By Robert K. Stephen
(WINDSOR, ON) – I had media accreditation to cover the visit to Toronto recently by The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall otherwise known as Charles and Camilla. This was essentially a photofest with no interviews granted so we had the end result of photographers feeding off the Royals. In my media bus there were almost exclusively photographers with major photo agencies or high level freelancers. The Royals, appreciating a symbiotic relationship, were accommodating and polite and gave the photographers exactly what they needed but barely and the 11 shots a second speed really is required with these Royals. Yes I know Torontonians have a bad rap throughout Canada as some sort of alien beasts but what I can tell you Torontonians generally speaking are as civil as the Royals were. The photographers are like big game hunters with their telephoto lenses chasing the Royal quarry but they gave a print guy like me equal space on the podium if I wanted it but I am polite enough to respect their need for a photo so I stepped aside at crucial moments to allow them to snap away. The crowds were polite and never was a negative word was spoken from Toronto police or the phalanx of plainclothes RCMP controlling the crowd. This visit by the Royals seemed to spark a great degree of civility and comportment by spectators, security forces and the media. This scenario was so unlike the police and demonstrator rampages at the recent summer’s G20 summit in Toronto. Perhaps the lack of a Berlin Wall security fence and media hype kept the situation calm.
Torontonians are not rampant monarchists. Torontonians I interviewed were somewhat neutral about the British Monarchy stating they have been with them so long they are simply part of tradition. There is a growing appreciation of the Prince of Wales charitable endeavours throughout the Commonwealth. The Duchess of Cornwall has shown some true grit battling the ghost of Lady Diana Spencer. These two are a great team and the showed it. Well, back to manners. In the two days I was tagging along with the Royals I saw 8 protestors at the historic Distillery District wishing to see the severed heads of the monarchy. They were so scruffy and comical looking no one paid attention to them except me who also noted how polite and civil they were. Off in a corner with a megaphone and they somehow disappeared and were replaced by construction workers . I was just about run over by David Onley the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario on his scooter as I rushed out to cover the 8 demonstrators and yet I uttered no curses or raised an inappropriate finger. Polite indeed.
So what has happened in Quebec with the “students”? I note they are remarkably well organized and persistent well beyond their apparent experience and organizational capabilities. Who is behind this impeccable and fastidious campaign? I think there are naughty puppies everywhere piddling on the rug. First and foremost the rampaging students, assuming they act with an independent mind, with smoke bombs and violence discredit themselves by showing their immaturity despite any valid arguments they may have about 7 years of increased tuition increases. I have been educated in Quebec and benefitted from the low tuition rates and I support the right to university education at a nominal cost but please behave yourselves you naughty little puppies and don’t inconvenience, intimidate or harass the populace. I have been involved in a CEGEP student strike a “few” years ago (was it 1973?) and there were marches, shouting, anger, solidarity but there was no violence nor mass public disruption and rioting as far as I can recall. What has gone on in Montreal? It is quite easy to say….bad manners…..Sir George Williams University riot spirit lives on in Montreal!
I am no Dear Abby but bad manners beget bad manners so the Quebec government retaliates with Bill 78 a rather unfriendly Act and a desperate measure by a government on the run having lost its wits. The explanatory notes to the Act state its purpose is to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend. The method set forth in the Act is coercion and intimidation. Anti-democratic anarchy is rewarded with government coercion and disrespect for civil liberties. If the students are naughty puppies the state has become abusive and should be reported to the Humane Society judiciary where the legislation will be struck down. The coercion starts in Bill 78 with its title “An Act to enable students to receive instruction from the post secondary institutions they attend”. I think “enable” should read “force”.
I am certain you have read learned commentaries on Bill 78 but let me give you my thoughts:
1. Bill 78 mandates management at colleges to resume classes on set dates.
2. Bill 78 mandates employees of colleges to report for work on set dates.
3. Bill 78 mandates employees at colleges to perform their functions.
4. Bill 78 prohibits ANYONE from denying students their right to receive their education.
5. Bill 78’s nastiness is found rotting inside Section 14 which restricts “ any form of gathering that could result in denying such access (to colleges) being prohibited inside any building where instructional services are delivered by an institution, on the grounds of such a building or within 50 metres from the outer limits of such grounds” .
6. Employee associations and student associations “must employ appropriate means to induce its members to comply with the Bill”. Since when can a government legislate citizens to force others to comply with oppressive legislation?
7. More coercion with Section 16 of Bill 78 which requires organizations involving more than 50 people ( yeah like this is calculable by an organizer) to inform the police that a demonstration is taking place not less than 8 hours before it occurs. The wonderful police can require a change of venue or route of the demonstration. God forgive the enactors of this legislation. Are they hiring Pinkerton guards to enforce this or are they inviting the Canadian army to camps in Montreal to keep order in the street like under The War Measures Act? Are the students akin to FLQ murderous terrorists?
8. We move from coercion to pie in the sky idealism and naiveté with coercion on the person, body or organization and student association organizing a demonstration to employ “appropriate means to ensure that the demonstration complies with the information supplied to the police as to the date, time and venue/route of the demonstration and the means of transportation used for these purposes”.
9. The rot and corruption of Bill 78 is really rather evident when it holds student associations liable for any damage caused to a third person by its members who contravene the right of those to access their educational institution for education which includes denying access to their institution. Student associations are also liable to hefty fines where they disobey an order of the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports to cease paying any assessment or contribution to a federation of student associations. More union busting a la Pinkerton! As if student associations can control the students? What is the Charest government dreaming of?
Bill 78 reminds one of the days when the British monarchy ran roughshod over its subjects. It is interesting how polite the British monarchy has become and how absolutist the Quebec state has become. Bad manners of students is no excuse for bad manners of the state The Quebec government should show more maturity and stop piddling over the rug of democracy like some naughty puppy. Alternatively the students and those who may be supporting them should grow up and stop disrupting and inconveniencing innocent civilians or those citizens may conclude a spanking is in order.
I will leave you with a press release from the Barreau du Quebec issued on 18 Mai 2012:
“Plusieurs articles du projet de loi limitent clairement le droit de manifester pacifiquement de tous les citoyens et sur tous les sujets. Par exemple, les dispositions exigeant que les organisateurs des manifestations de 10 personnes ou plus dévoilent aux policiers au moins huit heures avant le début de la manifestation, par écrit, plusieurs renseignements, dont l’itinéraire et le mode de transport, et que les policiers puissent ordonner un changement de lieu ou d’itinéraire sont contraires à la liberté d’expression. « Le gouvernement rend plus difficile, par exemple, l’organisation de manifestations spontanées. Il limite la liberté d’expression. Cette disposition s’applique à toute personne, organisme ou groupement et prévoit même que les personnes qui participent à une manifestation, sans l’avoir organisée, doivent s’assurer que l’événement correspond aux renseignements fournis à la police. On est en droit de se demander qui osera encore aller manifester », soutient le bâtonnier du Québec.”