SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and Quebec’s Prime Minister Pauline Marious have met and conferred in Edinburgh at the Scottish Parliament over their independence efforts.
Both Salmond and Marious stressed that their people will decide their own destiny, whether they want to keep the status quo or they prefer to attain their independence.
Marois and Salmond issued a joint statement that said the people of Quebec and Scotland have the exclusive right to determine their own future.
The statement also referred to the leaders’ determination to work on climate-change and renewable energy projects, and increase commercial ties.
Salmond is campaigning for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum in 2014. And Marois' Parti Quebec-cwa is the standard-bearer of the Canadian province's independence movement.
The meeting was a chance to discuss economic ties and investment projects.
"Quebec and Scotland both have modern and dynamic economies which rely on key sectors such as financial services, energy, life sciences and tourism," the statement said.
The Parti Quebecois won control of Quebec's National Assembly in September, defeating the federalist Liberals who had ruled since 2003, but failing to win a majority.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – It is a warning Quebec anglos have been hearing for the past 40 years – the French language is in danger, Quebec’s identity is threatened.
That perceived threat has led to the creation of Quebec’s language charter and four decades of amendments and protests as language activists mobilized against what they have perennially described as the sea of English that surround them.
But a survey published this weekend suggests that once you stick your toe in that sea, so to speak, the waves aren’t anywhere near as frightening as you thought they’d be.
The poll, conducted for the Association of Canadian Studies, finds that the more time francophones spend with their anglophone neighbours, the less they worry about losing their first language.
That result seems to contradict the idea that francophones living in urban areas like Montreal are concerned about the increasing use of English in their midst.
Among the respondents who had frequent contact with anglophones, about 37 per cent said they were somewhat or very concerned about losing their French. As contact with English decreased, however, the number rose until it reached 60 per cent among francophones with who “never” encounter English speakers in their daily lives.
Is it possible that more you get to know anglophones, and their television shows, the less scary they become?
We asked the question to Jack Jedwab, director of the Association for Canadian Studies.- www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Montreal Gazette
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)– A major police operation deploying more than 1,000 officers has begun in a series of pre-dawn arrests Thursday, reportedly targeting suspects linked to the Hells Angels and Montreal’s West End gang.
The suspects were involved in large-scale drug trafficking, mostly cocaine, police said.
The crackdown was a co-ordinated effort by law-enforcement agents in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.
Quebec’s provincial police, the Montreal police, the RCMP and joint anti-organized crime regional squads were involved, said a Sûreté du Québec spokesman.
Dozens were arrested in 30 municipalities across Quebec.
La Presse reported that those arrested in the morning darkness included a full-patch Hells Angel biker from B.C. and a major figure of the West End gang.
The West End gang is group of of Quebec mobsters, mostly of Irish ancestry, which past court cases have described as having conspired with bikers to import drugs through the port of Montreal.
The SQ is expected to release more details at a press conference at its Parthenay headquarters in Montreal at 2 p.m.
Police said Thursday’s raids were on the same scale as major sweeps such as Operation Springtime in 2001, which ended the violent reign of the Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, and Operation SharQC in 2009, which netted 111 other suspects affiliated with the Quebec Angels whose mega-trial is still pending.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Quebec's new government is about to enable more strict enforcement of the language laws in the French-speaking Canadian province.
The Parti Quebecois provincial government plans to update the Charter of the French language, also known as Bill 101, which defines French -- the language spoken by the majority of Quebec’s population -- as the province’s official language.
Bill 101 was originally passed in 1977 to protect the French language in the province. It banned the use of English in public signs and posters. It also prevented immigrants from sending their children to English-speaking schools.
The newly-proposed version of the charter will give more power to the so-called language police to fine and supposedly bring to justice those who defy it.
It will also close down all English-speaking private bridging schools and require all businesses with more than 11 employees to use French in their communications.
The new separatist party, led by Pauline Marois, is fighting against, what it calls, the Anglicization of Quebec.
