Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Québec! What Is Going On Up There?

1. Happy mobs are all alike; every unhappy mob is unhappy in its own way. This has been lost on a lot of journalists in the last few weeks as many Québécois1 have poured into the streets, banging casserole dishes and getting beaten up and arrested for the perceived threat they pose. Every American commentary I find on it is eager to relate this to Occupy Wall Street, conveniently excusing itself from learning about the culture of the place. Well, agitprop’s always been a lot quicker to write than history, I suppose, and maybe that is most of all true about a place like Québec, where people sing the national song—not “Oh Canada!” of course, but a little ditty called “Gens du pays” (Men of the country)—along with "Happy Birthday" on your blessed day. The Québécois readily lend themselves to mythologizing, which can be infectious to day-travellers. That is, until the visitors realize that they are absolutely not included in it.

I’m all in favor of drumming up support for the protesters—tonight they’ve called for a “Casseroles Night in Canada” that could be a lot of fun. But maybe you're not quite sure what they're banging on about (heh) beyond some vague notion that it's about tuition fees. (No, having read Infinite Jest won't help you out on this, or with Québec more generally.) And to be clear, it's not only Americans who are unsure what this is about. Most English Canadians don't know, either. Too often discussion of Québec in English Canada is either wholly abstract or reasoned largely from the first principle of that totally rude Montréal waitress who didn’t accept your order in garbled French, that one time. Let’s see if we can do better.

2. Conveniently, pop culture has recently blessed us with ahistorical nonsense about la belle province: If you watch "Mad Men" you’ve been introduced to their ostensible Québécoise, Megan Calvet. For all the show's vaunted claims to authenticity this story thread is, I’m not really sorry to say, bullshit. Nevermind that the name Megan is virtually unpronounceable by a Québécois tongue, and nevermind that the actors portraying her parents did at best middling approximations of the French Canadian accent. (One was Belgian; the other, “French French,” as you’ll sometimes hear anglophones put it.) The period is all wrong, because "Mad Men" right now is in 1966, and in 1966 pretty young francophone girls from Québec were not perfectly bilingual liberated swingers playing sexy songs in go-go boots. In 1966 what is called Québec’s Quiet Revolution had just gotten underway and French Canadians were not singing "Zoobeezoobeeeezoo" to each other in go-go boots to pass the time. They were too busy digging themselves out of a cultural and economic hole.

Let’s back up a moment to explain why a revolution was even needed: before 1960, the province was basically run by the Catholic Church. Since the mid-30s, the Catholic anti-communist autocrat Maurice Duplessis—also known as le chef or “The Boss,” a title he embraced—had ruled with a few years’ interruption. He was a nationalist, an admirer of Franco in Spain and, worst of all, quite “religious.” One of his more amazing schemes was to save money by having orphans—who at the time were largely the children of unwed mothers—declared insane. This allowed Duplessis to get them off his tab; orphanages were a provincial funding responsibility but the feds covered the psychiatric hospitals. As a special bonus prize this put these children directly in the hands of the Catholic Church, as they often ran the orphanages and psychiatric institutions. I leave the rest to your imaginations.

By the end, even the bishops themselves were angry with him, but Duplessis clung to his office until the day he died in 1959. Today to speak of him in Québec (or even elsewhere in Canada) is to speak of the devil, unless you are Conrad Black, who wrote a simpering biography of Duplessis in the 1970s, the basic thesis of which was that Duplessis was totally amazing and misunderstood. Even today he’s still writing about Duplessis era’s “a unique blend of traditional Quebec faith-based spiritually inspired self-help, with what would 30 years later be called supply-side industrialization,” because he is Conrad Black and he has not even the tiniest pretense of shame.

Duplessis’ successor was a man named Jean Lesage. He inherited a deeply unhappy populace, obviously, and what was worse, one that had neither education nor money. Francophones were about 80% of Québec’s population but few of them finished high school and fewer owned businesses. Anglophones were on the whole richer and better educated. Lesage looked around and thought: well, I might not be able to force anglophones to literally write a check to the francophone population, but I can (a) increase taxes and (b) use that money to build schools and employ much of the populace. This, along with a few other schemes, became what Québec knew as its “projet de société.”

