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Léo Bureau-Blouin and Pier-André Bouchard St-Amant. Former presidents, respectively, of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec
June 8, 2012
Letter to Mr. Jean Charest, leader of the Liberal Party, Minister of Youth and Premier of Quebec
In response to the student conflict, you have invited students to express themselves at the polls rather than in the streets as a means of resolving this dispute. On June 1st, you said: “If we can reach an agreement, all the better. But ultimately, there’s going to be a general election within the next 18 months. It is through democratic means that everyone will have the opportunity to express themselves on these issues.” We feel it is up to student groups and your government to find a solution to the present conflict.
As citizens, we hope to see a huge turnout of young people in the next election. Sadly, in the last elections, less than 50% of youth aged 18 to 34 took advantage of their right to vote.
However, there seems to be a contradiction between your government’s actions and your own public declarations on how to best “resolve the crisis.” As revealed yesterday in Le Devoir, Quebec Liberal Party representatives recently rejected a proposal by the Directeur général des élections du Québec (DGEQ) to set up voting stations on campuses, where students spend the majority of their time.
Given the low voter turnout among Quebec’s youth, the DGEQ has proposed that students be allowed to register on the electoral list and vote at their educational institutions, adding that it has the infrastructure and the means necessary to implement the program.
Although this proposal has received support from all of Quebec’s youth organizations, including your own party’s Youth Commission, the Liberal Party has refused to accept it.
Similar initiatives are already in place to facilitate voting for the Snowbirds, military personnel and prisoners. Under your government, legal modifications have been made to ensure the presence of ballot boxes in 700 residences and CHSLDs, as well as to establish mobile voting stations for people with reduced autonomy.
The question arises then: what are your reasons for rejecting a similar approach for Quebec’s youth? It’s hard not to see electoral strategies at work here, or, as the saying goes, someone “talking out of both sides of his mouth.”
Clearly, participating in a democratic vote is one way for Quebeckers to express themselves on many issues. Between elections, however, democracy is also something that people participate in on a daily basis through debate, deliberation and the richness of public dialogue. It would seem that your government has resolved to discourage this exchange, especially with its adoption of a law that aims to weaken public debate.
Perhaps it might be time to rethink your strategy. You have rejected changes to the electoral map, your chief electoral officer has resigned, you have adopted a law that restricts the right to peaceful demonstration, and now you reject proposed DGEQ measures that would encourage young people to vote.
Those who undermine democracy are severely judged by western history. You have 18 months. There’s still time to change.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.