Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for where this post originally appeared.

This Wednesday we need your voice. We only need to borrow it for a few hours, and I promise you’ll enjoy its use. It needs to be raised in unison with others across the country and around the world.

Two events are happening Wednesday night that you need to be at, wherever you are. It just might be the most fun you’ve had all year.

It also might be the most important thing you do all year. If anyone doubted the severity of the situation in Quebec, and the urgent need for solidarity, this weekend’s events will put those doubts to rest.

Police actions over the weekend crossed a line, an even more significant one than that crossed by the reviled Bill 78. Across Montreal’s metro system, and especially at Parc Jean Drapeau, where the Formula 1 racetrack is located, police engaged in “preventative arrests”.

People were pulled off metros, denied access to a public park, searched, and in many cases arrested. Why? Because they were wearing a political symbol. A red square of solidarity with the student cause.

Or, in the words of a Montreal police officer to a Le Devoir reporter, a “revolutionary symbol.”

Many journalists were also denied access to the Park, as police tried to limit the public visibility of their repressive actions. However, the best account of what transpired was written by two courageous journalists with Montreal daily Le Devoir, who went undercover wearing red squares to see what would happen. The results of their experiment are hair raising, and must be read to be understood (English translation + French original).

In Montreal right now, you may be arrested en masse for participating in a peaceful demonstration. You may be stopped and searched, even arrested, for wearing a political symbol. You may be beaten in the street for no reason, as happened to two tourists a few days ago. You may end up with a concussion, broken ribs, bones and lacerations from batons. You may lose an eye, as has happened twice, or an ear. If you’re media, especially CUTV which has been broadcasting live from all the demonstrations, you may be specifically targeted, and have your camera broken repeatedly.

You no longer need do anything to find yourself a target of police violence and arrest. Simply expressing your dissent, through peaceful protest, or even the wearing of a symbol, is now enough to make you a target.

In the streets of Quebec our people bleed for the dream of a better world, or simply one where governments defend the common good, instead of selling it to the highest bidder. They are tired, dog tired, after almost fifty straight nights of marching. They are scared, reasonably so, of arrest, injury or worse.

But they continue. They do not give an inch. They fight this battle for themselves, but also for all of us. Quebec is the front line of a global struggle.

The brave souls here in Quebec need your solidarity. Can you spare an hour to give it to them?

This Wednesday night at 8 p.m., for the third straight week, people across Canada and around the world will join together and bang their pots and pans in the joyous exercise known here as casseroles. Last week over 125 communities participated, from Brussels to Montevideo, New York to Saltspring Island, Tatamagouche to Dawson City.

Go to the national Casseroles Night in Canada Facebook page and find your community! If you’re not on the list, start your own casseroles. Simply pick a central location, create a Facebook event, post it on the national page and share it with your friends. Then post your photos and videos on the national page so we can keep track of what happened where.

Beyond Wednesday, our next big Casseroles Night in Canada will take place on Friday the 22nd of June. Timed to coincide with the largest rally yet in Quebec, which may exceed half a million people, we are asking everyone to build toward large rallies on that day to send a strong message of support to Quebec.

Wednesday also marks the 13 Heroes national day of action against the federal budget. With the terrifying omnibus budget expected to pass early Thursday, has organized rallies at Conservative MP offices and support locations across the country at 5:30 p.m. They are calling on 13 Conservative MPs to break ranks and vote against the budget. Visit the 13 Heroes website to find your local action, or sign up to host one in your community.

As Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, Brigette DePape, union leader Louis Roy and others said at a conference in Montreal this weekend, we need a common front against governments which are dismantling our democracy across the country.

So please, bring your casseroles to the 13 Heroes rallies, and bring your friends from 13 Heroes to the casseroles. Together we are strong, but as Raul Berbano of Latin American NGO Common Frontiers said this weekend: “We can’t start the revolution from Starbucks.”

So start by sharing this article, the Casseroles Facebook page and the 13 Heroes website far and wide. Then take your love and solidarity into the streets.

You won’t only be helping Quebec’s social movement, or taking a stand against an unjust budget, you’ll be helping to build your community, and strengthening your ties to your neighbors.

I’ll see you there!


I’m occasionally witty, but more often outraged, @EthanCoxMTL on twitter. Follow me!

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for where this post originally appeared.

‘Adapt or die’ is the first law of the human race. It is by adapting to our circumstances that we have survived. But being an adaptable species has its downside. It makes us vulnerable to the myth of inevitability.

There are few better examples of the myth of inevitability that Hitler’s thousand year Reich. Why did otherwise decent people go along with the insanity of the Nazi regime? Because they believed its continued dominance was inevitable. It would carry on for a glorious thousand years under the glowing aryan sun. They could either accept it – adapt to it – or die. Being an adaptable species, many chose the path of least resistance.

