That deafening noise that Formula 1 fans in Montreal and viewers around the world hear this weekend might not be just the supercharged cars screaming past the grandstands in quest of the checkered flag. It will likely also be the banging of pots and pans by the tens of thousands of protestors filling the streets around the Grand Prix of Canada in order to publicize their fight with the Quebec government.
My ability to get to work and earn those dollars that my wife and I want to put aside for our kids' education is being directly threatened by the constant ebb and flow of student protests in Montreal. Some businesses downtown have laid off staff, cut back hours and simply don't pay employees who can't get to work because of a protest.
Protesters claim the new emergency law, Bill 78, is an infringement on their right of free assembly. Nonsense. I was involved in a series of marches a number of years ago in downtown Montreal, in which the organizers worked with police weeks in advance. This was out of concern for those who would be affected by these marches. These boycotters do not care what harm they cause others. Their attitude is "You have to respect my rights, but I don't have to respect yours."
It is no secret that the supporters of the protest movement in Quebec are principally made up of people who are white, Francophone, and sovereigntist. There are of course exceptions to that sweeping generalization, but one needs only to attend a rally to see the copious Quebec flag waving and chants for independence to really get a taste for one of the many underpinnings of the movement.
The distorted media coverage in the anglophone press of the Quebec student protest movement is perplexing. Some media pundits in the anglophone press not only fail to accurately present what is happening, but also use the occasion to express public disdain of Quebec social programs and of much of what Quebec society arguably stands for.
On Tuesday evening, just before midnight, I was assaulted by a police officer. No warning, no explanation, just a swift swing of a nightstick to the back of my leg. The officer chasing after me threw me into a parked van. I am not a student, I don't wear a red square, and I am not on strike. This is Montreal under Bill 78.
Contrary to what is claimed repeatedly in the mainstream press, students are not saying that they should not pay their "fair share" for education and let the province sink into debt. In the context of the strike, where one stands on the above public financing options is certainly important, but it is ultimately of secondary significance.
Last night marked a turning point in the Quebec student conflict, as police arrested over 500 protesters. The police have come under constant attack for being heavy handed in their approach, most often through their employment of tear gas; however, last night they used a different approach. It's called kettling.
The sorry fact of the matter is that with only one third of students in Quebec left on strike, we should hope these vandals would stay out of university. After all, that would increase the likelihood of actual students finding employment after graduation. Students who instead of donning cowardly, immature masks, actually want to be working.