05/23/2012 12:52 EDT | Updated 07/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Keep Your Protests in Quebec


It's increasingly clear, from the way the protesters in Montreal are acting, how nonsensical their cause for protest is.

Culminating in a march of some 100,000 people, Tuesday marked the 100th day of the student strike in Quebec. Why this is a cause for celebration is beyond me, but one supposes that when there is little else to celebrate (i.e. change), any three-digit number will do.

The original cause for the student strike, a hike in tuition fees, seems almost to have been forgotten in the deluge of violence, vandalism, Bill 78 and the general brouhaha, that has taken over the protests. To reiterate: This "hike" in tuition costs is an increase of $254 every year, over the course of seven years.

That's less than an extra dollar a day -- 69.5 cents to be exact, which comes out to be less than five dollars a week. In college student terms, less than the price of a pint at the bar.

So in order to save themselves that quasi-pint, protesters have vandalized windows, thrown molotov cocktails and destroyed cars.

Suddenly, it becomes so much clearer how petty of a matter this is. And there is little to debate here. Sixty-nine cents a day is a paltry amount. It is something anyone can afford.

What has happened in Montreal is what often happens to couples when they fight: pretty soon the argument ceases to be about the actual argument, and the parties start fighting about the fight.

But whatever happens in Quebec happens in Quebec; it is beyond our control here in Ontario. What is alarming however, is that, as of this Victoria Day weekend, Ontario students have begun to petition to bring the movement to their province. And all in the name of that often-used, deflated word "solidarity."

This would be disastrous.

Solidarity is not always good, nor is it a substitute for actual action (something which the left, as noted by David Frum, seems incapable of initiating). "Solidarity" is a feel-good word, an ideological substitute for an actual ideology.

Why in God's name would Ontario students even consider standing alongside their Quebecois brethren?

Already, the Canadian Federation of Students is viewed as a quasi-communist shadow government as far as students are concerned, much like its spawn, the University of Toronto Students' Union.

If Ontario students wish to have their tuition prices lowered -- a desire more justified here than in Quebec where our costs are much higher -- then they should stay away from the student strike across the border. There is no sense in standing alongside those who are in the wrong, and indeed, the protesters in Quebec are in the wrong.

Initially, the protests were given the benefit of the doubt. Not all agreed with the rather petty demands of the students, but nonetheless, their cause was deemed justified, or at the very least, understandable.

But that benefit of the doubt has flown out the window quicker than the molotov cocktails coming in.

It does not matter how honest or noble the initial intention, once the cocktails start to fly and windows are being shattered, it becomes very difficult to support the message, especially when it is one that would do little more than force students to shell out 69 cents a day.

In this country, protests are shaky from the very beginning. The reason being, of course, that this is not some oppressed Eastern European state, or a blood-soaked African nation. This is Canada, and while there are those who are quick to criticize Harper's government at every turn, the fact remains that we actually have it pretty good here.

So when there are students who adopt these extremist actions, actions which are in fact only justified in countries where freedom of speech is non-existent, they lose their credibility, their support from actual policy-changers, and their steam.

Should this extremism come to Ontario -- one which is sponsored by a litany of members of the University of Toronto's Marxist student organization, Fightback -- those hopeful of reducing tuition fees to "the levels in Quebec, as a step towards abolishing all tuition fees in the country" will not only have to contend with even more glaring failures, both in terms of ideology and action, but will further impede hardworking students from completing the degrees they pay so dearly for.