Urgent Solidarity Request: Legal Defense Needed for Quebec Students
May 29, 2012
To All Locals
A spectacular movement is underway in Quebec against rising tuition fees. Hundreds of thousands have marched in the streets in support of the students. Thousands have been arrested. Jean Charest has brought in draconian legislation to try to crush the movement. Bill 78 removes the right of peaceful assembly and imposes massive fines on student unions and individuals who participate in “illegal” demonstrations.
Despite intensifying police violence and legislative attacks, what began as a fight over student debt has grown to into a popular struggle for equality, social justice and basic democratic rights, including the right to public assembly and dissent.
If Quebec students have lit the fire, what the government and ruling class fear the most is that the flames will spread across Canada. What’s happening in the cities and towns of Quebec is happening in our own communities and workplaces. While corporations and the rich get increased tax breaks and government handouts, poor people, workers, and students are asked to foot the bill.
It’s one struggle. And the uprising in Quebec has reminded us that if we organize and fight back, we can win.
In response to the popular uprising, the Quebec government passed Bill 78, an incredibly repressive piece of legislation that violates basic freedoms of association, assembly, and expression.
Bill 78 puts tight controls on where, when, and how people can demonstrate, and imposes significant fines on people who come together to express dissent. Any demonstration not coordinated directly with the police is illegal, and any ‘leaders’ or organizations taking part can face enormous fines, in some cases as high as two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Further, any individual expressing support for a demonstration deemed in violation of Bill 78 can face a fine of thirty-five thousand dollars, with organizations facing fines of one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars.
Support for the struggle continues to grow. On May 22nd, nearly 500,000 people marched in the streets of Montreal in solidarity with the Quebec student strike and in opposition to Bill 78. As the march was not approved by the police, and therefore illegal, the event has become known as the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.
Bill 78 violates a number of sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and is already being challenged in court.
As the movement grows, so do the legal bills. There is an urgent need for legal defense money. We urge locals to contribute to CLASSE’s legal committee to help cover these costs.
Send your donation directly to the order of:
Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante
2065 Parthenais Street, Suite 383
Montreal, QC H2K 3T1
noting ‘CLASSE Legal Committee’ in the memo line.
We also encourage members to take other actions of solidarity with the student movement. The red square comes from the French expression “carrément dans le rouge” meaning “financially in the red”. While originally a symbol of the fight against student debt, it has since become a sign of popular resistance to austerity. We ask members to wear red squares to show their support. We can also support the movement by organizing and attending meetings and demonstrations our communities.
The national union has contributed and encourages locals to contribute as well.