In March 2011 Quebec’s federal government proposed hiking student tuition by 75% over the course of five years. This resulted in massive student protests over the course of the following year. Highlights included:
The beginning of the student’s strike has as many as 36 000 students walk out on classes – CBC. This ultimately results in an end to classes for 310 000 students – Radio Canada.
Up to 151 students are arrested in Gatineau Qc, adding to what is a current total over 1000 by even conservative estimates. – CBC
Charest, the Premier, offers the student union the option of stretching the years over which the tuition increase is applied from 5 to 7, headlines in the English media however tend to overlook the increase in tuition with the new deal from 75% to 82%.
The Manufestations take place, “manifestation” being the word for protest and “nue” being the word for naked.- http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=manufestation
The Premier opts to suspend the school year until August.
Montreal being my own birth city and a place very near to my heart I felt obliged to head on over and take a feel of the city’s pulse for myself, so on the Friday, June the 22nd I got the fuck out of the dreary, financial Toronto and headed over to a city where people actually talk to you… sure most of the time they’re asking for a cigarette but still.
Upon my landing I went for a stroll around the city to snap of a few shots. After an hour or so I settled into the park and was flagged down by a pair of Cree cousins. They asked me if I could spare some smokes and within a minute the three of us were downing vodka shots. Gabriel and Mario had come down from the north, where Gabriel worked as a miner making up to 150 000$ a year. Their mother/ aunt was in the hospital and that had been what brought them down to the city. We chatted about this and that, weed is apparently 40$/g up north, I discovered that when I offered him a toke and he declined, as he’s drug tested to work with heavy machinery. We talked briefly about native affairs, Attawapiskat and Hydro Quebec running electric corridors through their land without permission but moving the conversation onto Montreal’s Maple Spring seemed a lost cause, for one thing the cousins seemed acutely disconnected from politics local and otherwise and when Gabriel repeated to me for the second time within five minutes that he was a miner without the slightest indication that he had any memory of our stillborn conversation it became clear just how trashed they were. So I said my polite goodbye and asked them in passing what they would like to like to see the government do to move forward with native communities, “Just make peace.” Gabriel said, and I was on my way.
Luckily for me I came across a group of protest ready students, faces painted with red lines for war and their signs in hand. I followed the mob into the subway and towards the demonstration. While waiting for the train the announcement rang out “Alert code 60”, for a moment I expected that the station would explode into a cacophony of vandalism and smoke bombs with the heavy police presence sent scrambling for back up but nothing, barely anyone even reacted.
Upon arriving at the protest march the police made their presence know the minute we stepped off the train. There were police in the subway (a sight I had only seen in Beijing up to that point) and a heavy presence by the exit.
Of course there were also the typical punk chicks handing out condoms (a reasonable action at all times by the way), men wearing Guy Fox masks (The New Che Guevara, for corporate stooges to profit off of), semi-circus performers, costumed heroes etc.
Traffic was shut down and businesses that weren’t feeding the mob ground to a halt, as office workers made their way over to the windows. At the end of the march people splintered off in search of water, soda, beer or a spot in the park but it seems the true success of these events is that they force social consciousness upon the city and onto the dinner table.
The following night I met Jesus.
His new name is Charles Aimé and he roams Mount Royal, talking to and comforting the homeless. I’m not sure if he is Jesus but he was the only person to strike up a random conversation with me without requesting a smoke so he’s pretty high up there. My friend had asked him directly upon coming to meet me at the subway station if he was indeed the son of god, he stopped to ponder for a moment (Above is pictured his pondering face) and finally concluded that according to his memories he was indeed Jesus and that Montreal was the end of the world, where things would all come to a head.
In any event I left the most convincing Jesus I have ever met behind and went to celebrate La Saint Jean by getting drunk in a park, like all proud French Canadians. It seems that the overwhelming attitude towards the protests were simple, we’ll vote late, we’ll protest later but today the pools are open, the police are taking their vacation after stacking up far too much overtime and the kids are partying. If things seem to simmer down don’t let it deceive you, the main act is still ahead.