UPDATE 24 May: Looks like the New York Times has noticed the heavy-handed attempt to prevent gathering. So much for U.S. news outlets failing to pick up the story!
News of the protests here only trickled out in fits and starts to our readers in other countries. It started one hundred days ago, with the announcement by the government of Quebec that they plan to raise university tuition over the next four years by 65%. Quebec’s average annual cost to attend a university — $2,519 — is low, intentionally so. A student could actually pay their way through university. Students protested the announced increases in the hopes of keeping it that way. Those of us with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt could only look on with wonder. The symbolic red squares popped up on t-shirts, on facebook. I feel lucky that I went to Montreal to present a paper at a conference during the first month of protests, and there met some of the students and professors involved. Otherwise, I would only have had Canada’s English-language press coverage to rely on, which means I’d only hear about those protesters who committed vandalism or resisted arrest, a small number compared with those who earnestly protest the direction in which the province is going, especially with respect to funding higher education with the incomes of employed workers rather than the upfront fees of underemployed students. The Minister of Education resigned, calling her resignation a sacrifice and “the ultimate compromise,” although those of us with eternal education debts might think that was a bit overstated. But it was the government’s attempt to crack down on protesting and bring the unrest to an end that really brought out citizens of all ages: Bill 78 , “the most odious law,” as Weinstock says, includes many provisions, including the initial rule that gatherings of more than 9 people required prior government permission, a measure that got so much resistance the number was increased to 49 people. As Brian Leiter notes, “The protesters are unimpressed with the new law.” (The page title says, ‘Arrest me, someone.’ The signs say ‘I disobey.’) This is how Montreal responds to being told not to gather: