Quebec Student Protests Go International With New York Times Op-Ed, Putin Government Criticism

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QUEBEC PROTEST NEW YORK TIMES
It has now been 102 days since the Quebec student strike began, and the province's turmoil is spilling across borders as protest supporters take their strife international. (Getty) | Getty Images

It has now been 102 days since the Quebec student strike began, and the province's turmoil is spilling across borders as protest supporters take their strife international.

In this morning's New York Times, an op-ed implores our American neighbours to take note of what's happening across their northern border, "for a change."

"Canada used to seem a progressive and just neighbor, but the picture today looks less rosy," says the column, "Our Not-So-Friendly Northern Neighbor," written by University of Montreal political science professors Laurence Bherer and Pascale Dufour.

"One of its provinces has gone rogue, trampling basic democratic rights in an effort to end student protests against the Quebec provincial government’s plan to raise tuition fees by 75 percent."

Quebec Premier Jean Charest's Bill 78, which places what the column calls "draconian" restrictions on demonstrations, has been largely demonized as an attack on civil liberties. The law, effective until July 2013, makes it illegal to protest without alerting police to the date, route and attendance numbers beforehand. The laws also limit where groups can protest, and holds organizing student groups responsible for third-party tag-alongs who destroy property or stray from the approved route.

"Behavior they cannot possibly control," says the column.

Even the government of Vladimir Putin has harsh words for the new laws. Foreign Ministry Ombudsman Konstantin Dolgov said in a statement that Montrealers' rights to protest have been reduced and that police should show more restraint toward what have been mostly peaceful protesters.

This from the same government hardly known for their support of civil disobedience and that's currently backing a 200-fold increase in the fine for unlawful protest.

Under Bill 78, any violation could slap student groups with a fine of up to $125,000. Bherer and Dufour say the laws and steep fines are Charest's Orwellian solution to halting the months of unrest after refusing to find a resolution though mediation.

Elsewhere in New York City, people gathered to mark the 100th day of Quebec's uprising. The Village Voice reports that students and activists protested outside the Quebec government's offices at Rockefeller Plaza and marched through Manhattan. Later, a few hundred people gathered in Washington Square to discuss student debt and education, while volunteers handed out the red felt squares that have become the symbol of the striking Quebecois students.

Montreal indie band Arcade Fire also donned the red squares when they appeared on Saturday Night Live.

Across the pond in Paris, a few hundred waved flags and carried signs outside Notre Dame Cathedral. Last week, Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan wore the red square to his film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

And the world has taken note.

The BBC ran a profile of CLASSE's "rebel with a cause" leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. One of the prominent faces of the student strike, his "fiery rhetoric and bad-boy intransigence" has earned him the attention of international media and swooning female activists alike. (He even has his own 'Hey Girl' meme.)

Al Jazeera, perhaps known best for their in-depth coverage of the Arab Spring, has also turned its attention to Quebec, reporting on student activists defying a "tyrant" premier.

Just as English Canada took some time to understand and cover the Quebec student movement, international media is slowly but surely taking note of the protests that have become the largest ever in the province's history.

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