Quebec Students Spark Mass Protests Against Austerity

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
By Paul Martin

Jesse Rosenfeld
June 12, 2012

What started in the bitter winter as walkout against a $1,625 tuition hike in Quebec has turned into a spring of mass social unrest, sparking Canada’s first major uprising against the austerity measures that have slashed social spending and public services around the world. Now entering its fourth month and with over 160,000 college and university student supporters, the protest is North America’s largest and longest-running student strike to date. But it has become much more than that too. The government’s refusal to negotiate with students over tuition and its new law curbing the right to protest has angered millions and transformed the struggle. Now it is about stopping premier Jean Charest’s Liberal government, who students—heavily backed by labor, civil society and community groups—accuse with tearing up Quebec’s social contract.

An atmosphere of defiance now cloaks Montreal, Canada’s second largest city, as people of all ages don red squares—the symbol of solidarity with the strike originating from French expression of being ‘squarely in the red’ financially. The balconies of the city’s distinctly characteristic townhouses are dotted with red banners, and nightly pots-and-pans protests ring out through Montreal neighborhoods as they bring thousands into the streets.

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