The Liberal leadership candidate, Justin Trudeau, said it was not necessary to toughen the language laws.
“I think we are revisiting old debates,” Trudeau was quoted as saying. “The majority of people in Papineau in Quebec City and across Quebec are focused on their jobs, the economy, health, and education of their children to participate fully in this era of globalization in which we live.”— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The separatist Parti Quebecois has won Quebec’s regional elections and will form a new government there, once again raising the possibility of a referendum on independence being held in Canada’s French-speaking province.
Canadian Broadcasting Corp and the Canadian Press reported that Parti Quebecois (PQ) won or were leading in nearly 60 districts, just short of the 63 needed for a majority government.
The party’s leader, Pauline Marois, will replace head of the Liberal party, Jean Charest, as the province’s leader, becoming Quebec's first female premier.
Crowds of jubilant PQ followers, cheered and waved flags as election results indicated their party was heading back to power after nine years of Liberal Party rule.
Should PQ win a majority it will make it easier for them to call a referendum on independence. Quebec has held two referendums in the past – one in 1980 and another in 1995- with the last narrowly rejecting independence from Canada.
However PQ claim their short-term priority would be picking the economy up off its knees, instead of pushing for a separation vote straight away.
"It's very important for me to manage our finances responsibly. That is without doubt why our engagements are the least costly of all parties," Pauline Marois earlier told Canadian media, while outlining a program that sets out new spending at $1 billion over a five year period.
At the same time she stated that she would hold an independence vote "tomorrow morning" if the conditions were right.
The long-ruling Liberal Party’s loss comes after months of student and union protests raging this spring and summer against tuition hikes in the province and the controversial new Bill 78, which restricts mass gatherings in the province.
Tens of thousands of students have made their outrage public by demonstrating and clashing with police, making headlines across the world. Protests began in February, resulting in about 2,500 arrests. Tuesday's vote is seen by many as an echo of this public discontent.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Quebec's public health authority announced that Legionnaires' disease had caused two more deaths and infected two other people since Saturday.
To date, 104 people have contracted the disease in Quebec City since July 31st. So far, eight people have died from complications related to the illness.
The bacteria tends to grow in stagnant water and can be found in cooling towers and fountains.
On Saturday, regional director of public health François Desbiens said 89 cooling towers have been inspected and disinfected in Quebec's Lower Town, an area considered at high risk. It's the oldest part of the city — a long swathe of historic buildings below the famed Chateau Frontenac hotel.
He announced more cooling towers, including the ones that were already cleared, would be inspected and cleaned out on Monday and Tuesday. Authorities have expanded the perimeter and will investigate units outside of the Lower Town.
The crisis was discussed on Saturday during the Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois' daily campaign stops.
Both parties mentioned a report that was filed in 1997 that offered a series of recommendations to the Quebec government after a Legionnaires' outbreak that took place a year earlier.
The Liberals blamed the PQ, who was in power at the time, for failing to follow the report's guidelines.
On Friday, Quebec Mayor Régis Labeaume said Quebec's provincial government had not introduced adequate measures to take care of the outbreak.
Labeaume said rules would be tightened to prevent such situations in the future and that a registry of cooling towers would be kept from now on.
The new rules, expected to be enacted this fall, will also require more maintenance of cooling towers.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —Only a few short weeks ago the Quebec student strike was shaking Canada’s ruling elite and threatening to precipitate a political eruption of the working class. Now it is petering out, with students having failed to secure their immediate demand for a university tuition fee freeze, let alone their larger objective—recognition of education as a social right.
No one can reproach the students for insufficient militancy or determination. For months they braved an unprecedented campaign of police repression, including tear-gas and pepper-spray barrages and rubber bullets. During the course of the six-month-long strike, more than 3,000 students and supporters were arrested, the vast majority of them for the “crime” of demonstrating without police permission. To the dismay of the provincial Liberal government and the corporate media, students refused to be cowed by the criminalization of their strike with the adoption last May of the flagrantly antidemocratic Bill 78 (Law 12).
