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An Open Letter to the Mainstream English Media:

Thank you; you are a little late to the party, and you are still missing the mark a lot of the time, but in the past few days, you have published some not entirely terrible articles and op-eds about what’s happening in Quebec right now. Welcome to our movement.

Some of you have even started mentioning that when people are rounded up and arrested each night, they aren’t all criminals or rioters. Some of you have admitted that perhaps limiting our freedom of speech and assembly is going a little bit too far. Some of you are no longer publishing lies about the popular support that you seemed to think our government had. Not all of you, mind you, but some of you are waking up.

That said, here is what I have not seen you publish yet: stories about joy; about togetherness; about collaboration; about solidarity. You write about our anger, and yes, we are angry. We are angry at our government, at our police and at you. But none of you are succeeding in conveying what it feels like when you walk down the streets of Montreal right now, which is, for me at least, an overwhelming sense of joy and togetherness.

News coverage of Quebec almost always focuses on division: English vs. French; Quebec-born vs. immigrant; etc. This is the narrative that has shaped how people see us as a province, whether or not it is fair. But this is not what I feel right now when I walk down the street. At 8pm, I rush out of the house with a saucepan and a ladle, and as I walk to meet my fellow protesters, I hear people emerge from their balconies and the music starts. If you do not live here, I wish I could properly convey to you what it feels like; the above video is a start. It is magic. It starts quietly, a suggestion here and there, and it builds. Everybody on the street begins to smile. I get there, and we all–young and old, children and students and couples and retirees and workers and weird misfits and dogs and, well, neighbours–we all grin the widest grins you have ever seen while dancing around and making as much noise as possible. We are almost ecstatic with the joy of letting loose like this, of voicing our resistance to a government that seeks to silence us, and of being together like this.

I have lived in my neighbourhood for five years now, and this is the most I have ever felt a part of the community; the lasting impact that these protests will have on how people relate to each other in the city is deep and incredible. I was born and raised in Montreal, and I have always loved this city, I have always told people that it is the best city in the world, but I have truly never loved it as much as I do right now.

The first night that I went to a casseroles (pots and pans) demonstration, at the centre of the action–little children ecstatically blowing whistles, a young couple handing out extra pots and pans to passers-by, a yoga teacher who paused his class to have everyone join–I saw a bemused couple, banging away, but seemingly confused about something. When we finished, they asked me, “how did you find us?” I replied that I had checked the map that had been posted online of rendez-vous spots, and theirs was the nearest to my house. “Last night we were all alone,” they told me. They had no idea it had been advertized online. This is what our revolution looks like: someone had clearly ridden around our neighbourhood, figured out where people were protesting, and marked them for the rest of us. This is a revolution of collaboration. Of solidarity.

The next night the crowd had doubled. Tonight we will be even more.

I come home from these protests euphoric. The first night I returned, I sat down on my couch and I burst into tears, as the act of resisting, loudly, with my neighbours, so joyfully, had released so much tension that I had been carrying around with me, fearing our government, fearing arrest, fearing for the future. I felt lighter. Every night, I exchange stories with friends online and find out what happened in their neighbourhoods. These are the kinds of things we say to each other: “if I loved my city any more right now, my heart would burst.” We use the word “love” a whole lot. We feel empowered. We feel connected. We feel like we are going to win.

Why don’t you write about this? This incredible feeling? Another example I can give you is this very blog. Myself and a few friends began it as a way of disseminating information in English about what was happening here in Quebec, and within hours, literally hours, volunteers were writing me offering to help. Every day, people submit translations to me anonymously; I have no idea who they are, they just want to do something. They come from everywhere. They translate what they think is important to get out there into the world. People email me corrections, too. They email me advice. They email me encouragement. This blog runs on solidarity and utter human kindness.

This is what Quebec looks like right now. Every night is teargas and riot cops, but it is also joy, laughter, kindness, togetherness, and beautiful music. Our hearts are bursting. We are so proud of each other; of the spirit of Quebec and its people; of our ability to resist, and our ability to collaborate.