As the all-encompassing worldview of the Catholic Church was replaced by an all-encompassing secular and egalitarian political vision of an egalitarian society, one ruled by the people for the people, which somewhat naturally meant francophones. Anglophone Québec may quibble with this and yell about the various indignities they have suffered at the hands of francophones—and they always, always bring up the FLQ crisis2—but let’s face it: it’s not weird that a place where 80 percent of the populace speaks one language is consequently dominated by it. And so, for sheer demographic reasons, linguistic nationalism and an active, interventionist government became deeply entwined in the national consciousness. Policy objectives like cheap daycare and generous parental leave became identity markers. As did, by the way, tuition freezes, the first of which lasted from 1968 all the way to 1990. Low student tuition is a way of life.

3. When I arrived in Montréal some 14 years ago to attend university, I came as the daughter of two people born and raised in Québec. My father’s family never spoke a word of French, living in a small anglophone hamlet near Ottawa. My mother’s situation was more complicated, and easier than explaining it is pointing out that she and her sister have effectively lived linguistically different lives, my aunt (largely) francophone and my mother (near-entirely) anglophone. I spent summers and weekends in Québec visiting family. But I wasn’t born there myself, my dad having joined the Canadian Air Force and left several years before I came around. So I was greeted as an interloper.

The specific financial consequence of that was a higher tuition rate than my Québec-belonging peers. Back then they were charged—brace yourselves—$1,668 per annum to attend university. I, meanwhile, was charged the princely sum of about $2,800. For Americans this may not sound all that surprising; out-of-state tuition at public colleges has a long history here. But when this tiered system was introduced back in 1997, it was the first time any province had done it. It’s sometimes defended as a decision made because Québec taxpayers pay for those universities, but the numerous exemptions—“French French” students enjoy the benefit of a bilateral agreement allowing them to pay in-province tuition, for example, as do students studying French or Québec studies—give the lie to that, a little.3 So scandal and outrage erupted in what’s called the “Rest of Canada.” It was a backhanded slap, and we knew it. And, to an extent, deserved it, as we shall see.

See, the introduction of what we called “differential tuition” was one of many gestures Québec made in the mid-90s to indicate that the “projet de société” was still alive. In 1995, we had a little thing called a “referendum” on the question of Québec’s independence. The sovereignists (the polite word for Québec nationalism, since what they seek is sovereignty) lost by just over half a point, was of course another. It brought to a head a long-simmering conflict over Québec’s membership in whatever Canadian project might be said to exist. Now, Canadians are not particularly nationalistic, as far as investment beyond sewing that flag to your Mountain Equipment Co-op backpack goes, but the one symbol of a coherent country we have is (naturally) our constitution. Of course for a long time our Constitution was an Act of British Parliament and still is, though we do our level best not to think too hard about that. Pierre Trudeau led what we call the effort to “patriate” our Constitution back in 1982. Trudeau dreamed of adding a bill of rights to the Constitution, a move not actually all that popular among the premiers (think “governors”) of the time, who appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court ruled that Trudeau only needed the support of a “substantial” number of provinces to achieve his ends, and he managed to get the premiers to agree, sans one: René Lévesque, then-premier of Québec, who was cut out of last minute negotiations.

Québec has never, as a result, ratified the Constitution, and that goes for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms too. The day Queen Elizabeth came to Canada to sign it Lévesque flew the Québec flag at half-mast; for years afterwards, the Québec legislature added, to every single one of its bills, a so-called “notwithstanding” clause. A “notwithstanding” clause allows legislatures to get out from under certain Charter rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, whenever necessary. It’s rarely used but, when it is, it is magnificently controversial, as it should be. One of its most famous uses is in Québec’s Charter of the French Language, which decrees among other things that signs must be in French, and either contain no English at all or, in an accommodation of our imperfect world, English typeset half as big as the French. This gave rise to an immortal cartoon, sadly not available online, of a man sitting behind a desk adorned with a sign that said “FRENCH” in huge letters. Below it, in tiny ones: “fries.”