Of course there was nothing inevitable about it, and the thousand year reich died cowering in a bunker a scant few years later.

I don’t bring this up to draw any parallels. Little on this earth is comparable to Hitler, but it illustrates the fact that even the most perverse of regimes can seem reasonable, and more importantly, inevitable, from the inside.

That’s where we are today: stuck in a broken political and economic paradigm to which we submit because it seems inevitable.

The great American writer Chris Hedges situates the current social movement in Quebec in the same place I do: on the front line of a global struggle against a broken system. He also posits that the failure of mass movements against this broken system will lead to the rise of the truly violent and extreme.

“If these mass protests fail, opposition will inevitably take a frightening turn. The longer we endure political paralysis, the longer the formal mechanisms of power fail to respond, the more the extremists on the left and the right – those who venerate violence and are intolerant of ideological deviations – will be empowered. Under the steady breakdown of globalization, the political environment has become a mound of tinder waiting for a light.”

I don’t think I really need to explain what’s wrong with our system. You already know. You may justify it, accept it or ignore it, but you know all is not right in our inequitable world.

Over the last fifty years, and particularly during the last decade or two, the rich and powerful have increased their power, wealth and influence exponentially, while life has gotten harder for everyone else. The common good has capsized under the drive to transfer our resources to a small elite.

Increasingly, institutions designed to serve the interests of the many – government, media and police to name a few – have become defenders of a status quo which works only for the minority. The same minority which, not so coincidentally, bankrolls the political campaigns, owns the media and dominates the realm of “public” opinion. We have all the trappings of democracy and free speech, without the substance of either.

In the words of Noam Chomsky, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum”

The most dire and existential threat to anyone in the public eye is to appear “unreasonable”. We self censor, to an appalling degree, lest we be judged to have set foot outside of this narrow spectrum.

Many a good person crafts their message to remain “reasonable”, to avoid the fate of Quebec students, who are “naive, unrealistic, stupid, selfish, entitled spoiled brats” as you may have heard.

We know instinctively that something is wrong, deeply wrong, but we agree to limit our opposition to the playing field set out for us. It’s a rigged game, and as soon as we accept to play within these limits, we condemn ourselves to defeat.

Within this narrow spectrum of debate, we are the unreasonable ones. “Greed is good!”, as our state broadcaster Kevin O’Leary is fond of telling us. All power to the shareholders!

Within this spectrum love is a weakness, compassion a debilitating condition. Any measure, however minor, to redress the inequality of our society or provide a social good equally to all is dismissed as communism.

Don’t like it? Move to Cuba. Because the only alternative to the brutality of today’s “modern” capitalism is communism. By relying on a bipolar view of political organization, we become convinced that whatever the ills of our system, the alternative is worse.

Think we should invest in education and hospitals, rather than fighter jets and corporate tax cuts? You are simply too stupid to understand the complexities of our global economy.

Want to talk about the “they” who control power and money in our society? You must be a conspiracy theorist, as if there was some amorphous “they” pulling the strings! It is to laugh!

Because it is ridiculous to identify the 0.4% of the world’s population who control 38.5% of the world’s wealth, and assume that they will use the power they wield to protect a system which benefits them greatly.

Preposterous to assume Rupert Murdoch isn’t the only media mogul influencing the editorial line of the media properties they own to maximize their profits. Even though they have a legal obligation to their shareholders to do just that.

If we suggest that those in power are short sighted to a fault, oblivious to the destruction of our world, and even the future prosperity of our current system, we must be stupid, or crazy, or both. It’s not as if shareholders care more about this year’s profits than long term sustainability, or as if politicians care only about their re-election, and the money that requires, right?

Our world is upside down, and somehow we have been convinced that walking on the ceiling is normal.

But this unsustainable balance of power is a house of cards, a carefully maintained illusion which depends entirely on our subservience to it. If we walk away from our televisions, break the bonds of our isolation and talk to each other about our dreams, our desires, we realize we are neither alone, nor crazy.

This realization is the most remarkable aspect of the social movement unfolding in Quebec, and the sense of community it has brought about.

From Rimouski to Trois Rivières, from Montreal to Laval, the casseroles pot banging protests have broken our isolation, introduced us to neighbors we never knew we had, and gotten us talking about what kind of society we want to see.

They have brought us into the streets, and given us a taste of the incredible power we wield when we work together.

The students are not selfish. On the contrary they have sacrificed their own semesters for the well being of future generations. They have initiated a broad social conversation about our priorities, our goals.

When we have that conversation, we inevitably come to the conclusion that we need change. And the desire for change is an incendiary threat to the powers that be.