Why aren’t you writing about this? Does joy not sell as well as violence? Does collaboration not sell as well as confrontation? You can have your cynicism; our revolution is sincere.

Sincerely,

The Administrator of Translating the printemps érable.

Photo Credit: Monica Eileen Patterson


Addendum:


As a perfect illustration of the incredible collaborative and generous spirit that is emblematic of this movement, within two hours of posting the above letter, I received, unsolicited, the following translation of the song that is features in the video. This is who we are.

Lyrics:

You tell them

You tell them

That it was instinct that

Drove you up to here.

You tell them

You tell them

That your senses were screaming

Deeply driven

By a strange force

Let it be your base camp.

Let it be your base camp.

You tell them

You tell them

That it was intuition that

Drove you up to here

A carelessness

So necessary every now and then

Let it be your base camp.

Let it be your base camp.

*Translated by Ian Truman, submitted by Mary Lee Maynard.

“my body, my choice. Fuck bill 20”. Bill 20 is a proposal to make budgetary cuts to Quebec’s healthcare system. One of the stipulations sets a limit on the number of abortions doctors can perform per year. Doctors say the limit will close family planning clinic which limits access to not only abortions but STI testing and birth control access.

Marketing de la violence: comment manipuler la population québécoise

24 mars au soir. La tabarnak de manif’ pour débuter la grève. Ma première manif’ à Québec. On se rassemble devant le parlement. Naïve, je suis fébrile et j’ai hâte de scander mes beaux slogans. J’espère qu’on m’entendra de loin, qu’on entendra notre indignation de citoyens. 

Mais voilà que l’anti-émeute nous encercle. Je ne suis pas sûre de comprendre… on a même pas encore commencé à marcher. Je commence à être nerveuse.

La tête commence à avancer. On passe par le jardin du parlement pour éviter l’encerclement. J’entend soudainement des bruits de gun (gaz lacrymo? Je ne sais pas.) et les gens se mettent à courir. J’ai une entorse au genou cette soirée là, je ne cours donc pas très vite. 

J’arrive enfin sur Grande-Allée. Je vois les policiers juste derrière moi se préparer à charger la foule. Je me met rapidement sur le trottoir. Et là, je vois une fille tomber, face contre l’asphalte. Elle s’est fait mal, je l’entends pleurer. Même pas le temps de penser à aller l’aider que trois policiers sont sur elles, pour… l’arrêter? Elle ne bouge pas. Je vois le policier sur elle lui donner un premier coup de matraque, sur la tête. J’ai l’impression qu’elle est assomée, je ne vois aucun mouvement de sa part. Et hop un deuxième et troisième coup de matraque. Sur une personne sans défense.

C’était la première fois que j’étais témoin de violence policière. Auparavant, je faisais partie des modéré-e-s, vous voyez. Je faisais partie de ceux et celles qui tenaient un discours nuancé: “On ne connait pas le contexte, on ne peut pas juger.” 

Ce soir là, j’ai sentie mon coeur sortir de ma poitrine alors que je regardais une jeune fille se faire tabasser par des “agents de la paix”. J’ai crié très fort “HONTE À VOUS!” sans m’arrêter, jusqu’à en perdre la voix. J’en avais les larmes aux yeux. 

274 constats d’infractions, ce soir là. 

Avant, je pensais qu’on vivait encore dans une démocratie. Je regardais les manifestants en Ukraine avec leurs boucliers et leurs bâtons et je me disais qu’heureusement, ici on n’avait pas besoin de ça. 

Deuxième évènement, le 26. Encore une fois, encerclé-e-s, alors qu’on parlait d’un rassemblement. On tourne en rond autour de la fontaine. “On fait comme Couillard, on tourne en rond!”. Puis, les gens ont voulu prendre la rue. Hop, gaz lacrymos immédiats et une manifestation déclarée illégale (on a toujours pas commencé à marcher). Et une jeune femme qui reçoit une cannette de gaz en plein visage. 

