As Quebec’s infamous student strike now enters its 103rd day, a growing number of international eyes are focused on the province. Crowds filled the streets of Montreal, estimated by some at half a million and a quarter-million the following day. Wednesday also saw over six hundred arrests as police “kettled” huge numbers of demonstrators in an attempt to enforce the province’s new draconian anti-protest law, Bill 78. Last night demonstrators marched again, banging pots and pans, but with only a handfull of arrests. A growing number of voices, including those in parliament, are calling this the “worst crisis in Quebec’s history”, with five times as many arrested as during the FLQ crisis where martial law was declared. Wednesday night itself saw more arrests than Trudeau’s imposition of the War Measures Act. In the face of this determination, the government’s new Education Minister, Michelle Courchesne, has attempted a dramatic new tactic: she’s returning to the bargaining table.

Protests have now crossed the border into Ontario. University of Ottawa students have taken over administration offices in a growing protest against tuition increases. Others, elsewhere, are planned for the coming week. Toronto is due for solidarity protests today, and Hamilton is set for more next week. Tuesday’s 100-day anniversary solidarity actions, from Hamilton to New York and Paris, and the beginnings of a national outpouring of support.

For much of the strike, while coverage had been confined to Quebecois and major national media like the National Post, it has been scathing. Andrew Coyne’s recent piece for the National Post shows this reaction for the blatant hypocrisy it is – protests, his eyes, “cripple democracy” because they disobey the government (lol). Pundits have droned on about “entitlement” and lawlessness, but as word grows beyond the compliant Canadian press are taking a far more critical view of the Premier. Hard-line negotiating tactics, police brutality and unconstitutional laws aren’t a popular approach, and that usually becomes clear with a little more distance. As they face down wave after wave of arrests and beatings, with a few people now nearly killed and partially blinded, they have become the symbol of Canadian resistance to austerity, in a way we used to associate with Athens or Barcelona. This is indeed our “Maple Spring”.

How Are The Quebec Protests Being Reported Around The World? George Stroumboulopoulos (CBC)

Elsewhere, many other battles rage on. Protesters in London, Ont. disrupted hearings over attempts by Enbridge to pump Tar Sands oil through Southern Ontario. The Harper government has revealed more of it’s plans to “reform” EI, which threaten to cut off 5-10 000 recipients and force many into more distant jobs with less pay. Federal Conservatives are also trying (again) to dismiss a challenge of election results from ridings plagued by “robocalls”. And of course, they’re still threatening back-to-work legislation in the ongoing CP Rail strike.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a pretty strong correlation between cuts to social spending and these kinds of uprisings. As Harper and his pet premiers unleash austerity on the nation known well as the most financially stable in the G8, we can only expect more protests, strikes and (*gasp*) riots. Not only have these policies proven an absolute financial disaster in the Eurozone, they’ve also incited political unrest on a truly massive scale. Nobody who’s been following international news for the last year can claim they didn’t see this coming.

Protests like the student movement in Quebec always threaten to become about more than the issues which first put people into the streets. This is now about far more than tuition in Quebec – it’s about the right to demonstrate and a broad-based loathing for Charest and his policies. It’s come to include issues of development, corruption and capitalism itself, and it’s beginning to spread beyond Quebec. If the government doesn’t back down very gracefully and very soon, they’re going to have a revolution on their hands.

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