Great photos of the Montreal mobilizations are available here.
One Quarter of a Million People in the Streets of Montreal -- This is What Democracy Looks Like
On the occasion of Earth Day 2012 one quarter of a million people took to the streets of Montreal. They raised their voice as one in defense of Mother Earth and, specifically, against the Charest government and its sellout of the resources, its attacks on the students, its support for the monopolies and its destruction of the natural environment. They also denounced the Harper dictatorship and its anti-social policies.
A high level of social consciousness prevailed which affirmed the human factor/social consciousness and decried the neo-Liberal market approach which is destroying life itself. Placard after placard pointed to the need for a new direction for Quebec. The resources belong to the people and must serve the people! Public Right Must Be Upheld! Charest Must Resign!
There were people from all walks of life: workers, seniors, students and youth, women, families, members of the First Nations, artists, environmentalists -- all bringing their own demands for renewal, for the affirmation of their sovereign will, not the dictate of the rich, for a human society that recognizes the rights of all. While tens of thousands of people were gathering at Place des Festivals in downtown Montreal, the contingents of the locked-out workers from Rio Tinto in Alma received an especially warm greeting from the crowd. They came in large numbers to denounce the global aluminum monopoly, the sellout of our resources and the secret deal between the government of Quebec, Rio Tinto and Hydro-Québec. The delegation of Innu women from Maliotenam, who walked all the way from Sept-Iles to Montreal to express their opposition to Charest's Northern Plan and defend the hereditary rights of the First Nations, was also warmly received as were all others such as the organizations from different regions of Quebec present to raise their demands for control over the natural resources in their regions. From opposition to shale gas exploitation, the destruction of the forests, exploitation of uranium, and the export of asbestos -- No Means No! they said.
Thousands of students said "Present!" and were warmly greeted by all. The youth of Quebec are our most precious resource, a placard aptly put it. The Charest government was roundly denounced for unleashing state violence against the youth.
Quebec's highly regarded artists were present front and centre representing the proud aspirations of the people of Quebec. They played a leading role in the mobilization, animation and organization of the Earth Day events.
A sea of human persons stood up for the defence of Mother Earth, with thousands wearing the red square indicating support for the students. No to Charest's Northern Plan! Northern Plan Dead Plan! No to [Government] Corruption! Many responded in disgust to the uncouth joke made two days earlier by Premier Jean Charest during the so-called Northern Plan Fair in Montreal. He said the youth who demand their rights should be sent to the northern most regions of Quebec to work. "Who does he think he is -- the Czar sending people to Siberia?" one person asked.
"We want a Quebec that benefits all, in the interests of the future generations. We declare that it is possible to develop Quebec in a way that it becomes a source of true enrichment, progress, pride and inspiration for the entire world. We refuse to be dispossessed of our wealth. We demand that the government of Canada fully comply with the Kyoto protocol. We declare that it is imperative that we orient our efforts towards the future generations."
The Harper government was roundly denounced: "We don't want your F-35s, your war planes. We say No! to the attack against our scientists. No to the intimidation of environmentalist groups."
"Citizens of the great territory of Quebec, today our water, the air we breathe, our agricultural lands, our forests, our mining resources are threatened by powerful interests that are ready to sacrifice it all without any qualms in the name of profit. Those businessmen are powerful but we can impose respect. We need a government that will stand up to the multinationals. Our natural resources belong to us and must benefit everyone. We are against the short-term vision of development at the expense of workers, communities, women, students, humanity. Another world is possible, an alternative to the world of shameless exploitation of human beings and collective resources. We want respect for the environment, for our students, for our collective wealth. This is our future, we build it together. Today is the triumph of the collective. Our message today is that our governments must work for everyone and not for a handful of owners."
Activists of the Marxist-Leninist Party broadly sold and distributed the issue of Workers' Forum with the cover slogans "Whose Resources? Our Resources!" on the fight of the workers in Alma, Quebec. It was eagerly received and the slogans were shouted out by many. The need for the people to control their own resources was at the heart of the concerns of the thousands of people, as was the future of the youth and the future generations that the workers in Alma and all over Quebec are standing up for.
This demonstration once again illustrated the contradiction between the democracy defended by Charest, the democracy of the monopolies and their narrow interest, and that to which the people aspire, a democracy where political arrangements allow people to exercise control over decisions that affect their lives.
This is what democracy looks like in Quebec today. There is the democracy of Quebec Premier Jean Charest, isolated in fortified board rooms with CEOs and private interests. His democracy is that of state sanctioned anarchy and violence with helicopters overhead, police truncheons and pepper spray while the Premier threatens to send the Quebec youth to the slave labour camps he is setting up in Northern Quebec. On the other side of the barricades we have the democracy of the people of Quebec - the workers, women and youth, their artists, professionals and families united as one in their hundreds of thousands with their demands, clear about what it takes to represent Quebec interests.
Everyone applauded the emotional and militant speeches in defence of public right, all of them clear statements about what people want. They denounced Charest, they denounced his Northern Plan, they denounced the rape and plunder of the resources, and they denounced his police state. They also denounced the Harper dictatorship, its sellout of the treaty on Climate Change and the anti-social offensive. Wall to wall people. Placards of every kind and description.
The Earth Day demonstration represented the very best spirit of the Quebec nation, what the people stand for, what they value above all else. This is what democracy looks like. It is opposed to the arbitrary arrests that once again continue against the students as the fight carries on.