We always strive to offer a healthy mix of local, national and international content. In 2012, though, local Montreal and Quebec news took on international stature and importance due to one ongoing event: the Maple Spring.
The Quebec student movement is one of the most vocal youth movements in North America and student activists were also involved with groups participating in Occupy Montreal.
When the camps were dismantled, Quebec student protesters took the tenacity of the movement to their fight against Quebec premier Jean Charest’s tuition increase and hit the streets with passion. Their protests inspired activists around the world.
The red square became a symbol of resistance to austerity and movement leaders like Gabriel-Nadeau Dubois became household names. With the whole world watching Charest tried to shut the protest down with Bill 78. The law passed late afternoon on a Friday. On Saturday the SPVM showed its ugly side trying to enforce the unenforceable. By Tuesday, there were hundreds of thousands of people marching, many not even students, some even for the tuition increases but against this draconian law.
Then came the casseroles. People around the city started banging on pots and pans outside their homes every night at 8pm. This led to a unique form of community activism where neighbors gathered and then marched through the streets together. People started doing this in Toronto too, and even across Canada and North America. The marches continued, mostly festive, people even finding romance amidst the anarchy, though there were still some ugly incidents where peaceful protesters were kettled and arrested.
After a very tense Grand Prix weekend, things simmered down for the summer and after one final big night march and rally following the departure of Nadeau-Dubois as spokesperson for the CLASSE, things shifted to the upcoming Quebec election.
The students didn’t back anyone in particular, except for “not Charest” and their candidate won, or rather Charest lost both the premiership which he had held for over nine years and his home riding of Sherbrooke which he had represented both provincially and federally since 1984. Quebec Solidaire picked up a seat (doubling their number), the Coalition Avenir du Quebec (CAQ) did okay, but not as well as expected.
Pauline Marois became premier and her Parti Quebecois formed a minority government. Following the vote and subsequent election night assassination attempt on Marois, she did what she said she would and repealed both the tuition hikes and Law (formerly Bill 78).
Then it was Quebec politics as usual and all we heard about was language, lack of a Canadian flag in the national assembly and what one might expect from the PQ. We also heard about corruption, something people have gotten used to by now.
This time, though, the Charbonneau Commission claimed the political careers of longtime unopposed Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt and longtime opposed and criticized though never replaced Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay. Micheal Applebaum, Tremblay’s right-hand man, took his place by breaking ranks with his former Union Montreal party and positioning himself as somewhat of an outsider and a uniter and bridge builder, though some who had been dealing with him in his former borough of NDG may beg to differ (think superhospital plans).
While it took Montreal and Laval over a decade to get their mayors steeped in corruption allegations to grudgingly step aside, Toronto removed the much mocked Rob Ford on a technicality after only two and a half years in office. Torontonians, or more specifically residents of Toronto-Danforth decided to keep the late Jack Layton’s riding NDP orange by electing human rights lawyer and public intellectual Craig Scott.
At the federal level, New Democrats held quite a heated leadership race that started in late 2011 and culminated with the election of Thomas Mulcair in April. The Liberals also, well, they didn’t elect anyone, but we’re pretty sure who’s going to win their nomination.
Both parties spent most of their time trying to stop Stephen Harper’s conservatives from drastically changing Canada’s identity. Harper, on the other hand, was in a mood to pass sweeping bills in 2012.
With the Omnibus Crime Bill almost a done deal, he shifted his sights to the internet. Once SOPA and PIPA failed to pass in the states in January and therefore didn’t make any headway in Canada, the conservatives came up with Bill C-30, which attacked people’s Internet privacy.
In response to the outcry against this bill, public safety minister Vic Toews, probably trying to emulate George W. Bush, ended up having a Ted Stevens “internet’s a series of tubes” moment. He declared in Parliament that Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers” and that was it.
Jokes and memes ensued and a few people even tried to show Toews what invasion of privacy could be like if it happened to him. The bill was quietly shelved.
A backbench Conservative MP introduced a backdoor to banning abortion bill. It was defeated, but not without the minister responsible for the status of women voting for it and against the status of women’s reproductive rights.
Score one for the Internet and the right to choose. Unfortunately, Canada’s environment and native communities fared considerably worse in 2012 as Bill C-45 passed.
Those lakes that were protected? Unless they happen to be in a conservative riding, they’re not anymore. Native land? A whole lot easier for corporations to have their way with.
The silver lining? This bill has mobilized many communities with Idle No More’s feather looking like the red square of 2013.
His critics have always said that Harper can out-Bush Dubya. Maybe so, but even he couldn’t get more head-scratchingly regressive than some of the Republican presidential candidates thrown up for public digestion in 2012.
When they settled on Mitt Romney, the guy who would say anything to get elected and his Ayn Rand-loving devout Christian running mate it was clear, at least to progressives living outside of fortress America, that Obama was going to win.
Not so much hope and change this time, but more rationalism then we’ve seen from the States in a while. The socially progressive, fiscally middle of the road, very well-spoken mild mannered man with a bit of a thing for predator drones seemed like the logical choice.
Also, he’s the guy who didn’t want to cut FEMA and believes in climate change. Also he actually seemed to care and help out when millions were affected by Hurricane Sandy. After the election, the cleanup still continues.
Violence continued as well with mass-killings in elementary schools and movie theaters and the middle east is still as shit-storm.
The world didn’t end in 2012. Just maybe, though, we are at the end of a cycle.
Back in Quebec, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois was convicted of encouraging people to break the law and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. He’ll appeal it on principle, though maybe arguing that he’s already put in well more than that could work, too.
No matter what, it’s a small price to pay for your place in history.