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Marc Cassivi June 12, 2012
You can be left or right. You can be for or against an increase in tuition fees. You can believe that the ways in which Bill 78 restricts fundamental rights and freedoms are justifiable in a free and democratic society.
But when you are a parliamentary minister, when you are the Minister of Culture in the context of a social crisis, you cannot declare the red squares worn by thousands of citizens — the vast majority of them peaceful — to be symbols of “violence” and “intimidation.”
If you are some clown blogger writing anonymously from a half-basement suite in Saint-Augustine-de-Desmaures, fine: such nonsense is to be expected. From a minister, those same words come very close to going over the line. They are an irresponsible lie: a blatant lie, not a half-truth.
A minister has many responsibilities. Among others, one of them is to prove that he or she is sensitive to issues and is acting in good faith when dealing with the public. Another is to generally calm the situation, rather than to throw oil on the fire.
Throwing oil on the fire, though, is exactly what the Charest government has done since the start of this conflict, with its arrogance, scornfulness, and cynicism. The conflict has turned into a social crisis at the hands of an unpopular government who let the situation fester. Sickly, they might yet profit from it.
Thursday, [June 7, 2012] story-teller Fred Pellerin turned down a nomination to the Order of Quebec, because of the ongoing crisis. “I would be disappointed in myself for clinking glasses in honour of these people in the current context, when our very democracy is being shaken at its foundation,” he wrote.
The response of the Minister of Culture came Friday morning — a response deemed by many (including me) to be a provocative statement, a shamefully stupid piece of disinformation. To make matters worse, the statement was authored by an ex-journalist.
All while recognizing the freedom of Fred Pellerin to wear his red square, the Minister declared: “But we know the red square means: it means intimidation and violence. It also means keeping people from attending their studies.”
“We,” in the government, “we know,” it seems. Paradoxically, the director of the Police Service of the City of Montreal, Marc Parent, denies an association between people who wear the red square and violence. “There is nothing to it,” he said yesterday. Didn’t he get the memo from the Premier’s office? Isn’t he included in Minister St-Pierre’s pronouncement?
I don’t know if the issue is bad faith or gross incompetence, but as far as intimidation goes, the black-and-white declaration of Christine St-Pierre is exemplary.
Worse, the simplistic discourse and binary logic that George W. Bush would not let go of (“You’re either with us, or with the terrorists”) seems to have been taken up by the ministers of the Charest government.
“Violent” people who practice “intimidation:” according to the twisted logic of the Minister of Culture, this includes Pierre Lapointe, who wore a red square during the Francofolies gala. It includes Ariane Moffatt: on Sunday night at Metropolis, she sang and played casserole along with her song “jeudi 17 mai 2012” which was inspired by the actual events of that day. It includes people like the employees of Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, who proudly wore the red square on their lapels throughout the OFFTA festival.
When tempers get heated, any person can say stupid things. I understand that. I also understand that the government seems to take people for simpletons, duped by their public relations strategies. See how they stupidly vilify thousands of citizens who show their support for social justice.
Thousands of citizens have denounced violence and intimidation — from the government and the police as well as from vandals. And they wear the red square: not to keep people from studying, like Minister St-Pierre suggests, but so that everyone will have access to education.
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.