protests Casseroles

As a student living in Ontario, I pay more for tuition than Quebec students. I don’t have any scholarships. I pay full price. If I was told I would be paying around $450+ more a year, I honestly wouldn’t care. I really fail to see why students in Quebec are taking this so difficultly.

And why is that? Why does Quebec seemingly expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter filled with cheese curds? Why? Keep in mind, this is the same province that got its panties in a bunch when the Montreal Canadiens hired a coach who couldn’t speak French. Everything has to be a certain way in Quebec. And if it’s not done “right”, or different, then everyone goes bonkers. Can’t turn right on a red light either. Gah.

I have heard numerous attempts by Quebec students and their supporters to make the protests (riots) seem acceptable. Things such as claiming that the Quebec students are doing it for all of Canada, or that the real issue is debt. If you don’t want debt, don’t pay for something you can’t afford. It’s that simple. But such is the issue with the left-wing ideology. Even NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair can’t handle his affairs. But that’s besides the point. The thing is, in the real world, things are not just handed to you. I’ve learned this throughout my life. I would have hoped others would have too.

The issue I have with a lot of these students is what they think they’re going to get with a pointless degree. Majoring in 17th century art history sounds interesting, but you’re not going to get a job with that major. You’re wasting your time. And wanting the government – the tax payer – to waste our money, your time, and not accomplish anything just isn’t how the world works. I was taking film of all things. Film. Then I dropped out because I realized no one is going to care whether or not I know three characters from an old Mexican film no one has ever heard of, wants to see, or wishes to read about on IMDb. There’s just too many basket-weaving courses out there and there aren’t enough baskets that need weaving in the world for everyone. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.

The whole argument that it’s all of Canada Quebec is fighting for is utter lunacy. I have not seen a single Canadian flag at any of these protests. Instead, I constantly see the blue and white symbol of entitlement. The flag that resembles a province that doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the rest of Canada. A province of xenophobia and bills far worse than Bill 78. How about before Bill 78 gets shredded, a certain other bill is destroyed first? That’s what I want. And I could give you 101 reasons why too, but I’m not going to. At least, if such an event were to occur, it would make me nod in approval to my neighbouring province. Maybe not in respect. But just a friendly nod. You know, like when you see your neighbor take out the trash every garbage day?

The point is, Quebec should suck it up. If you don’t want to pay anything, work hard, and get a scholarship. If you are going to accumulate debt, make sure you know what you’re doing with your life so you can actually pay it back. Grow some balls (they don’t have to be large, just visible), and do something with your life other than acting like the big bad government is out to get you, because it’s not. The fact is, I find this utterly pathetic. There’s no revolution happening. There’s nothing worth fighting for. There is just so much more you can be doing right now than marching in the street, screaming and rioting. I’ll leave you with this…

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