This is why we have been so viciously vilified by a media elite who feel their control slipping. What is happening in Quebec is a serious challenge to the status quo, and the pundits who have spent months loosing their most vicious invective at this movement cannot understand how it stands, unbowed, to fight another day.

Last Saturday I spent the day escorting an independent documentary filmmaker and activist from Toronto around to a couple of the protests. We talked for hours about protest, and solidarity and the possibility of a better world. She asked how this movement carried on, and had not yet been beaten into submission or cowed into compliance as so many others are.

We agreed that perhaps it was the joy, the love, the community and the solidarity in our streets which had struck a nerve.

As many reasons as there are to be angry, maybe people need a reason to be hopeful. Perhaps Jack Layton was onto something with his message of “love, hope and optimism”.

We need a movement not of anger, which discourages and demoralizes us in the face of a Sisyphian struggle, but of love, and hope.

Our greatest weapon is our love. A journalist today asked what made people return to the street each night, often for five or six hours at a stretch. What gave people the physical strength to do that?

I don’t believe it’s anger, or rage, although that is certainly part of it. When you walk in our streets, when you see the grey hair and the strollers, when you see your hope, your joy and your love reflected in the brilliant smiles on each face you pass, when you realize that you are not alone, it does something to you.

We are in the street not for ourselves, but for each other. The intoxicating realization that together, we have the power to build the world we want to see is like a drug. The realization that this upside down world is no more inevitable than the thousand year reich is empowering, and floods us with more strength than we ever knew we had.

My filmmaker friend has a tattoo on her arm which reads “love is the movement”. She says it speaks to the fact that we all do what we do out of love. Love for each other, love for the planet, love for the generations to come.

The phrase has stuck with me in the days since, tugging away at my brain. Our love is our strength. We are not so far gone, we are not so lost that we have stopped caring about each other.

Our love is our most potent weapon, and the one our enemies cannot understand, or defeat. Contrary to what we are taught, we are not motivated solely by self-interest. We are in this for each other, we just forget that fact sometimes…

We are at a moment of great possibility, of great promise. But it is also a moment of great danger. This is our chance to clean up the mess we have made, but if we fail, yet again, we risk the spiral of violence Hedges describes.

Far from inevitable, our system is profoundly unsustainable. In its slavish adherence to the mantra of greed, it grows uncontrollably, beyond the limits of what it can control.

This system will come apart at the seams, and we must step in and fix it before it blows up. Not for ourselves, but for each other, and for our children.

Hedges concludes: “There still is time to act. There still are mass movements to join. If the street protests in Quebec, the most important resistance movement in the industrialized world, spread to all of Canada and reach the United States, there remains the possibility of hope.”

In 72 hours, the idea of Casseroles Night in Canada spread to over seventy locations across Canada and internationally. One week later casseroles took place in over 125 locations around the world. From Paris to Montevideo, Brussels to New York.

Call it austerity, call it insanity, but our system is broken. From one corner of the globe to the other, this knowledge unites us.

Quebec is our beachhead, our inspiration. It starts here, but it will not end here. Be brave, be bold, be loving, be joyful. Now is our moment, we may not get another one.

For my brothers and sisters here in Quebec: ne lâche pas! The whole world is watching, and taking strength from your courage. As I write these words I am watching massive police brutality in our streets on CUTV, whose camera crew was attacked, yet again, and forced off air. Stay strong, stay united and keep fighting. Your sacrifices, your injuries, are not in vain.

They beat you, ridicule you, harangue you and mock you because you’re right. And because you’re winning.

We all struggle for a better world in our own way. If we are to succeed we need the realization that our disparate gripes have a common cause. We need a single, unified movement of resistance to out of control greed and inequality. And we need it right now, not a moment later.

It starts with you. Grab a pot, a spoon and step outside. Talk to your neighbors, dance in the street. You have the power, and now is the time, for now is all the time there may ever be.


Please check out the Casseroles Night in Canada Facebook page for more information on how you can support Quebec’s social movement, and protest Harper’s budget at the same time! This Wednesday, everywhere in the world!

Follow me on Twitter, good judgement to the contrary, I do sometimes feed the trolls: @EthanCoxMTL

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for where this post originally appeared.

It started in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where the first clang rang out. From there it spread through the maritimes, to St. John’s, Halifax, Moncton, and a half dozen other communities. By the time the last pot was dented, during a joyful march of over 1000 people through the rainy streets of Vancouver, over 20 000 Canadians had taken to the street and gotten their casseroles on.

But it didn’t end there. In the wee hours of this morning, Eastern time, demonstrations were ongoing in Brussels, Paris and London. All boasting of crowds close to a thousand strong.