4. It was the notwithstanding clause that I thought of first when I heard of Loi 78 (“Bill 78”), which was introduced a few weeks ago in response to the protests. The bill is a sort of ersatz War Measures Act. It bans demonstrations on campus, forces anyone organizing a gathering of more than ten people to inform the police of where and when they will arrive, and gives student associations the obligation to “induce” its members to comply with the law. In other words, it’s a flagrant violation of the freedom to assemble, so much so that a bunch of lawyers actually got into their robes to protest the damn thing. (Now the government is threatening to prosecute one of the organizers, who works for the Québec equivalent of the DMV.)

In short, the whole idea of Bill 78 was so blatantly illegal I assumed it must contain a notwithstanding clause; that’s the only way the law would stand up in court. But it doesn’t, which, counterintuitively, tells you a lot about what’s at stake here. If Bill 78 did opt out of the civil rights regime by invoking the notwithstanding clause it could have styled itself as just another stand Québec was taking against the incursion of Canadian federalism. But it didn't—and so set itself up as something different. Something that, instead of galvanizing everyone to fight the outside Canadian enemy, it’s set Québec up against itself in a way guaranteed to raise the specter of sovereignty, again.

The bill's association with anti-sovereignty movements is more than symbolic. Jean Charest, the current premier of Québec who signed it, also happens to have made a name for himself as one of only two Progressive Conservative members of federal Parliament who survived the post-Mulroney (remember that horse’s ass of a person, who thought Ronald Reagan was the second coming?) bloodbath. Charest then achieved the dubious distinction of taking over as head of the Tories and became known as “Captain Canada” (oh god, so embarrassing but I seem to remember it involved a flag cape) during his vice-chairmanship of the 1995 referendum campaign for the “No” side. As is the custom in Canada for political megalomaniacs of middling talent, once Charest realized he’d never be Prime Minister, he jumped ship for a provincial party of a different name but better fortune. Today he leads the Québec Liberals, and he’s been the premier since 2003.

At the time we all thought: hooray! No more Parti Québécois, which had helmed the province for the eight years before, with their entertaining but ultimately unhelpful penchant for doddering-grandpapa encomia to “white race” reproduction and public drunkenness. We thought it would mean less focus on sovereignty, which as Québec got richer in the late 90s and early aughts became less attractive, shopping being more fun generally than political activity. We thought it would mean more time to sort out Québec’s social issues. And Charest, despite his political bed-hopping, still had the aura of a star—or at least, someone new.

Naturally, though, because it seems only complete knobs go into politics these days (that’s a cross-cultural judgment based on international statistical evidence I have compiled over many years of observation and eyerolling), he squandered his chances. Charest has been re-elected twice, but each time his popularity numbers have quickly fallen off. The reasons are too intricate to go into here, but suffice to say he’s been the beneficiary of a leadership vacuum in the Parti Québécois rather than any excess personal charisma or skill. He tends to make election promises he doesn’t keep, or are so impractical he eventually has to reverse himself, and now faces a giant corruption probe related to the province’s transparently corrupt construction industry. (I say transparent because, for example, the entire month of August is known as the “Construction holiday” in Québec, and almost no one works then and no one says a word. Seriously.)

The introduction of Loi 78 is his most recent act of political suicide, and it will likely be his last because, whatever the Québécois might have thought of the student strike, few are charmed by an attempt to keep them from complaining loudly about the government. Between Charest's total mismanagement of the protests, the bill itself, and the corruption probe, it’s hard to imagine anyone thinking this guy should be kept in charge. Which means his eye will probably swivel those 180 degrees back to federal politics. And the Parti Québécois, currently the only viable alternative, will be back atop the heap.

But hey: let’s not dwell on that. There are greater things at stake.

5. So, yes, all the hullabaloo about tuition is pretty much exactly that. The Québec student does, now, pay a little more than they did when I started at McGill lo those many moons ago, though the number—$2,492—will not inspire much more sympathy among Americans. Though it’s true the increase projected will raise tuition by about 75%, it is to be stretched out over 7 years. That means your average student will pay an extra $254 per year, to a high end of $3,793.4 If this sounds utterly reasonable to you, rest assured it also does to most Québécois. Support for a tuition freeze, one of the protesters’ demands, is routinely reported to be somewhere in the low teens.

