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Jessica Nadeau July 12 2012
“The idea is to get back to basic demands, to explain to people what our values are and what we propose,” says Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois at the demonstration in honour of the 100th day of the student strike, on May 22nd.
CLASSE is launching a manifesto, and a tour of Quebec to attempt to mobilize the population. Gabriel Nadeau Dubois and his acolytes are hoping to visit twenty cities, from Amos to Saint Jerome, and through Bay St. Paul and Joliette. The official announcement will be made today at a press conference.
What are the youth made of, those that have hit the streets since the ‘printemps érable’ (maple spring)? It’s this question that CLASSE is attempting to answer in its manifesto: “We Are The Future” which will be made public today, a copy of which has been obtained by Le Devoir.
“That which began with a student strike has become a popular movement. The question of tuition allowed us to tap into a more profound malaise, and discuss a certain political problem. When we take to the streets and set up pickets for the strike, it’s the democracy that’s allowed to breathe. It’s a democracy of togetherness.”
The Basic Demands
In three pages, CLASSE expresses the dreams and aspirations of a youth on the march. They talk about free tuition, yes, but also democracy, The Plan Nord, shale gas extraction, native women. They propose a vision of the world’s future.
“The idea is to get back to the basic demands, to explain to people what our values are and what we propose,” says the popular co-spokesperson of CLASSE in an interview with Le Devoir.
The members of CLASSE would like to mobilize the population and encourage them to think about the issues of the strike and beyond.
“Our message is still going through the filter of the media, so we would like to speak to people directly, without the detour.”
And they’re doing it alone, without the two other student associations, The Federation of College Students of Quebec (FECQ) and the Federation of University Students Of Quebec (FEUQ), who were not approached, but who considered it nevertheless normal that each puts in place its own strategies.
As for CLASSE, it was important to ride off alone “We work often in partnership with the other associations, but this time, the discussion is about ourselves. Because working together, it involves making compromises. And in this case, we had a desire to be ourselves, to show our true face.”
The tour will start tomorrow at Sorel and will travel through twenty towns in Quebec until mid-August, before school starts.
“We want to take advantage of the vacation because people have time. We’ll go to public events, popular gatherings and big assemblies,” adds the spokesperson.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois claims that people are curious and seem enthusiastic about the idea of meeting them, even though he concedes quietly that the popular support is less strong in the regions than it is in Montreal.
“We won’t impose ourselves anywhere. And the support, we have it everywhere. If people want to ask questions and make criticisms, they’re welcome. There have been all sorts of prejudices circulated by the media, so the fact of having these discussions and of being able to debate directly, is very exciting.”
The manifesto and the tour have been in the works for a while and their publication today has nothing to do with the election which will likely take place in the next few weeks says Gabriel Nadeau Dubois. “But it works out well!” he admits.
The co-spokesperson of CLASSE believes the tour is the opposite of a political campaign. “It’s the inverse of a campaign of seduction, this is real dialogue. We’re not bringing slogans, but ideas. We want to stimulate discussion on Quebec’s fundamental issues.”
CLASSE will also embark on a parallel tour of Ontario at the behest of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). “They see us with a lot of admiration in the wake of our large mobilization, but they also feel totally powerless to reproduce something similar. I will therefore go and meet them to explain the keys to our success.”
The method he hopes to export, is that of direct democracy. “It’s because people feel included in the decision making process that they then mobilize. They don’t feel like pawns being directed from above.” Obviously, he hopes use the opportunity to create alliances and gather concrete physical and financial support for future demonstrations in Montreal. But for the moment, he is concentrating on a national movement and the tour.
CLASSE will moreover hold its weekend meeting at Laval and hopes to work out a plan of action for the return of school. “Our priority for the start of school will be the general assemblies which are being held starting at the beginning of the year to consult with people in order to determine whether they wish to remain on strike or not. This will be a big debate. And if they want to continue, people will have to decide what they want to do about bill 78. Should we respect it or not? Should we have a picket line or not?”
Democratic, yes. But always ready to brave the storm. “I should probably reserve judgment, because I don’t have any way to take the pulse of the members right now, but we’ll be ready. We’ll have a plan A, B, and C.”
On the side of FECQ and FEUQ as well, there is agreement that they are ready for things to heat up in the fall. The two associations will have their own meetings from the 10th to the 12th of August. They’ll reunite for a few hours on the 12th in order to share their conclusions and plan a strategy of attack for the school year as well as for the election.
On Facebook, there’s already an announcement of a demonstration across Quebec on the 12th of August, which is on the eve of the return to class for cegeps Maisonneuve, Andre-Laurendeau, Ahuntsic and Marie-Victorin. “This bill [Bill 78] should not have been passed, therefore a day of action has been organized everywhere in Quebec by us,” say the organizers of the demonstrations on their site. None of the three student organizations claim to have ties to this demonstration. For their part, the FECQ went as far as to condemn it: “It’s not desirable. It’s extremely important that people be allowed to express themselves,” says Eliane Laberge, the new President of FECQ. “The idea of blocking the doors is undemocratic.” FEUQ is singing the same tune: “I wouldn’t encourage people to demonstrate,” says Yanick Gregoire, VP to the executive. “The general assemblies should be held on the campus before any group mobilization is launched.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.