Earlier, a crowd of several thousand had taken to the streets of New York, bringing casseroles to the Big Apple, and Times Square. Smaller marches took place in Washington, D.C., Madison, WI, Little Rock AK and many other locations in the U.S.

Here in Canada, the largest march by far was held in Toronto. Estimates ranged between 5000 and 10 000 people, across around seven distinct marches, the largest of which drew over 2500 people.

In over 70 locations, across Canada and throughout the world, people took to the streets with their metal pots and wooden spoons to voice their solidarity with Quebec’s social movement, and their opposition to Bill 78. All organized, except Toronto, in a scant 72 hours, by way of a humble Facebook event.

On twitter, the hashtag #CasserolesNightinCanada became a trending topic in Canada, and my feed was full of expressions of solidarity from every part of the country, and grateful thanks from Quebeckers.

Last night Canadians, and their international allies, sent a message. A message that we will not be divided against each other. That language and location will not keep us apart. A message that we are all in this together.

As the wonderful Judy Rebick noted:

There are two solitudes but it is mostly because the governments and the media don’t want the people of Canada and Quebec to really know what we have in common. Language is a barrier too and not enough of us are bilingual, especially in the rest of Canada.  But now we have the language of video and pots and pans.

For me last night was a bridge, a love letter from the rest of Canada to Quebec. People here didn’t know you cared. They didn’t understand that you were following our struggle, and standing in solidarity with our cause. Some still may not, but many learned last night. It was a message received here in Quebec with shock, but also great happiness.

At the regular night march last night, which has departed from Place Emilie-Gamelin at 8:30 for 37 straight nights, much of the buzz was about what was happening in other parts of the country. People would look up from their phone to exclaim “There’s even one in Kingston!” or pass a photo around of demonstrations in Toronto, or New York.

You gave us a boost, a shot of energy when we needed it most. This was only a beginning, and there is much work left to be done, but what a glorious beginning it was!

So after the success of Wednesday night, the question becomes, what next? The beauty of Wednesday night was its truly decentralized, and grassroots, nature. An idea was put out into the ether, and people from all over the world ran with it, and made it their own.

It was a truly organic outpouring of solidarity, which empowered people to create something beautiful in their community, and be the change they wish to see.

So what next is not up to me, or the other organizers. It’s up to you. This is your movement, in your community. Never forget that.

So what I have for you today is a proposal, developed in collaboration with those who helped organize the national element of last night. I hope you like it! But if you don’t, if going in a different direction makes sense for your community, if you want to modify it or change it, then by all means do so. You have the power.

We propose to continue Casseroles Night in Canada, and endeavour to make it a weekly occurrence. We have suggested the next one take place next Wednesday, June 6 at 8 pm.

Some have suggested doing them more frequently, and if that makes sense for your community, go for it! Our feeling is that to maintain interest and energy, and to allow these casseroles to grow bigger with every outing, we should focus our energy on one day a week. This will give activists and organizers a week between actions to promote their local event, and expand its reach.

We would love to see the number of communities increase, and larger and larger crowds in each location. We can start small and build slowly until our casseroles are a roaring thunder across this land which cannot be ignored. Our challenge to you, if you choose to accept it, is to build on what you started Wednesday night, and bring even more people into the streets next week.

In Quebec, the largest demonstrations have been on the 22nd of each month. May 22 saw 400 000 to 500 000 take to the streets of Montreal. June 22 will likely be bigger still. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take these 22 days to build towards a massive Casseroles Night in Canada to support the protest in Montreal on June 22?

We also propose that we add opposition to Harper’s ominous omnibus budget bill to the existing message of solidarity with Quebec’s social movement, and opposition to Bill 78. We think the budget is a critical concern for Canadians across the country, the most urgent and pressing threat facing us collectively, and at risk, if we can build loud and sustained opposition to it.

While the budget is an issue which unites us across the country, there are also more local issues which you may want to incorporate. If there is an important issue in your community, one which people are passionate about where you live, add it to the demands of your local action.

Casseroles are a tactic, they can be used to push for the change you want to see. In the country at large, but also in your community.

Together, we can bring the love, solidarity and community of our casseroles to every town, village and city in Canada. We have the power!

What happens next is up to us…


To facilitate organizing a sustained movement, we have created a Facebook group, a fan page in addition to an event page for next Wednesday. Please join the group, like the page and RSVP to the event.

These pages can serve as the organizing hub where we can share our experiences and ideas and build this movement. But they only work if everyone is part of the discussion. Please share both of these as widely as you possibly can. Make it a point to share each of them on Twitter and Facebook at least once a day.

Facebook sadly no longer allows recurring events, which is why we need the fan page/group (To keep everyone together long term) and the event (to spread the word about next Wednesday). There is a group and a page to see which one works better at bringing people together and allowing communication.

