The Formula One Canadian Grand Prix is a point of pride for this country, an event watched by millions from around the world. Little wonder then why the Quebec protestors, in dire need of a landmark event after their 100th day anniversary, would threaten to disrupt the highly anticipated race set to begin this weekend.
In an attempt to appropriate the Grand Prix as their own, however, protestors in Quebec are quickly demonstrating their lack of political cohesion. The protests, they say, are no longer about tuition hikes but about general economic inequality. It says a great deal about a protest when, halfway through, it changes its message from a specific issue that can be argued against, to a generalization such as the "tearing of social fabric." The last time a group of protesters engaged in such oblique terms, they were justifiably snuffed out by cold weather and general apathy.
One would think the students would have learned their lesson, and avoid trafficking in such social vagueries. But what is the alternative?
In a HuffPost blog, Andrew Cooper explains the significance of boycotting sports. Over the course of history, these boycotts have dealt with a variety of issues of paramount international importance: In 1964, South Africa was banned from the Olympic games because of apartheid; in 1980, the Moscow Olympics were unattended by the USA because of the Soviets' invasion of Afghanistan. This year, the Euro Cup is in danger of not being attended by many European officials because of host country the Ukraine's inhumane treatment its braided heroine, NAME, and actual revolutionary leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
Now here's Quebec before the world and what are they protesting? An abstract idea at worst; a couple of hundred dollars a year and a law that has hardly been implemented at best.
But perhaps what is most striking about the recent threats to disrupt the Canadian Grand Prix are the contradictions behind it. When one gets down to it, money is the root of the problem here. These protests started with tuition increases and in all likelihood, will cease when the students' financial demands are met. If money holds the key to both cause and cessation, then why would these cash-strapped protestors get in the way of Montreal's most profitable weekend? An estimated $100 million will go into the province over the course of the Grand Prix alone.
Regardless of how hard they may try, the victims of these disruptions are not those fabled one-percenters but the 99 per cent. The American consulate has warned Americans from coming to Montreal. Hotel bookings for the month of May are down 10 per cent, and are expected to decrease even more as these protests go on. Shopkeepers are getting nervous. Restauranteurs are at risk. One of the world's largest comedy festivals has already reported a decrease of 50 per cent in ticket sales compared to last year. This is feeding season; a time which helps keep businesses stay afloat for the rest of the year, and the money's being taken away from them.
But maybe most saddening of all, this Sunday, organizers of the Canadian Grand Prix announced that the popular "open doors" day will be cancelled. To be frank, Thursday's open doors are a chance for those without the financial means (or those who, understandably, cannot justify spending $300 over the course of a weekend) to experience a part of the Grand Prix. This year, the much-anticipated event has been taken away from them.
Student groups say organizers of the Grand Prix have overreacted in cancelling the free opening day of the event. But did they really have any other choice? When you have people like Jaggi Singh, who have made careers out of being arrested, saying "Rich douchebags are going to be disrupted by night demos"; when you have hackneyed hacker groups like Anonymous stealing the personal information of ticket-buyers and publishing it online; when you have an independent anti-capitalist group announcing they plan to "disrupt this crass elite at play"; when you have the leader of CLASSE saying, "You have to understand we cannot block the hundreds of thousands of students of Quebec from doing an action if they want to do an action," what is one to do but assume the worst?
The organizers have overreacted? Sorry, but any group which intends to disrupt a huge money-making event in the name of a petty tuition hike cannot possibly pass judgment on others. Not only does this demonstrate the lack of political sense of this entire endeavour, but it proves how these protests are quickly dissolving into the sort of sensationalist, childish machinations which Quebec students have tried so vehemently to disprove. One sincerely hopes not all of Canada is judged by these bellicose few.