From the March 22 student solidarity march
You may or may not have heard about the student strike in Quebec, against the proposed $1700 tuition hike over 7 years. It’s been going on since February – nobody ever thought it’d be still going or even get this much attention. Charest – the premier of Quebec – sure didn’t, and he may or may not be regretting it now. The Education Minister – who was considered a rising political star – resigned over the matter. To this day, the Charest government refuses to negotiate with student groups.
In fact, he may be regretting it so much that he passed a new bill that would outlaw student “riots” altogether. A demonstration is defined as a gathering of 10 students or more in public. Students who wish for a demonstration must notify the police eight hours in advance. Those that break these provisions can face fines between $70,000-$350,000.
I had a short stint one summer where I examined laws of countries that were considered human rights violations. Many of them contained similar clauses on demonstrations – having to notify the police or the union and obtaining approval – which have been singled out by many human rights organizations as infringing on their democratic rights. And it’s happening here, in this country.
That’s why this bill is very, very worrisome. More and more our streets are being intruded upon, and taken away from us by corporations, cars, the police, and now the law. During this school year, as I heard person after person refer to student protests with disdain, I kept on asking (sometimes to others and often to myself), “to whom do the streets belong?”
When did we give up our streets as a democratic medium?
For some reason, we as a society seem to have given up on using the streets as a medium of expressing our will, instead being content with voting (which is not representative of popular will), or “online activism” in the means of petitions or sharing things on Facebook.
Maybe it is the increasing presence of the internet and gadgets in our lives, but when did we take the physical and bodily “act” out of activism?
And when did we start believing that heavy police presence is necessary, or that the police somehow knows more and should have monopoly of the streets? I’m not sure, but laws like this tells me that perhaps we need to have our voices heard and our bodies seen - which is our right, not a privilege granted by governments – more than ever.
So here’s a start – an online petition against Bill 78. I know I spoke about the inadequacies of “online activism” earlier – but it’s an easy start, I won’t argue with that.