Oh, and follow me on Twitter. I say stuff. A lot of stuff. @EthanCoxMTL

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending my first Plateau casserole march. I marched with a few small groups up and down St. Denis, the sound of about a hundred or so collective casseroles clanging in my ears, satisfying my thirst for noise-making. But right when I was about to head back home, I came upon the biggest march I’d encountered yet. It was a steady stream that engulfed at least ten full blocks of Mont-Royal. The energy was positively electric – young marching with old, French marching with English, a sea of red squares and passionate people proudly standing up for what they believe in. I watched, first in utter amazement at the power of the people… and then I started to feel quite turned on.

There’s just something about revolution that’s so damn sexy, and I’m not the only one that thinks so. Earlier this month, Kenza Chaouia started the @Manifdating account on Twitter as a forum for “protest buddies” who met on the streets of Montreal to reconnect. Since then, the account has grown to over 500 followers looking for love in all the red places.

“This isn’t only for people looking for love,” she explained. “It’s also helpful for people looking for friendship.”

While it’s easy to get swept up in the romantic fervor of a protest, hooking up with your “manifcrush” requires a certain degree of tact and etiquette. Manifdating offers the following dating tips for protestors:

– Lend your manifcrush your phone so they can tweet at the SPVM. Everyone likes a hero.

– Nothing says love like giving your significant other your vinegar-soaked bandana when the tear-gas comes

– If a fellow protestor drops their spoon, lock eyes and pick it up. Everyone loves a good Samaritan.

– If you don’t have an umbrella, make sure to bring a big enough casserole so both you and your crush can hide under it.

– This is the only moment you will ever be allowed to wear matching red outfits. Make the most of it.

– When you like what you see, keep it classy. Respect is everything.

– Impress your protester crush with high-quality cookware.

– Blow kisses together at the riot cops.

– Pin your twitter handle to the back of your square and offer it to your manifcrush.

So you’ve figured out what to do, but what about the right things to say? The streets are alive with chants like “SO SO SO, Solidarité, SO SO SO, So Do My”, but that may be a bit forward for a first-time encounter. Here are some pick-up lines and conversation starters to use next time you’re out on the streets:

“Baby, let’s smash the state and fornicate”

“This pot isn’t the only thing I’m good at banging!”

“You don’t have to protest to get through to my heart.”

“Baby, if you play your cards right I’ll let you hold more than just my placard.”

“I’d wear plastic handcuffs and spend the night at the back of the bus for you.”

“Baby, let me put the “man” in your manifestation”

“I wish I was your casserole so you’d tap me.”

Finally, casseroles aren’t the only way to make noise. Once you’ve wooed your manifcrush and successfully lured them back to your bedroom, I recommend engaging in the loudest sex you can at 8:00 pm in solidarity with the pot-bangers. Fuck la loi speciale, literally. I proudly support orgasms for social change and making love, not war. Perhaps you’ll even inspire your neighbors to do the same!

 * Photos by Chris Zacchia

Ethan Cox is a Montreal-based writer and political organizer. He was formerly FTB’s news editor and the Quebec director of Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign. He is currently a special correspondent reporting on the Maple Spring for where this post originally appeared.

In the roughly 100 days that Quebec’s students had been on an unlimited general strike, prior to Monday, the government of Jean Charest had deigned to sit at the table and negotiate for three or four days in total. So it was with a great deal of optimism that students returned to the negotiating table with Education Minister Michelle Courchesne this past Monday.

Both sides waxed poetic about their cordial relations, and desire to see a deal made that could end the longest student strike in Canadian history. Both sides promised to make compromises and bend, but not break, in their pursuit of a resolution.

Things got off to a rocky start on Monday however, when Quebec City police decided to start arresting the peaceful protesters who had gathered outside the negotiations. Over 100 were arrested, loaded into buses, and dropped off in the middle of nowhere at 3 am with a hefty fine. When a negotiator for the CLASSE came outside to try to negotiate with police, and dissuade them from yet another mass arrest of peaceful protesters, he was promptly arrested. He too was fined.

Not a tremendous sign of good faith when you arrest the other side’s negotiator, and 100 supporters, on the first day. Many suggested the students pull out at that point, but they stayed on and continued to try to negotiate a deal.

All week both sides made, for the most part, encouraging noises until tonight, when the government announced that it was unilaterally withdrawing from negotiations.

At a press conference to explain the government’s decision, Premier Charest said that there was a “big gap” between the two sides, and although he was disappointed, he didn’t see a point to further negotiations.