That’s the real change, by the way, the one more subtle and worrisome. It’s the sudden pervasiveness of the idea—widely held both within and outside Québec—that these students are whiners and freeloaders who have been so destructive and difficult that they don’t even deserve to win this fight. The Rest of Canada long ago drifted into this perspective, and while there’s still a lot of preening about how much cheaper education and health care are than in the States, those attitudes are usually just window dressing to a general trend of budget cuts and complacency. Québec has long been a holdout, but that era’s over. Which makes the students indisputedly right about one thing: the problem with “reforms” like these is that they constitute an abandonment of that old saw, the “projet de société.”

Maybe you have to have lived in Québec to understand why this is such a tragedy. In certain superficial ways, government interventionism has a flair for the absurd. I get a lot of mileage in American bars filling people in on some of Québec’s funnier rules. Yes, it’s true that a woman is actually prohibited from changing her last name upon marriage. And yes, it’s true that there’s an office that approves baby names. And yeah, through a byzantine legislative quirk, your children will not be able to attend English schools unless you did.

But these are only lightly annoying jurisdictional quirks. I assure you that the need to know a second language becomes rather unobjectionable if the trade-off is free access to health care and cheap education. (And actually, I would daringly suggest that knowing a second language can be valuable and enjoyable!) I don’t know what a Québec without those things will look like, and I wish I wasn’t about to find out. If I could I’d bang a pot for you tonight, la patrie, but my neighbours here in New York have children and a seriously annoying little yappy dog. I’ll have to make do with a salute to the moon and a dinner of pizza-ghetti. I hope you’ll understand.

1 Prophylactic note to pedantic anglophones: Yes. I put an accent aigu on Québec place names where warranted. My reason’s actually terribly simple: they are proper names. Spelling someone’s proper name is a sign of respect. That said, I’ve always understood the wide rejection of it elsewhere in Canada as keyboard-induced laziness. (Alt-130, people! There, I have solved the problem.)
2 I’ve resisted going into the FLQ crisis there because it came out of the confluence of a unique set of circumstances that I don’t think are reproduced here. Your mileage may vary on that, but you’d be wrong.
3 Another wrinkle is the existence of a terribly complicated funding system in Canada known as “transfer payments,” in which the federal governments allocates funds to so-called “have-not” provinces. I am loath to get into this because as you can imagine there are several layers of bad feelings involved. But yes, Québec traditionally has been a “have-not” province and received money from the others to pay for its social programs, is the short version.
4 By the by, all of this has virtually no bearing on out-of-province tuition, which has been steadily rising over the years, to the 2011-2012 level of $6,836.

Previously: Canada! How Does It Work?

Michelle Dean writes in a lot of places, now. Follow her on Twitter. Top photo by L'oeil_ — Lost; photo of Charest by Le Chibouki (beaucoup moins) frustré.

36 Comments / Post A Comment

freetzy (#7,018)

Only in Canada (or maybe the Netherlands) could there be a Progressive Conservative party.

Oh awesome, pedantry! As an anglophone Quebecker, I am not sure I get your footnote's distinction. Do you call Germany "Deutschland" or the Netherlands "Nederland"? Instead you use the anglicized name of the place you are referring to. Lack of respect has nothing to do with it

lbf (#2,343)

@Your moms plays guitar for D'Angelo Nope, but I call it Malmö, not Malmo. I think the crux of his argument is that the correct spelling is RIGHT THERE, it's kind of nice to make an effort, show you understand what a diacritic is and why it matters. Kind of like if I went to the US and went out of my way to pronounce "St. Cloud", "Des Moines" and "Paris, TX" the American way, even though that's fucked up. Given the opportunity, be nice.

fb524070057 (#234,151)

