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Quebec students are fighting for you

By: | March 27, 2015

Canadians need to support the Quebec student strike

Jon Parsons
Power and Dissent offers a critical take on culture, society and politics in Newfoundland and Labrador

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Protesters in Quebec City were met with police violence on Thursday. This image shows one police officer shooting a young woman in the face at point blank range with a teargas grenade gun. "Quebec students are fighting for us all, as they are the only significant force in the country opposing austerity and neoliberalism," writes Jon Parsons, "and the only ones who seem to understand the importance of popular protest." Photo by Toula Drimonis / Facebook.

It seems like only yesterday the 2012 Quebec student movement rocked the streets of Montreal, and now they’re at it again.

The basis for the current strike is the same as its predecessor: opposition to austerity and neoliberalism. Over the last few years student groups in Quebec have consistently organized massive demonstrations in an impressive show of strength and commitment, and so it seems correct to understand the present student strike more as an intensification of a protracted struggle.

At the same time, there has been a proliferation of militant student protest throughout the global West. Occupations and demonstrations are continuing on a number of campuses, such as the London School of Economics, and University of Amsterdam, and University of Arts London, and University of Melbourne, to name a few. The grievances are strikingly similar to those expressed in Quebec – austerity, tuition fees, neoliberalism.

Outside the global West, significant and ongoing student movements are taking a stand in Honduras, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Myanmar, to name a few.

There has arguably not been such widespread student unrest since the famous student-led protests of 1968, and, at least in the West, Quebec students have been on the frontlines of the fight, enduring police brutality, subversion, and constant obfuscation in the mainstream press.

The student fight is your fight, too

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador has until recently weathered the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis, but with a significant deficit and growing debt, the provincial government has indicated that austerity measures will come into force in short order. Many things are “on the table,” including increased tuition at Memorial University, among other measures common to austerity economics.

At the same time, recent studies have shown that Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the least politically engaged provinces in Canada, in terms of both formal and informal politics. NL has one of the lowest overall voter turnouts (around 53 per cent) as well as the lowest youth voter turnout of any province (around 29 per cent).

People marched in St. John's in solidarity with the Quebec student protests of 2012. Photo courtesy Occupy NL.

In 2012 people marched in St. John’s in solidarity with the Quebec student protests of that year. Recent studies show that Newfoundland and Labrador is the least politically engaged province in Canada. Photo courtesy Occupy NL.

The reasons for this are many and varied, and it is not my intention to assign blame. Nonetheless, there is an overwhelming sense of complacency, perhaps apathy, with regard to politics in the province, and especially so for youth.

In light of this, it is nothing of an exaggeration to say that Quebec students are fighting for us all, as they are the only significant force in the country opposing austerity and neoliberalism, and the only ones who seem to understand the importance of popular protest. Quebec students are showing us all how it’s done, both in terms of tenacity and in terms of organization, as Ethan Cox explains in Ricochet.

Of course, there have been some encouraging signs in other parts of the country, such as recent demonstrations at University of Saskatchewan, and one can only hope for more of this. Because for now it seems the greater part of Anglo-Canada is busy staring deeply into its collective navel.

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