According to Education Minister Courchesne, the government made two offers to the students. Both amounted to a reduction of less than $100 on the original increase of almost $1625. In other words, they offered to reduce the hike from 75% to 71%. The government would also have reduced the tax credit students receive on tuition to compensate. Not much of a compromise really.

The government refused to even discuss Loi 78, the repeal of which students had made clear was a top priority. When asked at the press conference why the government refused to even discuss the special law, Charest tersely responded “It’s for their own security”.

Charest went on to get into a testy exchange with a journalist who asked why the government had walked away, when students still wanted to talk. When the journo suggested mediation, and Charest blew him off, he responded with “That’s how it works in the real world!” prompting an angry “Excuuuse me?” from the Premier.

But if even journalists are becoming frustrated by Charest’s obstinancy, they’re hardly to blame. While Courchesne claimed students refused to consider anything other than a tuition freeze, they came out telling a different story.

The student leaders explained that they had made four counter offers, none of which were seriously considered by the government. All had respected the government’s demand to be revenue neutral (in other words, put the amount of the hike into the treasury by one means or another).

In fact, the proposals students made, to cut the Education Tax Credit and Education Savings Plan programs in order to keep tuition down, were proposals I have made in several policy documents. Both these programs are inherently regressive, and primarily benefit the upper, and upper-middle class.

Charest bristled at the suggestion the RESP program be cut, insisting that it was there to help the middle class and he represents the middle class.

I long since gave up trying to figure out Charest’s motivations, but this latest move seems almost as foolhardy as the introduction of Bill 78. With the pressure of impending festival season, not to mention a widespread rebellion on the streets, you’d think he would have been willing to meet the students half way, at least.Especially when polls show around 70% of the province want a negotiated settlement.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for CLASSE, argued that the government was unable to negotiate in good faith because they were more concerned with their image than with resolving the situation.

“Such a gesture would be interpreted as a retreat, and [Courchesne] cited the front pages of the newspapers,” Nadeau-Dubois said. “What we were told inside was that a tuition hike was a goal. Madame Courchesne said her goal was to raise tuition, because if she didn’t, then the government would lose face.”

Heaven forbid, a democratic government would compromise in the face of massive public opposition, because if they did they might “lose face”. So despite the fact the student’s proposals would put just as much money into the treasury as the hikes, they were dismissed out of hand.

I’ve often said this has nothing to do with money and Charest has now clearly demonstrated that he is more interested in “winning”, and by extension breaking the social movement, than in finding a resolution, even if it provides the cost savings he claims this is all about.

The students, despite clearly having the stronger negotiating position at this point, came to the table ready to compromise, and ready to explore alternatives. The government came with an insulting offer, and flounced when it was rejected. It will be interesting to see if that’s what comes out in the media, or if some of the pro-government pundits will find a way to spin this as the students being obstinate and inflexible.

At this point it is looking less and less likely that Charest will call an early election this summer. Unless he does, or something else changes, it’ll be a long, hot summer of casseroles and protests. Not that I’m complaining, I love casseroles!

 * Photos by Chris Zacchia

A massive protest has been called by the student groups for this Saturday, June 2, at 2 pm. Set to start in Jeanne Mance park, the protest is billed as a family event, and people are encouraged to bring their children. Student reps hope to see a huge crowd in order to send a message to Charest that he must compromise.

I used to hate twitter, now I’m an addict. Feed my addiction: @EthanCoxMTL

 * Photos by Chris Zacchia

The clanging of pots and pans rang through Toronto’s west end Wednesday night as an estimated 2000 people of all ages came out to march in support of Quebec’s student movement and against the province’s Bill 78.

“We were both inspired by what was happening in Quebec and we’d both spent some time there in the last couple of weeks,” said Leila Pourtavaf, one of the event’s organizers. “Coming back to Toronto we wanted to both show solidarity, but also recognize that austerity is not affecting only Quebec.”

Wearing red t-shirts, hats, jackets, accessories and the now famous red squares of the Quebec protest movement, people gathered at Dufferin Grove, a west end park, and began the percussive protest at the appointed 8 p.m.

From the outset, the protest had the makings of a family affair. Claudio, a native Chilean, attended with his wife and four-month old daughter. He noted that pots and pans protests were originally used against the Allende government in Chile in the early 1970s, and were later renewed during resistance to the Pinochet dictatorship.

“In Chile there’s a very strong student movement protesting things similar to what’s happening in Quebec,” he said. “So for me to be here with my wife and child, it’s to express our solidarity with the students in Quebec, especially with this oppressive legislation that’s being put forth by the Charest government.”

Vast numbers of Quebecers have turned against the Charest government in reaction to strict limits put on freedom of assembly and of expression by Bill 78, broadening the protest movement beyond simply the issue of a tuition fee increase, which first sent Quebec’s students into the street en masse.