Couple points from a stickler Québec student:
- Law 78 is for demos over 50 people, not ten (it was ammended)
- As an anglophone in québec, it's absurd to suggest that if they had evoked the notwithstanding clause it would've united everyone against the federal government. This is the first place I've seen that suggested, and generally (due to some political opportunism), the péquistes and Québec Solidaire (two souverainiste parties) have come out against the hikes.
- Where on earth did you get the « low teens » number ? It generally bounces between (at worst) 35% and 55%. Lower when the protests get ugly, higher when our PM
- A story to contextualize the Québec student movement, that touches on the silent revolution, and yet doesn't mention the rapport parent–which promised free post-secondary education and scandanavian style living stipends, seems woefully incomplete.
- As tempting as it is the frame everything Québec within the spectre of independance, the PQ long-ago took a referendum off the table and it's pretty absent from the discourse of the movement.

Overall though, great article.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

@fb524070057 Thanks for that first and third correction, though as to the latter the number is from here.

The others are either points I'm not sure I made or amplifications that didn't make it in because of the vicissitudes of having to explain to Americans. But they are good points nonetheless!

@fb524070057 Yeah, the most recent poll I saw (summarized here in English – has 36% approval for a tuition freeze. That's still a terrible number for the students, though, especially since they don't even have a majority in the 18-34 age bracket.

Robin R@twitter (#233,967)

@fb524070057 I agree on #2 – that made no sense to me, either.

fb524070057 (#234,151)

@MichelleDean Hm, hadn't seen that one. Polls are tricky, depending on how you word the question (indexation, 'more favourable' etc.) i've seen as high as 60%, but this is the most recent and credible one I could find: at 43%. At any rate, it's a good broad explanation of what's going on, glad people are paying attention, finally :)

I like to think I'm not being pedantic here, but it's a myth that Québec never ratified the Constitution. The Canada East (now Québec) contingent of the Province of Canada was strongly in favor of the BNA Act, 1867, which continues to form the bulk of Canadian constitution, excepting the Charter, the constitutional amendment formula, and a handful of other provisions not relevant here. But the basic constitutional structure, as set out in 1867, had strong support in what became Québec at the time and was endorsed by the Canada East MPs in the provincial parliament.

I will resist getting into Loi 78, since, outside of not wanting people to bang pans outside my daughter's bedroom window, I don't have a dog in the fight. (While technically the tuition increases apply to me, I don't, except in a highly technical sense, "pay" tuition.) That said, the battle with the students seems to have actually revived Charest, who had been well behind the PQ. Now it's more of a tie, with the new "let's not talk about sovereignty" CAQ possibly being a spoiler (though unlikely to form government itself now that Legault's bubble has popped). This will all undoubtedly change before the next election, but the red square on Marois' lapel is not necessarily a political asset.

flossy (#1,402)

I was in Montreal this weekend and noticed a 487% increase in awkward conversations with cab drivers on the way to and/or from Au Pied de Cochon as a result of these demonstrations.

riotnrrd (#840)

@flossy PDC! I used to live around the corner from them and loooved it. What did you have? Tell me EVERYTHING.

flossy (#1,402)

@riotnrrd Canard in a can!

Robin R@twitter (#233,967)

Excellent post! This Vancouverite is off to Montreal on Friday and will be there to support the protesters.

People accuse these students of being entitled, selfish, whatever. That's horseshit. BC had similarly-low tuition until ~2001, when the cap was lifted and tuition skyrocketed. It is at least 300% what it used to cost. When the students of 2001 accepted these increases, they paved the way for continual increases that now see tuition as an actual barrier to access. While this might be normal in the USA, most Canadians believe that all citizens should be able to access affordable post-secondary education. Graduating with average student debt of ~$27,000 is no joke in this economy, and many potential students are abandoning higher education because of this very reasonable concern. And what will it lead to? A more stratified society where the rich can afford to become educated and eventually succeed while the poor are overwhelmed by barriers to education. It's wrong.

So, yeah, go Québéc! Don't back down. We're with you.

Odm (#11,228)

@Robin R@twitter Based on what I've read (not a huge amount) the way to increase access to post secondary education for low-income students is to offer more scholarships and bursaries, not to lower tuition. Tuition is just a part of the cost of an education, so lowering tuition tends to only benefit middle and upper class families.

