Last Tuesday, March 24th, I was walking to the Tim Hortons on Sherbrooke when the sound of a helicopter consumed my focus entirely. It seemed like it was right above me. When I finally made it to Tim’s and ordered my beverage for a late night ahead, I soon realized that the building was surrounded by an innumerable amount of police cars. After getting over the idea that I was going to die in Tim Horton’s like the honorable Canadian I am, I went outside to make my way to the library. Every cross street I passed was swarmed with police decked out from head to toe with full riot gear. I had no idea what was going on. I felt like I was in some sort of Montreal-themed Hunger Games arena. I told my mother I loved her and hurried to check the news.
At that time I was completely uninformed about the Printemps 2015 anti-austerity protests, and my peace of mind took quite the hit. Now that I’ve done my research, I’ve compiled the most important, objective, and simplified facts that I think every McGill Collegiette should read in the coming weeks to stay up-to-date on the political movement affecting our very own neighborhoods, and our very own lives.
The Who, What, Where, Why, When and How
Who: Thousands of students across the province. An estimated 66 local student associations from 10 different campuses.
What: Protests against the Quebec government’s austerity measures. These measures include education cuts, as well as cuts to provincial social services.
Where: Across the province, mostly in Montreal and Quebec City.
Why: Hoping to garner support from the population at large about the Quebec Liberal government’s recent austerity measures. To launch a larger social movement.
When: The first large-scale movement began on Monday March 23rd. Protesters are planning more demonstrations and strikes in the coming weeks, and they may be continued over the next couple months.
How: Marches in large city centers, as well as strikes within schools (largely UQAM and Concordia).
- The austerity measures that the government is imposing are debt-driven.
- The measures were suggested last year and have been raising concerns ever since. Those in protest suggest that the measures are attacking the province’s most vulnerable populations, and that they need to be fought for and given a voice.
- Protesters could be heard chanting “On avance, on avance, on ne recule pas!” which is roughly translated to “we move forward, we move forward, we will not back down”.
- Police have been using extreme measures to disperse the crowds, including tear gas, smoke bombs, pepper spray and stun grenades.
- The protests have turned incredibly violent, with physical contact, vandalism, and objects being thrown.
- Many of the protests have been deemed illegal by police, as they do not follow P-6, the by-law requiring protesters to give police an itinerary of their actions beforehand.
- Students and police alike have suffered injuries from the protests, and several buildings and police cars have been vandalized.
- The protests are being compared to the 2012 Maple Spring student protests, and are thought to potentially become the largest ever in Canada.
- On March 30th, faculties of medicine, including at McGill, are going on strike in response to Bill 20, which will impose many changes to Quebec’s health care system. Bill 20 will require minimum caseloads for family practitioners, as well as remove funding for in vitro fertilization.
- Many arrests have been made to student protesters for assaulting police and wearing masks, and many students involved in the movement have been threatened with suspension or expulsion for in-school action.
- It is estimated that by Monday the 30th over 50,000 students will be on strike, and approximately 80,000 on April 2nd for a province-wide strike entitled #manif2avril.
Check out this raw footage from CBC News.
While nothing is simple about these movements, hopefully you can take something away from these fast facts and apply them to the events you will likely be seeing around the city in the coming weeks. What’s your stance on the recent events?
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