What then accounts for the strike’s collapse?
The trade unions and the union- and Parti Quebecois-allied student associations (FECQ and FEUQ), have been all but openly campaigning for the strike’s end for months. No sooner was Bill 78 passed than the unions announced they would comply with all its provisions, including those that legally compel them to ensure that teachers assist the government in breaking the strike.
In tandem with their efforts to break the strike, the unions, with FECQ and FEUQ in their trail, sought to divert students and the broader opposition movement that erupted against Bill 78 behind the Parti Quebecois (PQ). Quebec big business’s alternate party of government, the PQ imposed the greatest social spending cuts in the province’s history when it last held office.
But the unions and their student association allies are not alone culpable. The social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP), Quebec Solidaire, and the entire Quebec pseudo-left joined with them in politically suffocating and isolating the strike.
All were adamant that it be confined to a student protest aimed at pressuring the Charest government and the Quebec elite. All opposed fusing the students’ struggle with the growing movement of the Canadian and international working class against the drive of big business and its political representatives to make working people pay for the global capitalist crisis.
For months, CLASSE, the student group that initiated the strike, insisted on separating the issue of the tuition fee hikes from any challenge to the austerity programs of the Quebec Liberal and federal Conservative governments. Following the passage of Bill 78, CLASSE fleetingly spoke of the need for a “social strike,” a broader protest movement. But once the unions made clear their determination to prevent any worker job action, no matter how limited, CLASSE dropped its proposal like a hot potato.
Like any major social struggle, the Quebec student strike is rich in lessons—lessons of vital importance to young people and workers not just in Quebec and Canada, but around the world.
First, the Canadian ruling class, no less than its counterparts in the US, Europe and Japan, has responded to the eruption of the greatest crisis of capitalism since the Great Depression by launching a social counterrevolution.
CLASSE insisted that if students protested long and loud enough, the government would negotiate. But far from ceding to popular pressure, the Charest government, egged on by the corporate media and the Canadian ruling class as a whole, responded with escalating state repression.
Social rights—such as the right to an education, job or health care—will be secured only through a political struggle against the capitalist system, its political representatives, police and courts.
Second, only the working class has the social power to break the stranglehold the banks and big business wield over socioeconomic life. This requires the establishment of workers’ governments committed to the socialist reorganization of the economy, so that fulfilling social needs, not enriching a narrow elite, becomes the animating principle. But the mobilization of the working class to assert its fundamental class interests requires the building of new organizations of struggle, independent of and in opposition to the existing trade union apparatuses, which over the course of the past three decades have thoroughly integrated themselves into corporate management and the state.
The student strike has provided a further demonstration of the unions’ perfidious role.
Canada’s ruling elite was shaken by the students’ defiance of Bill 78 and the support it galvanized within the working class. Just four days after Bill 78’s adoption, more than 250,000 people demonstrated in Montreal, and in the days that followed thousands more joined spontaneous antigovernment protests across Quebec.
Recognizing that an attempt to apply the full sanctions of Bill 78 might provoke a situation akin to that which erupted in France in May-June 1968, the ruling class made a tactical shift. While holding the savage sanctions of Bill 78 in reserve, it chose to rely first and foremost on the unions and their political allies to undermine the strike.
This confidence was not misplaced. The Quebec Federation of Labour responded to the eruption of working-class opposition to Bill 78 by writing to the Canadian Labour Congress to demand that no support be given to striking students. A few days later, Quebec’s largest labour federation adopted the slogan, “After the street, to the ballot box”—spearheading a campaign on the part of all the unions to harness the opposition to the right-wing Liberal government behind the PQ.
Third, the student strike has underscored the pivotal importance of the fight to build revolutionary leadership based on a socialist-internationalist perspective, in opposition to the various middle-class pseudo-left organizations that mouth radical phrases while upholding the authority of the unions and the bourgeoisie’s “left” parties of government, promoting nationalism, and insisting on the unassailability of the capitalist order.
