30 avril 2012

TLMEP Interview with the Student Protest Leaders

UPDATE: Added the Youtube video of the entire interview at the bottom of the blog entry. Thank you to GASMORG on Youtube for posting a high-quality, sound-synchronized version.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois is co-spokesperson for CLASSE
Martine Desjardins is president of FEUQ
Léo Bureau-Blouin is president of FECQ, the Quebec Federation of Cegep students

Source: Le Soleil
The leaders are introduced with a play on word that cannot I cannot do justice by translating: « Ils font le ménage à trois du printemps québécois. » Just remember: faire le ménage means housekeeping, you know what ménage à trois means, and ménage du printemps is the same as spring cleaning.

The threesome are met with applause and a standing ovation. Many of those standing are wearing the red square badge, including fellow guest Xavier Dolan... who wasn't wearing one ten minutes ago!

Altogher, these three leaders represent 175,000 cegep and university students on strike (or boycotting classes, if you are concerned with abusing the term "on strike") for the past twelve weeks now in protest against the government's plans to raise tuition.

Minister of education Line Beauchamp invited student leaders to meet early last week, on the condition that there was a 48-hour stop ("trêve", "truce") of all economic disruption. After some wrangling, all three student leaders met with the minister for some 40-odd hours.

Bureau-Blouin: They were ready to listen and negotiate. They were prepared to walk away from the table with concrete proposals to take back to students for voting. But the minister applied different standards to the different associations, in deciding to kick CLASSE out of the talks after they were accused of organizing a protest during the "truce." This short-circuited any negotiation with all three of the groups. Desjardins pointed out that her federation, FEUQ, did organize protests during the truce, notably in Rimouski, and yet they were not kicked out. "Il y avait deux poids, deux mesures dans cette circonstance-là" ("There was a double-standard in this case").

Nadeau-Dubois points out that the accusation stems from a link the CLASSE website has to an open Facebook group, upon which a user organized a protest. It was not sanctioned or encouraged by CLASSE. In his opinion, the minister invited thinking she could divide the student groups at the table. Once faced with a block standing in solidarity, "elle n'avait pas le choix de retourner sur la vieille stratégie de diviser pour mieux régner" (she had no choice but to return to the old strategy of divide and conquer) and to do that, she kicked the CLASSE out.

Does the minister have anything personal against you, Nadeau-Dubois is asked. It's not between the minister and Nadeau-Dubois, or minister and the CLASSE. It's between the 180,000 students (he gives a different number from Guy A. in the intro) fighting for "accessibility to studies," and against a government he accuses of being corrupt, and whose credibility is being undermined more and more with each passing week.

Guy A. asks: There has been a lot of clashing (grabuge), thugs (casseurs) in the protests in recent days... Does the federation control their members? BB says yes, but reminds us that when one organizes demonstrations with tens of thousands of people, it can happen that some ill-intentioned people can infiltrate the event.

What's important, suggests BB, is that the vast majority of demonstrations have been peaceful, and among the thugs is "toute une génération qui se lève et qui fait un cri du coeur" (a whole generation that is rising up and making a plea from their heart.)

Normally it's the children who should be listening to their parents, but today we have hundreds of thousands of youth asking their parents and their government to be heard, "parce que c'est nous les jeunes qui devons vivre les conséquences de ces décisions" (because it is us, the youth, who will have to live with the consequences of these decisions.)

CLASSE has a lot of direct democratic processes that the minister finds student association's structure heavy and difficult. In fact, all the student federations involve their memebership in the decision-making process, through general assemblies, votes by raised hand and secret ballot at time. Nadeau-Dubois finds the minister's confusion normal: "le parti libéral du Québec et la démocratie, ça semble en effet avoir une relation compliqué" (the Quebec Liberal Party and democracy do seem to have a troubled relationship). But it's the implication of the membership in the decision-making, rather than a top-down approach, that helps drive and mobilize them.

Not just a pretty face.
Source: Le Soleil via Le Globe
Let's take a quick break here. Xavier Dolan keeps making googley eyes across the set, and is blushing, laughing... What's going on? Guy A. sets the stage, by quoting Dolan from earlier last week: "Il est très, très éloquent, il m'impressionne beaucoup et aussi je trouve--mais bon, c'est sans importance--qu'il est très sexy." 

Dolan, blushing and laughing, reaffirms: Bravo pour le bon travail. Nadeau-Dubois returns the compliment "sans aucune gène, ni malaise" (without any embarrassment or unease... and yet he has a little difficulty making eye contact), saying Dolan makes great films.

Turcotte rubs salt in the wound by pointing out the newly appeared red patch on Dolan's jacket. Dolan, now struggling to contain himself, explains he meant to wear his but forgot it at home, and so he had to borrow one before the interview with the student leaders began.

Okay, okay... back to democracy. Desjardins feels the government has nothing to Quebec Liberal party has no right to lecture the students on democratic principles, when they perform general assemblies and votes by raising hands (le vote à main levée). The Libs work exactly the same way in their conventions! And the alternative, the secret ballot, leads to even higher numbers in support of the protests, so it's not to the government's advantage, anyhow.

The federations never encouraged violence without denouncing them either, at first. Then the vandalism, the fighting. Do you denounce it now? Bureau-Blouin says there is no doubt they condemned violence from the outset, that the movement go on peacefully, and he appeals to the student public again to continue to demonstrate pacifically. What concerns him is that the Quebec government knew in cutting off the talks that it would spur violence, and questions if that was not ultimately their true intention.

Is the semester scrapped? Bureau-Blouin says it's not worthwhile to cancel the entire term, as it will cause problems cascading problems for people finishing high school and looking to find seats in cegeps.

How busy are these guys? They can't count the hours they do, but they've done about 30 interviews on the day of taping. (Later, on the Téléjournal newscast, he hear about how news of the demonstrations is making international headlines... They must be even busier now!) But the work of these three pales in comparison to the hard work the leaders in individual colleges and universities are doing to rally the troops, hold the picket lines and organize the general assemblies and votes.

Guest Louis-Gilles Francoeur, journalist with Le Devoir, finds what these leader are living is essentially a course "applied political science." He is pleased to see a renaissance of the spirit that he thought dead after the 60s.

On March 28, support against the tuition hikes was at 45% in survey; on April 16 it's gone as low as 38%. What happened? Bureau-Blouin: The message in the public has been consistent--that they don't want to empty taxpayers' pockets, that there are plenty of savings to be made in universities and the organization. But the violence helped lose the message.

Spoken like a true politician, he says: C'est aussi bien sûr que toutes les violences, les débordements sur lesquelles on a mis beaucoup les projecteurs ont peut-être pas aidé dans ce sens-là (For sure, also, all of the violence and overflowing that the screens have been focused on have not helped in this regard.)

Dany's card, to all three leaders: IT'S RED, instead of the usual green! It reads: "Vous êtes l'avenir du Québec. S'il vous plait profitez à plein de vos études afin que nos futurs gouvernements soient plus matures, intègeres et visionaires." You are the future of Quebec. Please make the most of your studies, so that our future governments may be more mature, integral et visionary.

Video of the interview:

© 2012 Radio-Canada. Shared on Youtube by GASMORG

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