mandates harm US and European societies. Canada's conservative government
force-feeds similar policies.
They include wage and benefit cuts, less social spending, privatization
of state resources, mass layoffs, deregulation, tax cuts for corporations
and super-rich elites, and harsh crackdowns against resisters.
It's also about sharply hiking college tuition fees, student anger,
and criminalizing public responses. More on that below.
In the 1980s, it was called Reaganomics, trickle down, and Thatcherism.
In the 1990s, it was "shock therapy." Today, it's austerity. The result
is unprecedented wealth transfers to corporate favorites and privileged
Capital's divine rights are prioritized. Social justice is on the chopping
block for elimination. Living standards are sacrificed. Ordinary people
lose out. Vital services are cut. Human needs go begging. Unemployment
and poverty soar. So does rage for change.
Years ago Canada lost its moorings. In December 1984, conservative prime
minister, Brian Mulroney, addressed policies that began in the 1970s.
Speaking before the New York Economic Club, he announced:
"Canada is open for business."
He meant US companies were welcome. Both countries cooperated for greater
economic integration. Corporate interests were prioritized. Ordinary
people lost out.
Oh Canada took on new meaning. Sacrificing pluralist Canadian democracy
and social justice traditions became policy. Major parties formed consensus
the way Democrats and Republicans do in America.
Neoliberal harshness was institutionalized. The conservative Harper
government stiffened earlier policies. It serves Canada's ruling class.
Finance capital is dominant. What big money wants it gets. Corporate
power overall makes policy.
Canada shifted hard right under Mulroney. Harper institutionalized it
further. Last January, he addressed Davos World Economic Forum participants.
He pledged "transformative" pro-business policies.
They include more tax cuts, privatizations, deregulation, and austerity
hitting ordinary people hardest. "We will do more, much more," he promised.
Socio-economic policies established represent some of much more to come.
Social Canada was hardest hit. Rights for ordinary Canadians no longer
Last March, Canada's House of Commons passed budget cuts and austerity
measures on top of others enacted earlier.
They included eliminating thousands of public sector jobs, cutting billions
from federal programs, raising the retirement age to 67, and calling
federal debt the problem to be addressed. It's the same canard America
and European countries use to justify neoliberal harshness.
Canadian social justice follows the same downward trajectory as America
and across Europe. Eliminating it altogether is planned. Higher education
is affected. Once it was affordable. No longer for many as tuition and
Last winter, Quebec's Liberal government announced tuition fee increases
over the next five years of around 75% (or $1,625). Stiff annual increases
are policy. Other measures slashed vital services and benefits. Thousands
of students reacted.
In mid-February, protests and strikes began. One of three provincial
student associations initiated them: the Coalition large de l'association
pour une solidarite syndicale etudiante (CLASSE: the Broader Coalition
of the Association of Student-Union Solidarity).
Others joined in: FEUQ (the Quebec Federation of University Students)
and FECQ (Quebec Federation of College Students).
Thousands swelled to 200,000 or more. Most Quebecers support them. Sharp
tuition and fee increases force students and families into debt. Others
drop out. Available aid is meager compared to years earlier. Higher
education grows more unaffordable.
Students react by strikes and protests. They continue into their fourth
month. Police confront them. Clashes and arrests follow. The usual pattern
repeats against all social justice demonstrations. Legitimate struggles
Money power decides what's right or wrong. Ordinary people haven't a
chance. In neoliberal societies like Canada, young people have most
to lose. Increasingly shut out of higher education, decent jobs, and
bright futures, fighting back remains their only option.
Criminalizing dissent became policy. On May 18, Quebec's Liberal government
passed Bill 78. Provisions prohibit student protests or other "form(s)
of gathering" within 50 meters of the "outer limits" of the "grounds"
of any university or CEGEP (College of general and vocational
In Quebec, high school ends at grade 11. Completing CEGEP grades 12
and 13 are required for college or university admission. Doing it successfully
earns them DECs (dioplomes d'etudes collegial).
CEGEPs also offer three-year programs in vocational studies, computer
science, nursing, and other fields. With DEC credits, Bachelor's degrees
can be completed in three years. Supporters and critics disagree on
the system's merits or disadvantages. It's unique to Quebec.
Bill 78 also requires student associations, unions representing teachers,
and CEBEP staff to "employ appropriate means to induce" compliance with
enacted measures or face prosecution.
Article 9 authorizes the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports
to modify any law to ensure school sessions throughout the bill's time
All demonstrations exceeding 50 people were declared illegal without
provincial police approval. Offenders face daily fines. A date for education
employees to return to work was established.
Winter semester classes at 11 universities and 14 CEGEPs were suspended.
Completing them by August or September was mandated. The law expires
July 1, 2013. It's patently illegal.
The 1982 Constitution Act established the Constitution of Canada. It
contains a bill of rights called The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom
of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.”
Article 7 assures “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security
of person and the right not to be deprived thereof in accordance with
the principles of fundamental justice.”
Academic and speech freedoms are fundamental in free societies. So are
public assembly and association rights. Without them, all others are
Howard Zinn called dissent "the highest form of patriotism." Voltaire
said, "I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death
your right to say it."
Jefferson said, "The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable
on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive."
Bill 78 violates Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So does a
newly passed Montreal City Council ordinance criminalizing face paint,
niqads, and other face or head coverings while demonstrating.
On May 22, it was invoked. Baton-wielding police confronted downtown
Montreal protesters violently.
Tear gas was used. Dozens were arrested. Charges claimed protesters
wore illegal masks and/or confronted police violently.
On May 21, confrontations occurred in Sherbrooke. It's Quebec Premier
Jean Charest's home city. Dozens of arrests followed. Charges included
A Final Comment
Student anger shows no signs of ebbing. Social justice rights are too
important to sacrifice. Affordable education is vital. Resolution is
nowhere in sight. Quebec officials are determined to force-feed austerity.
They include stiff annual tuition and fee hikes.
Students are on their own. Union officials sold out to power. Who knows
where this ends. Hopefully working Canadians will join them. Social
justice includes more than affordable education.
Class war rages in Canada and other Western societies. Governments serve
wealth and power. Eroding social justice heads faster toward total elimination.
Popular interests suffer.
Ordinary people face neo-serfdom, debt peonage, and police state harshness
for resisting. Fighting back is the only chance for change.
A long struggle remains. In fact, it's just begun. Staying the course
is key. It's how all great victories are won. They never come easily
or quickly. Hopefully Quebec students understand and won't quit. There's
too much at stake.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized
Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News
Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time
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