Many students turned to CLASSE believing it to be a fighting organization in opposition to the establishment-aligned FECQ and FEUQ. But CLASSE’s nationalist-protest orientation was fundamentally no different. It opposed a turn to the working class, refused to criticize the unions for leaving students alone to confront the state, and adapted to the campaign to corral students behind the PQ. CLASSE spokespersons have repeatedly declared that the Liberals’ defeat at the hands of the PQ would be a gain if not an outright victory for the students.
The politics of CLASSE have been heavily influenced by Quebec Solidaire (QS) and various anarchist groups. While the ruling elite has been working to suppress the student strike by diverting students behind the PQ, QS has been seeking to strike an alliance with this big-business party, first as an electoral ally and now as a junior partner in the event the PQ forms a minority government after the September 4 election.
In opposition to the struggle to mobilize the working class and free it from the political and organizational domination of the unions, the anarchists are the foremost proponents of “direct action”—individual confrontations with the police and symbolic occupations and blockades. Their blanket denunciations of all politics and parties only serve to block the struggle for the working class to separate itself from the parties of the ruling class and articulate a program for reorganizing society in the interests of working people.
The student strike has come up against the same essential political problems as the wave of workers’ struggles that has rocked the world since 2011, from Egypt to Greece, Spain and Wisconsin. The struggles of the working class are being contained and suppressed by the unions, the ostensible “left” parties, and pseudo-radical organizations that act as their apologists and props. The Socialist Equality Party, its youth organization, the International Students for Social Equality, and the World Socialist Web Site are fighting to overcome the crisis of working-class leadership and develop the revolutionary leadership that will politically prepare and lead the working class in fighting for a workers’ government and socialism.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Under the threat of state repression and heavy pressure from the trade unions and their political ally, the Parti Quebecois, students at the fourteen CEGEPs (pre-university and technical colleges) that have been on strike since last winter voted last week to return to class.
University student associations will hold similar general assembly meetings and votes this week. But it is evident that the militant, six-month-long student strike against the plans of Quebec’s Liberal government to raise university tuition fees by 82 percent is petering out.
Last Friday was the deadline imposed by the Liberal’s draconian Bill 78 (Law 12) for the resumption of the government-suspended winter term at the strike-hit CEGEPs. Bill 78 effectively criminalizes the student strike by banning all picketing in the vicinity of the province’s post-secondary institutions and by threatening teachers with severe criminal sanctions if they made any accommodation to students boycotting their classes.
CEGEP students attending last week’s general assembly meetings were met by a heavy police presence, so as to underscore the government’s readiness to deploy them to enforce Bill 78 if students defied the political establishment and the unions and voted to continue their strike. The Quebec Federation of CEGEPs, meanwhile, threatened to cancel the semester in the event the strike continued.
A significant minority of students, nevertheless, voted to continue the strike and at two CEGEPs, Cegep St-Laurent and Cegep du Vieux-Montreal, students initially voted to remain on strike. But on Friday that decision was reversed after the administration at both colleges incited right-wing students to mount a petition campaign to demand a revote. To add further pressure on the students, both administrations said that canceling the semester would “entail the failure of all courses that have not been completed in the 2012 winter semester.”
As at many of the other 14 CEGEPs, the students at Cegep St-Laurent voted to walk out this coming Wednesday, August 22, to join a mass demonstration against the university tuition fee hikes. Since March, CLASSE, the student association that has led the strike, has mounted a major demonstration on the 22nd of each month.
According to CLASSE, about 60,000 university students remain on strike and, buoyed by walkouts at many CEGEPs, as many as 100,000 could be on strike this Wednesday.
The threat of police repression and a cancelled semester undoubtedly weighed heavily on many students. But other forces have played an even more crucial role in sabotaging a militant social struggle that found broad support in the working class.
