This spring marks the one-year anniversary of the Printemps Érable, the Quebec Spring, in which student protests, beginning the previous fall and escalating in an unlimited general strike of students, became a social movement that brought down the Charest Liberal government.
On April 21 of this year, Earth Day, tens of thousands gathered in Montreal, showing that the spirit of resistance to neoliberalism is alive and well one year later. The numbers in 2012 approached half a million, but the lower turnout this year only indicates that the movement is retrenching and rallying for another round of resistance to attacks—this time from the PQ government of Pauline Marois, built on a list of broken promises and disappointments.
Most recently, Marois has refused to speak out against the Montreal bylaw P6, which bans protests and the wearing of masks at demonstrations. This attack on civil liberties was born in the student protests, and thus has shared parentage with the reviled bludgeon law Bill 78 (Law 12), which Marois revoked as her first act in office—a concession to the student movement that enabled her election by bringing down Charest, albeit on a very weak mandate.
Students have kept up their pressure on Marois, denouncing her “permanent fee increases” in the form of indexation and her loyalty to neoliberal economic measures in the form of deep cuts to post-secondary education and other social programs. ASSÉ has called for an end to the cuts and for radical democratisation of the cégeps and universities. On April 22 ASSÉ organized a visually creative and satirical demonstration against P6 in Montreal featuring crime scene tape and warning signage.
Finally, resistance to the federal government’s deep cuts to EI benefits and eligibility have roused pan-Canadian resistance. In Quebec demonstrations have occurred regularly for weeks. This year, instead of its annual May Day demonstration, the main national labour unions CSN, CSQ and FTQ, as well as the so-called “Red Hand” coalition in Montreal and the entire Quebec left, are focussing their efforts on a major rally and march against the EI cuts to take place on April 27.
If you like this article, register now for Marxism 2013: Revolution In Our Time, a weekend-long conference of ideas to change the world. Sessions include "Solidarity against austerity: lessons from the front-lines", "Quebec, First Nations and Canadian imperialism", and "Teaching them a lesson: the struggle for public education."