Robin R@twitter (#233,967)

@Odm I agree! However, scholarships and bursaries are funded by the institution, and (at least in BC's case), the provincial government has frozen funding for universities, which restricts their ability to even compensate staff, much less expand bursary and scholarship programs. Grants, which are like government-funded bursaries, have not increased in recent years and are dependent on a student's receipt of loan funding. At the end of the day, even a low-income student is receiving a maximum of $250 a month in grant funding, regardless of the cost of their program.

I wholeheartedly support the Quebec students, but I think the relative lack of sympathy in the ROC goes a bit deeper than the perception of the students as lazy or entitled and being reluctant to support civil disobedience. The ROC, even in the currently recession-proof West, is already starting to feel the brunt of provincial austerity measures. Tuition freezes are essentially a thing of the past as they have been for the most part removed or are on the way out even in the "have" provinces. The Drummond Report in Ontario is reflective of what has happened or what will happen to the public sector and social services in the ROC–things are going to change, for better or worse. Even among those who understand Quebecois history/society, it is hard to reconcile the protests there with the realities at home. It's also worth noting that students in the more economically challenged Maritimes pay fully double what in-province Quebec students pay–I understand that it's not about the absolute numbers, but this is hard for people to stomach.

Of course, I think movements such as this one are most important during times of austerity. It's just hard to get much sympathy when things are tough all over.

Ben Nolan (#9,809)

Dude. Montreal in the mid-60s was a pretty swinging and progressive place. Look up Expo '67 if you don't believe me.

BadIdeaBear (#234,154)

Where does the rising cost of providing education fit into this? I'm all for keeping tuition low, as I was very affected by the lift of the BC tuition cap. In fact, I do think that keeping tuition low has been instrumental in keeping Canada competitive in a world market. But where is money to improve facilities, pay instructors and sessionals, and create syllabi supposed to come from? If the student protestors are arguing that they have a better right to federal money for this than the rest of Canada, I assure them it is not the case. As well, after so many years of tuition being kept artificially low, don't students in these universities worry that it's going to impact the value of their education? Although McGill has a high international profile and may be able to raise funds elsewhere, what about all the CEGEP's?

Robin R@twitter (#233,967)

@BadIdeaBear "If the student protestors are arguing that they have a better right to federal money for this than the rest of Canada"

The vast majority of education funding comes from the provincial government, not the federal.

fb524070057 (#234,151)

@BadIdeaBear CEGEPs run the gammit in « reputation » but generally since CEGEPs don't exist outside the Qc system, they're not super well known.
And FWIW per-capita spending is higher in Qc than any other Canadian province already, so the underfinancing thing is a bit of a myth. As for transfer payments, the Charest government used 700 Million $ earmarked specifically for education to finance a flat tax cut (1% across the board), so it's less about quantity and more about actually using it for what it's for.

this is very badly copy edited

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@BRONSONS HOME@twitter this is very badly copy edited this is a blog post


BadUncle (#153)

@BRONSONS HOME@twitter This is very badly copy-edited.

You're welcome.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

I could not be prouder of the students for protesting a tuition hike. I'm not sure what the merits of Ms. Dean's "but hey, it's still way lower than in the States!" arguments are supposed to be…

Cat named Virtute (#234,156)

@IBentMyWookie I don`t think that`s actually the argument she`s making. It`s subtle, and I read it the way you did at first too, but I think what she`s saying is: here is the context for this action, and what the projet de société has meant for people here. Yes, this sounds like a small increase and a small amount for an education in today`s political climate, but it signals a change in social attitude that is distressing and that sells out today`s students, who will not have the benefits their parents did.

Cat named Virtute (#234,156)

Thanks so much for this, Michelle. Like you I am have anglo Quebecker parents, was born and raised in another province, and returned for school. This resonated strongly, especially given all the non-Quebecker friends I have, both here and away, who don`t understand this unique history and write the protesters off as entitled brats.

@Cat named Virtute Can't they be both?

roboloki (#1,724)

i'm going to start believing any commenter above two hundred thirty thousands is from quebec. don't bother correcting me.