After half-an-hour of noisemaking that seemed only to attract more people to the park, the crowd started its march through the surrounding neighbourhood, bringing their sonic message to locals, mirroring demonstrations in Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec that began May 19.

A contingent of seven Toronto police officers on bikes watched the crowd grow and followed the march, calling in support from squad cars to block streets along the route. Over the course of the evening, police repeated that the protest remained peaceful.

Along the route, some neighbours seemed puzzled, some snapped photos while others brought out their own cookware to beat along with the marchers.  Resident Jason Albuquerque said, although he was not aware of what the protest was about, he found it enjoyable and wouldn’t mind if happened again nightly, as long as it wasn’t too late.

As the stainless steel parade snaked through the streets and up towards Bloor Street, all appeared amused to watch, red squares materializing on their shirts in the procession’s wake.

“I was surprised that there is a movement going on here in Ontario, and hopefully it won’t be negative in terms of violence or destruction,” said Lorraine Heimrath a resident of Hepbourne Street, sporting her new fabric red square, husband Jean-Marie standing by.

“It’s in defiance of these new laws,” he said, referring to Bill 78. “I think people finally got up off their asses and started to say something because they’re not going to put up with it anymore, and I’m glad.”

On Bloor, the march seemed to reach a crescendo, attracting attention and support from bars, restaurants, cafes and residents along the main thoroughfare. The steady stream of people would turn south towards College Street before heading back towards its starting point and making a second round, though far fewer remained as the march headed east on Bloor at 10:45 p.m.

The march was the largest of several gatherings planned in Toronto and was part of a Canada-wide rallying call dubbed “casserole night in Canada,” after the Quebec “casserole” demonstrations that have broken out nightly in neighbourhoods across Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec.

The wave of arrests and clashes with police have made headlines internationally, with the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, weighing in on the crisis on Wednesday. “It is regrettable that the authorities have resorted to a restrictive approach, rather than seeking dialogue and mediation to resolve the current situation,” said Kiai in a public statement.

Responding to mounting pressure, both student groups and the Quebec government are in the midst of negotiations that are now stretching into a fourth day, and have seen concessions made by the government on the tuition fee increase. Offers and counter-offers continue to be debated in what Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the student organization CLASSE, called “a bit of a ping-pong match” on Wednesday night.

Photos by Malika Pannek and Tomas Urbina

In almost every report on the social movement now sweeping Quebec, including my own, words like conflict, crisis and stand-off figure prominently. Anger is omnipresent. The anger of protesters, the anger of government, the anger of those supposedly inconvenienced. Pundits scream about mob rule, anarchy in the streets and the dissolution of society as we know it.

Don’t get me wrong, there is anger, present of course. But that is not what you see if you take to the streets, or watch CUTV’s live stream. Pundits can’t stop bemoaning the inconvenience to “ordinary” Montrealers posed by these protests. But I wonder, are there any “ordinary” Montrealers left to inconvenience?

As I write these words there are demonstrations going on in every neighborhood of Montreal. “Casseroles,” where people leave their houses to bang pots in the street every night at 8:00 p.m., have led to marches everywhere. The police cannot keep up. Far flung suburbs like Vaudreuil and Île Perrot, the anglophone West Island and NDG, South Shore suburbs, Québec City, Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Rimouski, Trois Rivières and the list goes on. Some of these places have never seen a demonstration, certainly not since the days of the quiet revolution. Now their streets swell with hundreds, thousands.

The prevailing question in the media is, how do we end this? Supporters and opponents alike seek a “solution” to put an end to the “crisis”. And we need one, those on the streets need to be heard. Actions need to be taken to address the demands of the masses. But what exactly is so bad about what is happening? Why do we need it to end so urgently?

As this movement goes on, and grows by leaps and bounds, it is increasingly clear that it is not a movement of anger, of rage or of hate. It is a movement of love, of community and of hope. People who would be alone in their houses watching TV take to the streets and march with neighbours they never knew they had. Back when we had real communities, they were driven by the coming together of neighbours each night. Instead of watching TV, we met in the street, we exchanged details of our day and we made plans for our future. Just as the “casseroles” cause us to do now.

Perhaps the most lasting effect of this movement will be to build stronger, more connected communities. Every day that it goes on, more of us meet in the street, build relationships and talk about what kind of a society we want.

This is what Charest is afraid of. This is what keeps the powerful awake at night. If we talk, if we exchange ideas and debate the future of our society, we will want to change it. And nothing terrifies the powerful more than a change to the system which gives them their power.