Je suis complètement hors de moi. Suis-je vraiment au Québec, cette société tellement aimée à l’international pour sa liberté? 

De nouveau, naïvement, je pensais que la population serait, elle aussi, hors d’elle. Ah. Ah. Ah. 

Non, la populâsse préfère parler de la “violence des manifestant-e-s” (qui se résume, apparemment, à porter un masque). Du victim-blaming à son plus haut niveau: “Qu’est-ce qu’ils faisaient là à deux pouces des policiers?”. Et bien, monsieur Labeaume, ils et elles exerçaient leurs droits d’association et leur liberté d’expression. 

C’est dangereux, de blâmer les manifestant-e-s pour la répression policière. C’est très dangereux. C’est de nier la responsabilité du corps policier et la responsabilité d’un État qui les encourage. Des ordres comme “On ne veut pas de dispersion, mais des arrestations”, qu’on a pu entendre le soir de l’occupation à l’UQAM, ce sont des ordres qui mènent à la destruction de la démocratie. C’est une répression politique. Elle doit être dénoncée. 

C’est également un profilage politique. Alors qu’une manifestation est tolérée, l’autre est fortement réprimée. Une stratégie bien pensée: faire passer les étudiant-e-s comme des casseur-e-s, des troubles fêtes. Faire passer à la populâsse qu’on ne tabasse pas des étudiant-e-s, mais bien des animaux enragés. 

Ça fonctionne. Ça fonctionne tellement bien, qu’on ne parle que de l’intimidation des gens masqués et non pas de l’intimidation de masse que les étudiant-e-s reçoivent. Un marketing de la violence à leur avantage. “Ce sont eux qui ont commencé”. Ça marche toujours ça, hein. Ajoutons-en une couche avec images sensationnelles d’étudiant-e-s marsqué-e-s dans les couloirs de l’UQAM. Ajoutons-en une autre couche en parlant des “black blocs” comme les “leaders du mouvement étudiant”. 

Et ne parlons surtout pas du monopole étatique de la violence. Car la violence n’est pas que physique, elle se traduit différemment, dans différents contextes. Il est violent de se faire traiter “de crotté-e-s”, de “bon-ne-s à rien”, d”imbéciles”, de “salopes”. Pourtant, ce qu’encourage un État qui rejette sa propre responsabilité sur les violences actuelles. 

Ma soeur a organisé une manifestation silencieuse, dernièrement. Un citoyen a cru bon de lui envoyer un message lui rappelant qu’elle n’était “qu’une niaiseuse”. Une niaiseuse pourquoi? Pour oser se faire entendre sur notre désaccord? Pour oser exercer notre droit de contestation? Pourtant, c’est le même citoyen qui s’insurgera contre les “maudits dictateurs islamisses”. Beau paradoxe.  

Ça vous parait banal? Pourtant ça ne l’est pas. C’est synonyme d’une société aveuglée, manipulée par les médias de masse et par un État qui contrôle l’information. Vous pensez que ces discours sur la violence sont légitimes? Ils ne le sont pas. On crée un problème pour s’éloigner du sujet (l’austérité). On crée un problème pour démoniser un groupe et pour justifier sa répression. Répression qui sort des limites de cette belle démocratie à laquelle on appartient. 

Je suis en beau maudit. Chaque jours, je me lève le matin sur une nouvelle  infantilisant mes collègues et ami-e-s, justifiant les coups qu’ils  et elles reçoivent et louangeant les “gentil-le-s policier-e-s qui ne font que leur travail”. Chaque jours, je lis des commentaires de plus en plus haineux envers les étudiant-e-s. 