TheRtHonPM (#10,481)

Yeah! Lower tuition! That asbestos money isn't going to spend itself, you know.

ggb (#234,216)

Hey Michelle,
I actually just created an account to comment on that post. Finally, an objective, informative text about what's going on in here!
I have to admit I'm biased, since I'm a strike supporter. That said, I do understand both sides of the issue and I try (as much as possible) to understand every point of view.
I think your post is spot on, you covered pretty much every aspect of the strike and the Quebecois' reaction to the Loi 78.

To anyone not in touch or not very aware of the situation in Québec, you have to understand the issue is, to us, far more than just 254$. It's about the direction our society seems to be heading to. It's about long years of mishandling of the people's money by the government. It's mostly about what we call a "choix de société" (choice of society). See, we know we have it easy compared to the ROC or the USA. Thing is, we don't compare ourselves to the "american model", and I think that is exactly what prevented Québec to have tuition fees as high as other places in North America.

No, 254$ is not that much. And no, 1778$ over 7 years is not dramatic. BUT, Québécois are wondering if the hike is indeed necessary. They're wondering if the money might not already be there, available, but used for other purposes. Wondering if this 1778$ will really go to the funding of universities, or will it be used for something else.

And finally, I know many people disagree with the protests, calling students entitled, spoiled and lazy, but had it not been of protests, in Québec's history, we might be paying high costs for healthcare and without a doubt higher tuition fees. Healthcare is free because it's a "choix de société". Education?… I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens next.

(P.S.: The pots and pans, in the streets every night, are protests by all generations, young and old, and mostly in reaction to bill 78, that even the UN called anticonstitutional and somewhat oppresive.)

jerickanderson23 (#234,215)

wow.I love quebec ,canada.

Vancouverois (#234,258)

1) The laws that limit children's education choices based on who their parents are do not represent a "byzantine legislative quirk". They are discriminatory laws that violate human rights – including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The very idea of limiting rights according to bloodline is repugnant to any civilized society, and it will forever be a blot on the history of Canada – and Quebec – that Bill 101 was ever allowed to stand.

Also, the point of Bill 101 was never to help or encourage people to learn French – if it were, it would force anglophones into French schools. The point was always to hamper immigrants and francophones from learning decent English, in order to keep them ghettoized in the province of Quebec within North America.

2) I certainly hope you aren't trying to minimize the ugly side of Quebec nationalism. If you think the separatist movement doesn't contain a significant number of people who would be happy and eager to resort to FLQ-type murder if they thought it would advance their cause, you are a naive fool.

quarterback (#3,775)

Still want to live in Quebec. If it'll be a bit noisy. In all seriousness though, great article.

I grew up in Montreal's West Island. Back in the day when it was 95% anglophone. Of course this was before the first referendum. At the age of 15 I chose my dad following the divorce. He lived in Ottawa. I was greeted by switching province with skipping a school year (woo-hoo). When came time to choose a university I could go to Ottawa U at $150 per course, or UQAM at $50 a pop. Easy choice right? Halfway through my first semester, news of the "dégel" came around. Fees had been frozen, as you mentioned, and they had a plan to slowly unfreeze until they matched up with the rest of the country. Walk-outs ensued. When I crossed the lines to get to the library I was yelled at and threatened. I couldn't, for the life of me, support the walk-out.

I'm all for doing what needs to be done to avoid entirely losing our culture. Currently the rate of assimilation is over 70%. Give us a decade, and children won't even understand their mothers when they sing "Fais dodo". Yet, sometimes the end doesn't alway justify the means.

I'm glad I read this, you surely helped me understand stuff even if I was there when it all started! Oh, and no I don't remember the military in my streets in the early 70s, apparently it was rather baffling!

RonaldMantonNMLS (#234,348)


denverexterm01 (#234,398)

For decades I have delighted in killing bugs. So, naturally, when I chose a career, I chose to be an exterminator! I promise to delight in getting rid of what ever bugs are plaguing your home, including roaches, bed bugs, ants, spiders, scorpions and any other creepy crawlies that you hate. Call Denver Exterminator and I'll even give you a discount to kill your pests now!

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