalities.

To single out issues to fight is self-defeating in both effort and time; if we divide and fight, we lose; if we take too long to fight, we lose and not only do we lose, our children and our grandchildren will have to take a back seat in a manner the likes of which none of us, you or I have ever even seen before.

I think that only those starving to death in Africa, or the lost generation of Aboriginal tribes in Australia and those who die as their shanties in Brazil are washed away in avalanches of mud understand better than any of us, for they live it now, just as we will in the future if we fail to unite and see the common issue amongst us all.

I’m a lot like Mike Spry in that I know my faults well and one of my major faults is that I cannot see little pictures, but I’m very adept at seeing the big ones. And this is one big, bad-ass picture with a relatively easy solution (and I’m not saying fixing it will be easy, the solution is easy) – stop playing their game. Just stop. The world as they know it will crash down around them. Stop buying their stocks, stop spending their money, stop using their gasoline, stop fighting their wars and killing one another. Collectively we can do that; individually we’d be fools to try.

The world has a very unique opportunity at our feet right now and the time is perfect for us to unite and do precisely that for these issues are all literally one in the same.
A huge part of the mess is that the protest has been taken totally out of its historical context. Yes Quebec students pay the lowest university tuition rates in Canada, but they pay, per capita, the highest highschool tuition rates. 30% of Montreal middle school and high school students are enrolled in private schools. There's a good reason for the this. The average French highschool in the East End of the city has a 40% drop out rate. Private French schools are government subsidized to keep the tuition rates reasonable (usually about 3,000 a year). But the parents of one out of every two students in a French university has already paid close to 20,000 in tuition before they even start university. So by the the time they get to university they aren't like other students in North America. They, and the universities they attend are expected to shoulder the expenses. Why not, their families, many of them lower middle class have scrimped and saved to prepare them for university.

If you don't understand that you don't understand ANYTHING about this protest.
Well, one hopes that the locals are paying attention to which of their beloved legislators voted FOR this law, and are making a serious effort to remember them, come the next election. And note: the appropriate response to demonstrators who are over the line is to arrest them, charge them, and fine them, FOR the things that are actually over the line. And yes, I think it's going to things worse. If you close of this venue of protest, it's unlikely that the unhappy students are going to suddenly become gruntled. So what do you suppose they're going to do instead?
Wait a sec. Are we talking about Canada or Syria here?
Juliet - Accepting your facts as presented, I would wonder why the protest is not directed at fixing the broken public grade and high school problem.