La haine, mes ami-e-s. On parle déjà de haine envers les femmes, haine envers les personnes de couleurs, haine envers les premières nations, haine envers les groupes religieux. Et maintenant, on en est à la haine de l’étudiant-e. Et on s’en félicite, parce que tsé, “c’est juste des enfants qui ont besoin d’une fessée”. 

J’ai honte de notre société qui refuse que l’on se tienne debout. J’ai honte de notre société qui réagit au débat et à la contestation comme des oppresseurs. J’ai honte de notre société qui ne prend pas la peine de s’informer, de lire, d’étudier les faits. J’ai honte de notre société qui se fait manipuler si facilement. 

J’ai honte d’une société où les riches gouvernent, où les pauvres survivent et où la classe moyenne (de plus en plus mince) se laisse aveugler. J’ai honte d’une société qui préfère son confort à la lutte contre les injustices.

Le confort n’est pas la solution. Le confort n’est pas synonyme de bonheur. Le confort n’est pas synonyme d’une société qui fonctionne. Trop de confort, c’est se perdre au milieu d’un vide intellectuel crasseux. 

Sortez de votre confort. C’est assez. 

Silence by Québec politicians on police violence equals complicity and endorsement

Liberal party politicians are totally silent about the intense police violence being directed toward anti-austerity protests over recent days, this silence illustrates clear complicity and the reality that police forces work on the ground level to violently enforce state policy if it faces a serious grassroots challenge.

As thousands turn to the streets in protest of sustained austerity measures, enforced again in the 2015/16 Québec budget, police are testing the limits of current frameworks of state violence toward protests. In real terms this equals people having their teeth smashed in by riot shields, tear gas shots directly to the face by SPVQ officers and the use of dangerous weapons like flash bang grenades.

At this point its really important to state clearly that the intent and goal of the use of these weapons is to injure people joining the demonstrations and to send a violent message to all those now considering joining the protests. 

These acts of violence by the police are not defensive, they are intentional and are part of a strategy of state violence that aims to attack people expressing collective power on the streets, a process that questions the structures of state power that are so distant from real democracy.

Keep reading

In Quebec’s strike, students are the real targets of intimidation

Intimidation is the new mot du jour in the Quebec mediasphere. Education minister François Blais has decried the “intimidation” he was subjected to on Monday when students approached him in a restaurant to protest his government’s policies.

The students, according to the 1625 Foundation (an anti-student-movement organization with established links to the federal Conservative party), are intimidating their fellow students by enforcing the strike mandates voted for by a majority of their peers. Then of course, there is the intimidation and violence being inflicted upon the poor taxpayer. From broken windows at UQAM (never mind, turned out the cops did that), to broken vending machines at UQAM to litter at UQAM, these students are costing us money goddammit!

Get the idea? The students are masked bands of hoodlums hellbent on the destruction of all social order and the looting of your sock drawer. Apart from the far more balanced pages of Le Devoir and sometimes La Presse, that’s the unilateral image being presented to Quebecers.

Little wonder then that a new poll shows support for student strikers has fallen below 30 per cent. But here’s the problem with that image: it’s not accurate.

Continue Reading.

Quebec student leader takes protest on road as group looks to create Ontario ‘strike movement’
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, known for his telegenic looks and refusal to condemn violence, has been recruited to teach Ontario student leaders about Quebec’s paralyzing student strikes, as Ontario students appear to be setting the stage for their own season of discontent.

The Canadian Federation of Students has organized and funded Mr. Nadeau-Dubois and other Quebec organizers to tour 10 Ontario universities for its Quebec-Ontario Student Solidarity Tour.

“We are optimistic that a general student strike in Ontario can and will succeed, given the right ingredients,” an open letter from Quebec activists to the CFS said, adding the letter “represents a first step towards creating a radical, democratic strike movement in Ontario and beyond.” (Photo: Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

I fought Nazism,
I fought facism,
I hated Duplessis,
I didn’t make it to 94 years of age for this.
NO to bill 78!

Source


Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.

*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at translatingtheprintempsderable@gmail.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.