The most honest reason which can be given for why people are in the street is the simplest. We do not see ourselves reflected in our government. But we see ourselves, our concerns, our hope, our love and our aspirations, reflected in every smiling face we see on the street. For the first time in a long time we are having a real conversation about what kind of society we want. We’re having it with each other, every night when we meet in the streets. And slowly, but surely, we are realizing that we have the power to make our dreams a reality.

Over at Translating the Printemps Erable, a superb volunteer collective dedicated to translating French articles about the movement into English, the administrator recently posted an Open Letter to the Mainstream English Media. It is perhaps the best description of this incredible phenomenon I have yet seen. In it they bemoaned the coverage which focuses on anger, when what we see in the streets is love. They describe the nightly “casseroles” like this:

If you do not live here, I wish I could properly convey to you what it feels like . . . It is magic. It starts quietly, a suggestion here and there, and it builds. Everybody on the street begins to smile. I get there, and we all — young and old, children and students and couples and retirees and workers and weird misfits and dogs and, well, neighbours –we all grin the widest grins you have ever seen while dancing around and making as much noise as possible. We are almost ecstatic with the joy of letting loose like this, of voicing our resistance to a government that seeks to silence us, and of being together like this. I have lived in my neighbourhoods for five years now, and this is the most I have ever felt a part of the community; the lasting impact that these protests will have on how people relate to each other in the city is deep and incredible.

The video below is a simple, black and white video of one night in the life of nos casseroles, but it has gone viral, encapsulating as it does the joy and togetherness of our movement:

We walk past each other every day, but we do not smile. We do not stop to talk, we do not connect. In these protests, in the breast of this movement, we are remembering what it is to work together to make our world a better place. We used to know, in some far distant past, but we have forgotten.

Many in this movement are mad at the media. But in many ways it is not the fault of the journalists, or the pundits who cling to the status quo like a drowning man grasps a life raft.

If you try to understand this movement through the lens of politics as usual, you are doomed to failure. This is a spontaneous, joyful uprising. It is not Astro Turfed, it does not depend on the media or the political parties, or even the unions or student groups for oxygen. It is a fire which has slumbered in our bellies for so long, silent and nearly forgotten.

What the critics and the pundits do not understand is that they are no longer in control. People will no longer nod and agree with their paper or their TV. They can diminish it, can under-report our numbers and exaggerate our violence, but it doesn’t matter. Their words and their barbs cannot defeat the solidarity and love which flows through our streets each night.

People don’t need the media to tell them what is happening outside their door. They can hear it. They can feel it. The genie cannot go back in the bottle. We are awake, truly awake for the first time in a long time. We will not go back to sleep.

I started to notice after the passage of Bill 78, and the mass demonstration of May 22, a change. Not only in the streets, but online. As the “casseroles” spread, so did their footprint on the social networks through which we express ourselves. Friends who had always hated protests, right wingers, misanthropes, apolitical types and everyone in between began to post pictures of themselves with pots and pans outside their house.

My Facebook feed, which is normally full of cute pictures and a hodge podge of random posts, unified. It coalesced in a way I had never seen before. I now notice, and am surprised, if I see a single post unrelated to this movement.

Twitter, which had largely been ignored by Francophone Quebeckers, is now swollen with tweets about the protests. The way we come together in the streets has spread to our online presence. We share and comment and talk. We come together as citizens of a community, galvanized by a common cause.

This movement may yet fail. It may be co-opted, or lose track of its goals. It may fizzle or be beaten, as so many other movements have been. But there can be no denying that something extraordinary is happening in Quebec.

If we, as a society, as a people, are to make a stand against the governments which cut taxes on the rich and corporations and then plead poverty as they dismantle our society, our communities, it will be here.

If a line in the sand will be drawn, it is here, in the streets of Quebec. The battle for a better world starts in this city, this glorious, madcap city whose joie de vivre flows through the veins of each and every one of us like a river.

Join us, speak your solidarity from the rooftops, call out our name. Because here in these streets, a revolution has started. A fire which burns for a better world.

Call me an idealist, call me a dreamer, call me anything you like. But this is a moment in time we will tell our children about. Together, we can start something here that spreads like wildfire across this continent. What happens next is up to us.

To paraphrase Robert Frost: Two roads diverged in the woods, and we — we took the one less traveled on, and that has made all the difference.

Top photo by Chris Zacchia


Wednesday night a huge “casseroles” demonstration has been called for people across Canada to show solidarity with the Quebec movement. At 8:00 p.m., wherever you are, go outside with a pot and a metal implement and make some noise. Bonus points for meeting up with neighbours while doing it.

I’m calling it Casseroles Night in Canada, we’ll see if that sticks . . .

Twitter hashtag: #CasserolesNightinCanada

National Facebook event (details of meet ups, submit yours!)

Oh, and follow me on twitter for regualr updates: @EthanCoxMTL