TORONTO - More than 1,000 people, banging pots and pans with wooden spoons, gathered in Dufferin Grove Park Wednesday to mimic similar student protests across Canada.
The group was rallying against austerity and for affordable tuition for students. It was among seven protests planned in Toronto Wednesday. "It's partially inspired by what's happening in Quebec, but we're hoping people will make that local connection too," organizer Leila Pourtavaf said.
Demonstrations against tuition hikes began in Quebec in February, but rallies have taken place in Ottawa and across Canada as well, attracting thousands of students. To date, there have been 2,500 arrests. Protesters also spoke out against Bill 78, an emergency law passed on May 18 in Quebec that restricts protesting on or near university grounds.
"The right to protest is one of the most legitimate forms of democracy," said Madison Trusolino, 22, who graduated from York University. Trusolino, who will go back to school in September, said even a slight increase in student fees is overwhelming. "Quebec is representing what young people are feeling, which is the Baby Boomer generation has created a climate of perpetuating debt," she said. "Any rise in tuition is unacceptable. We're going to spend the rest of our lives in debt just to get the education we deserve."
Here is a great piece by one of the few if not the only CBC commentator who is concerned about truth in reporting George Strombo (Stroumboulopoulos )at CBC on the Student Strikes in Quebec and on the draconian bill 78 :
UPDATE: How Are The Quebec Protests Being Reported Around The World? by George Stroumboulopoulus May 24, 2012
As the Quebec tuition protests continue, media outlets around the world are taking notice. Reporting on the situation has ranged from the even-handed look at the situation of Al-Jazeera's article to a New York Times op-ed calling Quebec "a province that rides roughshod over its citizens' fundamental freedoms".
Here's a sampling of how some international publications are covering the situation in Quebec:
The Guardian - 'Quebec's 'truncheon law' rebounds as student strike spreads'
"In its contempt for students and citizens, the government has riled a population with strong, bitter memories of harsh measures against social unrest - whether the dark days of the iron-fisted Duplessis era, the martial law enforced by the Canadian army in 1970, or years of labour battles marred by the jailing of union leaders. These and other occasions have shown Québécois how the political elite has no qualms about trampling human rights to maintain a grip on power.
Which is why those with experience of struggle fresh and old have answered Premier Jean Charest with unanimity and collective power. There are now legal challenges in the works, broad appeals for civil disobedience, and a brilliant website created by the progressive CLASSE student union, on which thousands have posted photos of themselves opposing the law. (The website's title is "Somebody arrest me" but also puns on a phrase to shake a person out of a crazed mental spell.)"
Al-Jazeera - 'Why are Quebec students seeing red?'
"Right now, Quebec's young scholars shell out just over $2,000 a year for a university degree, not including their living costs. That will be closer to $4,000 if the government gets its way. But even in the rest of Canada, the average is between $6,000 and $7,000.
As many Canadians, Americans, Britons and others have been asking, what's all the fuss about?
As always, it depends on who you ask and what your politics are. [...] The streets of Quebec don't seem likely to calm down anytime soon. A provincial election is due before the end of next year, and many are wondering if this issue - at once seemingly trivial, yet evidently so serious - might just be best turned over to the voters."
Associated Free Press - 'Quebec's tough stand backfires as protests grow'
"Bill 78 prohibits freedom of assembly anywhere in the francophone province without prior police approval and requires protesters to give the authorities eight hours' notice before an event and follow a planned route.
Rather than quelling the unrest, it appears to have made things worse for the embattled premier. Tens of thousands of demonstrators ignored their official itinerary on Tuesday as they took to the streets of Montreal to mark the 100th day of the movement.
"People are backing the students because Charest went too far," said Jacques Hamel, a sociology professor at the University of Montreal. "It's a threat to fundamental rights, freedom of expression, freedom of association."
Le Monde (Translated) - 'Quebec undermined by an unprecedented social crisis'
"Now, popular protest is not only aimed at increased university tuition fees, but also at "Bill 78" - dubbed "the truncheon law" by its detractors. The bill passed last weekend at the behest of Jean Charest's Liberal government, and it restricts the right to protest.
Roundly condemned by those on the street, who appear committed to civil disobedience, the bill has also been attacked in the media: 'Le Devoir' sees an "abuse of power" and an "authoritarian temptation", "connected to the fear generated by the weakness of the authorities", while 'La Presse' denounced the provision as "misguided and counterproductive".
Beyond this Gordian knot, which unleashes passions, how to interpret this standoff? Is this the inevitable result of a movement that has committed "outrages" or, as some suggest, a "generational show-down"? For 'La Presse', in any case, the "Rambo policy" adopted by the government can not help but lead to a worsening situation. Hence the urgent appeal launched by the newspaper for a "cooling down", which it called a "national duty" for each of the parties to the conflict."
New York Times - 'Our Not-So-Friendly Northern Neighbour'
"For a change, Americans should take note of what is happening across the quiet northern border. Canada used to seem a progressive and just neighbor, but the picture today looks less rosy. One of its provinces has gone rogue, trampling basic democratic rights in an effort to end student protests against the Quebec provincial government's plan to raise tuition fees by 75 percent.
On May 18, Quebec's legislative assembly, under the authority of the provincial premier, Jean Charest, passed a draconian law in a move to break the 15-week-long student strike. Bill 78, adopted last week, is an attack on Quebecers' freedom of speech, association and assembly. Mr. Charest has refused to use the traditional means of mediation in a representative democracy, leading to even more polarization. His administration, one of the most right-wing governments Quebec has had in 40 years, now wants to shut down opposition. [...]
Both Quebec and Canada as a whole are pro-market. They also share a sense of solidarity embodied by their public health care systems and strong unions. Such institutions are a way to maintain cohesion in a vast, sparsely populated land. Now those values are under threat.
Americans traveling to Quebec this summer should know they are entering a province that rides roughshod over its citizens' fundamental freedoms."