The trade unions, the Parti Quebecois (PQ), Quebec Solidaire (QS) and the establishment-aligned student associations, (FECQ) and (FEUQ), all worked to divert the students behind their campaign to replace the Liberals with a government led by the PQ—the Quebec bourgeoisie’s alternate party of government for the past four decades.
In the name of maintaining “social peace,” the unions tried for months to suppress the strike. In early May, they joined with Premier Jean Charest in seeking to bully students into accepting a sellout entente that called for the entire tuition fee increase to be imposed. And while the unions claimed to oppose Bill 78, from the very outset they pledged to enforce it. The unions vehemently opposed CLASSE’s call for a “social strike”, a broader protest movement involving limited worker job-action—an opposition underlined by their effective boycott of student demonstrations after 250,000 workers and youth took to the streets of Montreal on May 22 to denounce Bill 78.
QS has been trying for months to convince the PQ to join it in an electoral alliance. They promote the PQ as a “lesser evil” than Charest’s Liberals, even though the PQ carried out the most drastic social spending cuts in the province’s history when it last held office.
FEUQ and FECQ are also very close to the PQ and for months have been working to end the strike, claiming that students should direct their energies into unseating the Liberals in the coming election. Leo Bureau-Blouin, who was FECQ’s president during the first four months of the student strike, is now a PQ election candidate.
As for CLASSE, its nationalist and protest politics led the strike into a political impasse. CLASSE opposed making the strike the spearhead of a working class challenge to the austerity measures being carried out by the Quebec Liberal and federal Conservative governments. For months, it explicitly limited the strike to a single-issue protest campaign, aimed at pressuring the government to negotiate. In late May, after the government had imposed Bill 78, it even agreed to negotiations based on the government’s reactionary fiscal framework and de facto acceptance of the draconian anti-strike law.
Throughout the strike CLASSE has refused to expose the PQ’s pose as a “student ally” or to criticize the unions, thereby lending support to their claim that the Liberals’ defeat in the September 4 provincial election would be a “victory” for the students.
In opposition to these forces, the Socialist Equality Party and the International Students for Social Equality held a public meeting in Montreal last Thursday to draw a political balance sheet of the strike and arm youth and workers with a socialist strategy based on the independent political mobilization of the working class—the only social force that has the power to break the stranglehold big business wields over social-economic life and thereby secure social rights, including the right to an education.
Speaking on behalf of the SEP, Richard Dufour insisted that the student strike had to be understood as part of a growing movement of the international working class against the efforts of the ruling elite around the world to make working people pay for the global capitalist crisis.
Dufour pointed in particular to the pernicious political influence of the “left” Quebec nationalism promoted by the unions, Quebec Solidaire and the entire pseudo-left.
“Workers in Quebec,” he explained, “have no interest whatsoever in supporting a section of the Quebec elite in its attempt to create its own nation-state where they will be ‘the masters.’ On the contrary, to defend their class interests, workers in Quebec should join forces with their class brothers and sisters across Canada, in the U.S. and internationally.
“Unemployment and falling living standards, the dismantling of public services, university tuition fee hikes, an escalating attack on democratic rights and the threat of new imperialist wars— the problems facing workers and youth in Quebec are fundamentally the same as those confronting workers around the world and only through an industrial and political offensive of the world working class for socialism can and will they be resolved.”—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Thousands streamed peacefully into Montreal’s College de Maisonneuve as several police officers kept a watchful eye from the edge of the school’s grounds Monday.
School officials would only permit students to enter the college during the vote. A spokeswoman said some 2,500 students were listening to debates about the strike in the school gymnasiums.
One student described the event as raucous — people expressing support for ending the strike were swiftly booed by others.
“I think people are going to vote in favour of the strike,” said Yacine Mahdid, 19, who was one of dozens of students who stepped outside of the school for a break from the hot gymnasium.
“There are lots of red squares in there.”
Mahdid, who will return later in the day to vote, said students inside the school were becoming impatient waiting for voting to begin.
Other votes will be taken today and during the week. As for universities, they return to school later.
