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Students across Quebec have been protesting for a solid four months, with over 166,000 students striking from classes, barricading college doors shut, nude demos and more lively police clashes, which put the UK attempts to shame. The cabinet is increasing tuition fees in the province by 75 per cent over the next five years to $3,793 a year. Fees vary across the country and there have been contested austerity-related fee increases all over, but Quebec has a strong tradition of valuing affordable higher education. In response, the education minister and premier have enacted 'Bill 78' which called for the end of winter semester at universities where students were still striking, meaning an early summer break, alongside a whole heap of repressive bullshit which has plunged the province into an angry defence of the right to protest.

See what Bill 78 involves and it looks like Canada's law makers have a first-class degree in repression. The legislation or 'loi speciale' makes it illegal to hold a protest without requesting police permission in advance and providing details of route, time and duration – and having to alter these plans at the police's whim or else the protest is deemed illegal (if you got the permission in the first place). “Illegal” demonstrators risk fines of between $1,000- $5,000 for individuals, $7,000- $35,000 for protest leaders and up to $125,000 for unions, and the fines double for repeat offenders. It's also a crime to encourage someone else to protest, including a harmless tweet, and to stage any sort of protest within 50 metres of an educational establishment. Embarrassingly, they passed the law the same day as anti-protest laws were being read in Russia which included substantial raising of fines for unsanctioned protests.

If the law was supposed to act as a protest clamp-down, allowing peaceful subservience to return to the streets, it failed miserably. Instead, there's been a furious and sustained backlash against the laws, dragging in people who hadn't had much to do with the preceding student protests.

After the bills implementation on Saturday 19th May police got straight down to work, arresting 69 people that night and 308 on the Sunday. Protesters that night got up to all manner of antics, chucking molotov cocktails, lighting bonfires, making barricades and pulling bits of cement off the roads. People also wore masks in rebellion of a recent by-law criminalising their use in protests, something the Harper government want to make punishable by up to 10 years behind bars.

On Tuesday 22nd May around 200,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Montreal in what has been described as the 'biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history'. Dual-organised, one group led by Quebec university, school student federations and labour movements informed the authorities of their plans. The other, led by umbrella of student associations CLASSE, declined to – although they did give the police this map a 'fuck you' map of a route drawn out like an extended middle finger. As protesters gathered in their tens of thousands, most wearing red, people living in the area came out onto their balconies and porches banging pots and pans. The Montreal transport union got involved by telling members to refuse to let cops on the buses – bizarrely, Canadian riot cops use public buses as their preferred method of travel between protest hotspots and as a place to detain prisoners.

Having that many people must help with avoiding protest fatigue: there have been nightly protests against the fee increases for over a month and each has had a good turn-out. Pot'n'pan noise demos against the 'loi speciale' – some lasting up to an hour – are also happening flashmob style on street corners around Quebec, organised through social media. The majority of arrests happened on the 24th, when the nightly demonstration in Montreal ended with a whopping 518 arrests following a huge police kettle formed when cops accused people of throwing rocks. The same night in Quebec city 170 people were nicked, facing fines before they'd even begun, purely because their gathering wasn't state-sanctioned.

The protests continue with a nightly call out 

There are 2 comments on this story...
Added By: Chris Ferguson - 27th May 2012 @ 4:44 PM
Is it my imagination or is that map suspiciously like a huge "middle finger"? Whether it is Canada giving it to students or vice versa remains to be seen.
Added By: Black-Aurora - 28th May 2012 @ 4:15 PM
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