They said that it had fizzled out. They said it was over. They said a lot of things. But one thing is clear: here in Montreal, the fight is far from over.
On July 22nd, I went to Montreal to witness what was said to be a dying fight — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Oh the folly of our times, believing that regrouping is in fact the destruction of a movement. What I saw was a beautiful sight of solidarity for the student cause in Quebec. Men and women, young and old, were out in full force, proving once again that the movement, which hides for but a moment, is only growing stronger below the radar of the media and general population.
As a person living in Toronto, all I could do was mire at the beautiful stories that would find itself within my city limits, to reach my ears as I would listen attentively at the admiration of my fellow Canadians. For the first time in a long time, I truly feel proud to be Canadian. A mass movement is growing.
Of course, the mass media would never display the movement’s real strength; they would never display the ability of the student movement to connect to the average person. Be they workers, the unemployed, the discouraged, or the discontent, this movement — like any around the globe or throughout history — connects to a far deeper need for the re-evaluation of our system. Thus the student movement, no matter where or when, is a noble one.
As I followed, armed with my cameras, I felt something grow in me that had almost disappeared as a result of the despair of immobility: hope. I had, for quite some time, believed that this movement would spread across our vast country. I knew that media skills would be necessary for this to happen, so I am continuously offering my skills for the good of the inevitable dissemination. But I could not understand, to the fullest extent, the plausibility of mobilizing an entire populace without seeing it for myself.
The estimates were sporadic; some said 20,000 others 100,000. This, of course, has been the turnout for months. But behind these numbers lies a truth — one which the Canadian Government will soon understand — that this movement is already spreading. Student Union leaders are already pushing for the creation of General Assemblies on campuses across the country, grass roots movements are doing the same, and there have been training sessions made by Quebecois Union Activists going to many major cities in the province of Ontario, where Toronto and Ottawa – Canada’s capital – are located.
If the two provincial student populations of Quebec and Ontario go on strike, I can promise you that a national student movement is soon at hand. The provinces form the industrial heartland and the most populated, and most culturally influential, region in the country. Imagine, for a moment, the second largest land mass full of students revolting against not only high tuition fees and a slowly diminishing quality of education, but against the system itself. What a beautiful sight it would be; a movement whose fundamental means of mobilization and organization is based on direct democracy — taking the spirit of the global revolution forward.
With the growing income gap, slowing economy, and our central bank finally admitting to the increasingly likely possibility (and arguably the inevitability) of a double-dip recession, the students are here to show Canadians something they have forgotten: that freedom is fought for. It seems a small lesson to learn, but as conditions worsen and apathy grows, Canadians need a reminder. There is no better reminder than one coming from the very spine of society, the young protesters and activists who see a darkening world ahead.
As I reflect on what is coming, I know it will be a long road towards an eventual national strike. There is work to be done — and lots of it — but Canada is finally on the revolutionary front. There is hope for us yet.