About one-third of Quebec students had their spring session interrupted by the strikes. The controversial law passed by the Charest government, Bill 78, mandates their return to complete the semester over the coming weeks and sets stiff fines for people blocking schools.
At one institution in Montreal’s west end, police kept watch and were posted at several doors as students streamed back to class.
Votes are taking place at several colleges where students clashed with police and prevented their colleagues from going to class.
Federations representing junior college and university students have said they are leaving it up to each association to decide whether to continue the boycott or return to class.
Jean Beauchesne, the president of the Federation of CEGEPs, warns that sessions could be cancelled if students are slow to return to class.
Federations representing junior college and university students have said they are leaving it up to each association to decide whether to continue their boycott or return to class.
The students face major strategic dilemmas as they vote on whether to return to class.
There are personal concerns about what impact continued strikes might have on academic progress. There are also electoral concerns — such as whether continued strikes will only help the Charest Liberals, by making the student conflict a key ballot-box issue.
And, finally, there is an ideological tug-of-war over the nature of democracy.
The more hardcore student activists believe their strike votes are eminently more democratic than a parliamentary election, and are adamant that their “direct democracy” movement not be subservient to the concerns of provincial electoral strategy and “representative democracy.”
A prominent anarchist and participant in the protest movement, Jaggi Singh, has posted messages on Twitter that the strikes aren’t about opposing one party or government — but about opposing a “destructive system.” The veteran activist is among those urging that the strikes continue during the election.
A week ago, the start of Quebec’s election campaign triggered a wave violence and disorder last night as protesters clashed with police.
The tense atmosphere during this spring’s student unrest was rekindled after Premier Jean Charest called an election and cast the tuition hike dispute as a central theme.
After several quiet weeks, thousands were once again marching and banging pots and pans in the streets in opposition to the government. The night protest saw injuries and multiple arrests in downtown Montreal.—www.shafaqna.com/english
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — On the first full day of the Quebec election campaign, university tuition hikes have become the central issue.
On Wednesday morning, Premier Jean Charest did the expected by pulling the plug on his Liberal government and sending Quebecers to the polls for a September 4 election.
By that evening, thousands of students took to Montreal's streets in a continuation of protests over the Liberal government's planned tuition fee hikes. According to The Canadian Press, there were 15 arrests and some minor damage to property.
And, on Thursday, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois did what most expected of her — she promised to drop the tuition hikes, cancel the emergency protest law Bill 78 and call for a summit on university funding within 100 days of being elected.
[ Related: PQ will push separatist agenda if they recapture Quebec ]
While the campaign promise will undoubtedly garner the support of protesting students, at least one political scientist isn't convinced it will translate into votes.
"Students don't vote," Concordia university professor Bruce Hicks told Yahoo! Canada News.
"Voting turnout has been declining with each generation and young people around the world have been opting out of the political process."
Hicks suggests, however, that the protests will somehow have impact on the election.
"If the student protests result in property damage or anger the population, public opinion could shift in support of Premier Charest. He needs a boost of about 10 percentage points from where he is now to win a majority of seats in the National Assembly," he said.
"If the student protests do not alienate the majority of Quebecers then it continues to become a reminder of a general dissatisfaction with the government and the status-quo. By keeping the unrest front and centre of voters' minds helps the opposition parties."
[ More from Political Points: CBC’s successful Olympics bids show a disrespect for taxpayers’ money ]
Hicks adds that striking students are scheduled to return to class to finish their suspended term in mid-August. Coincidentally, that's when the provisions banning student protests on or near universities kicks in.
"This has the potential to escalate the conflict — and that is during the last weeks of the campaign," Hicks says.
"So absent the usual factors that determine elections, such a policies, personalities, campaign gaffes, organization, issues and leaders' debates, the students are the wild card in this election."
One way or another, it seems the students of Quebec will determine Jean Charest's future. —www.shafaqna.com/english
Source: Yahoo News