Tag Archives: Quebec

Secularism? Nationalism? The Québec Tea Party? What’s the Charter of Values Really About?

quebecblog1In late August, when news of the Parti Québécois’ (PQ) proposed Charte des Valeurs or Charter of Values spread (the Charter bans the province’s civil servants from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols), many expressed concerns that this would stir up dormant ethnic and religious tensions in Québec. It led to the removal of the only minority Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament when the MP suggested that the Charter is a form of ethnic nationalism. Early on, critics warned that the proposed Charter would see tremendous backlash calling it draconian, an example of “Stephen Harper-style wedge politics” (Maclean’s, September 20) and even Putinesque (Globe and Mail, August 20). Well-known human rights lawyer, Julius Grey, told Ingrid Peritz of the Globe and Mail that such “values” rules were more typical of the political right than of a party like the PQ that sees itself as progressive. “A charter of values smacks of the [U.S.] Tea Party,” Mr. Grey said. There are two issues here. First, who supports the Charter of Values and who mobilizes around it? Is the Charter tapping into a conservative streak in Québec public opinion and might there be a ring of truth to Grey’s comparison to the Tea Party ? Second, what are the political incentives for the PQ government to pursue such a policy? I don’t claim to provide a complete answer here, but it is clear (at least to me) that this is an attempt by the PQ to set an alternative policy/electoral agenda, confuse the electorate, and reclaim lost territory in rural (and more conservative) Québec where it lost ground. Continue reading


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Will Québec Anglophones take to the streets?

Anglophone municipal leaders are worried that the Parti Québécois (PQ) government is destroying linguistic peace according to a March 12 Globe and Mail article by Rhéal Séguin.  Since the PQ formed the minority government late last summer, language has been back on the political agenda in a very contentious way. Québec has had its ethno-linguistic battles historically between the Francophone majority and the Anglophone minority (although the language debate has expanded to include other linguistic groups).  Through most of the last decade, the language issue seemed to have quieted down.  Scholars like Meadwell and Pinard have described the cyclical nature of mobilization, demobilization and remobilization of the nationalist movement (and by consequence, the ebb and flow in the salience of ethno-linguistic politics). There are numerous reasons given about the perennial revitalization of language politics: from labor market competition, to threats to the French language, to political pandering. Whatever the reason this time, it begs the question as to how Anglophones will respond; specifically if they are more likely to resort to disruptive collective action. Continue reading


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Are students using elites or are elites using students, or both?

The Québec provincial election is a few days away and despite an ongoing conversation about holding a truce, student activists continued their use of disruptive tactics (most recently at the Université de Montréal). Student mobilization has become a central feature of the 2012 provincial election. But, who stands to benefit most from student protest?

Leaders in the student movement have sought to use the election to address grievances regarding tuition increases (although, as I have written in a previous blog and as others have noted, it is unclear whether tuition is truly driving mobilization or whether it triggered underlying discontent). The more militant organization, CLASSE, as well as other movement figures has been associated with the nationalist Parti Québécois (PQ). Indeed, Pauline Marois, leader of the PQ brought in activist leader Léo Bureau-Blouin as a PQ candidate in a district north of Montreal. Student activists presumably see a PQ electoral victory as a potential victory of their own as Marois proclaimed that the PQ will cancel any tuition increases within its first 100 days in office. It is not surprising then that student protesters have sought to mobilize particularly in districts where they believe the youth vote will make the difference in defeating the Liberal Party and Premier Jean Charest.

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Protest, Elections and Public Opinion

Summers in Montreal usually mean festivals; whether Just for Laughs or the Jazz Fest. But, with an impending election, Montrealers this summer are wondering whether student protests will influence the upcoming Québec provincial election. Protests were first activated by the threat of a tuition hike, but quickly became about something bigger (see my May 10th post). One development has been the so-called radicalization of the protests, particularly organizations like CLASSE, accused of undermining negotiations with the government and as being aligned with the current opposition party, the sovereigntist Parti Québécois. It became clear, fairly early on, that the greatest obstacle for student protesters was convincing Quebeckers that the protests were more than just about tuition, that they are symptomatic of a bigger socio-structural problem, and that disruption is necessary (see my May 25th post). Unfortunately for protesters, public opinion has not been on their side. Continue reading


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Why is student protest “radical”?

Have, as Montreal Gazette reporter Karen Seidman suggests, radicals hijacked the conflict over tuition increases in Québec?

In my previous post, I suggested that recent student protests in Montreal were more than just about tuition increases, and that tuition increases served as a triggering event that activated some other latent, longstanding grievances. In a recent May 16th article in the Montreal Gazette, Peggy Curran seems to agree with that assessment and writes that “it was clear the battle against tuition hikes had been transformed into the revolutionary cry of a lost generation. Toss a little anarchist mayhem into the mix, and you get a cocktail called pandemonium.”  According to Curran, student mobilization is partially explained by the broader context of social unrest and breakdown characterized by economic uncertainty and high unemployment. But in addition to social unrest, Curran suggests a certain kind of intergenerational conflict between today’s students and baby-boomers – what she calls “boomerhate.” Continue reading


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Why do students mobilize and strike?

By Benjamin Giguère and Richard N. Lalonde*

Students are in the unique position of often being asked to reflect on the future challenges of their society. Through this process of questioning the current social structures and their functions, many students often recognize that they have shared grievances. These shared grievances can form the basis of the core ideas underlying their motivation for unity and social mobilization (see Simon and Klandermans, 2001). Some of our past and current work aims to understand how such shared grievances may motivate individuals to engage in collective action, such as participating in demonstrations. One context that has been exciting for us to examine is the student movements in the Canadian province of Québec. Our observations of some of these movements may offer insight into why students mobilize. Continue reading

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New or Old Student Mobilization?

A security guard battles with student protesters as they burst in prior to the National Bank Financial Group annual general meeting in Montreal April 4, 2012. Media reports state the police arrested about 50 students on Wednesday as they continued their protest against tuition hikes in Quebec. - A security guard battles with student protesters in Montreal on April 4. Protests broke out again on Wednesday night after talks between the provincial government and Quebec's main student groups failed. | Christinne Muschi/ReutersA few weeks ago, students in Montreal protested against the tuition increase proposed by the Québec government.  But might there me more to this student mobilization than simply a protest against a fairly small (particularly by US standards) increase in tuition? A series of recent newspaper articles allude to this possibility by calling into question “the real” nature of, or motivation for, student mobilization.

Although the government and student leaders called a truce, protest, which included vandalism, continued.  An April 26th Globe and Mail article by Alexander Panetta claims that “the latest events prompted questions about whether the student leaders actually control the movement they spearheaded.”  CLASSE, which is considered a hard-line student group, was excluded from negotiations with the government because they continued to promote protest despite the education minister’s ultimatum. CLASSE’s spokesperson claims that the government really had no intention of negotiating which is why they have continued to promote the use of disruptive tactics. Continue reading


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