The 2012 Quebec student protests in the Canadian Provence of Québec has won big. The nightly demonstrations in the streets that began in February over tuition hikes, won the support of the general population, fought an unjust law that criminalized protests, did not back down. They ousted the government of Premier Jean Charest, replacing him with progressive Pauline Marois. This is what they have accomplished for the citizens of Québec and Canada:
Beyond politicizing a generation, it has spurred a more socially and ecologically progressive political climate. It is within this context that Pauline Marois’ government has adopted more progressive reforms in its first days in office than any other provincial government in recent Canadian history.
After rescinding the Charest government’s special bill that criminalized student demonstrations, they abolished the tuition increase that universities had already begun charging (many students have received a rebate). The Parti Québecois also eliminated a highly regressive two hundred dollar per person health tax and have moved to shut down a controversial nuclear power plant. In another decision prioritizing the environment and people’s health, they placed a long-term moratorium on hydraulic fracking and eliminated subsidies for asbestos mining, which prompted the federal Conservative government to announce it would no longer block the Rotterdam Convention from listing chrysotile asbestos as a toxic product. [..]
(T)he PQ appears to be reevaluating the $3 billion Turcot Interchange highway expansion that the Montréal city council has criticized and the Plan Nord resource extraction initiative, which has been criticized by environmental, socialist and indigenous groups. [..]
To pay for abolishing the health tax and tuition freeze the government announced a tax increase for those making over $130,000 and another higher tax bracket for those making over $250,000. Additionally, the government announced that it will increase certain corporate taxes and reduce capital gains tax exemptions, which allow those who make their money from investing to pay lower tax rates than those who make their money from working. [..]
For those in Québec, recent gains should inspire further mobilizations. For those outside, the PQ’s reforms are a reminder that determined grassroots movements can create a political climate in which governments place environmental concerns and social rights over the interests of corporations and the wealthy.
Here are some lessons that can be learned from the Québec students:
Voting doesn’t need to mean choosing between two candidates who don’t represent their views, but backing someone who participates in their struggle, like frequent Occupy arrestee and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein.
2. Expose Injustice
American protesters must showcase the police brutality and unlawful arrests intended to discourage demonstrations to prove how the rights Americans take for granted are actively being taken away, hopefully enlivening them to take action and build support
3. Popular Movements Require a Populace
Find ways to encourage people out of their homes and places of work and into the streets so that their numbers cannot be ignored.
4. Persistence Is Key
A constant presence was essential in reminding authorities that they were not going anywhere and that their concerns were not to be taken lightly. Protests every six months are nice, but protests every evening show you mean business.
5. Find Common Ground and Align
Two of the largest student organizations in Quebec, CLASSE and FEUQ, employed different tactics and different end goals. At the same time, however, they had a significant amount of overlap in their desires and chose to focus on the similarities to work together and bring about change.
6. Stand By Your Allies
Hoping for compromise, Quebec’s government agreed to hold talks with the more temperate student groups, but would not allow representatives from CLASSE to participate in these discussions. Instead of taking the opportunity to put their own interests first, these student groups walked out on the talks altogether.
7. Reach Out to Unions
When mobilizing a movement, one of the quickest ways to grow your numbers is to connect with large groups of people who are already politically active, namely unions. While the student unions themselves were the most crucial, their networking with labor unions was also important.
8. Pick a Cause
The Canadian students adopted a single cause to rally around, which proved effective in achieving change. [..]
That does not mean abandoning reform on all fronts, but rather dividing to focus on specific issues, while still coming together to support peers’ efforts on days of action.
9. Champion Education Specifically
If you’re looking for one particular cause to rally people behind, education is a great place to start. Not only does offering affordable education to everyone give opportunities to people who would otherwise be impoverished, but it also encourages people to think critically and question the status quo.
10. Do Not Become Complacent with Your Victories
If the government has tried to screw you over before, chances are they’ll do it again. [..]
Sure, the recent election seems promising, but a consistent, diligent presence by the student unions will help to dissuade the government from trying to backtrack a couple of years down the road.