May 8, 2015

English Edition, No. 9

May Day 2015

Illegitimacy of Anti-Social Austerity Agenda Points to
the Need for Democratic Renewal


Montreal May First

May Day 2015
Illegitimacy of Anti-Social Austerity Agenda Points to
the Need for Democratic Renewal

Opposition to Couillard Government's Anti-Social Austerity Agenda
Continues to Assert Itself
 
75th Anniversary of the Right of Women to Vote in Quebec
The Demand Today is for Democratic Renewal
For Your Information


May Day 2015

Illegitimacy of Anti-Social Austerity Agenda Points to
the Need for Democratic Renewal

On May 1, tens of thousands of people across Quebec demonstrated to denounce the fraud of the Couillard government's austerity agenda. Meanwhile on radio and television, Premier Couillard and Treasury Board Chair Martin Coiteux reiterated that the government has decided on an action plan to reduce expenses and attain a zero deficit under the pretext of ensuring a better future for our youth and to be in a better position to guarantee services. They presented their program as a matter of opinion. Some "are proposing other things" and "have that right" however the government has decided on another program, Coiteux stated. He said he was personally convinced that the majority of the population supports their program.

Who are the people he is talking about? Workers in the public sector — healthcare, education and social services — thoroughly oppose the austerity agenda and are countering it in every way they can. Doctors, pharmacists and healthcare professionals have condemned the legislation attacking healthcare and the government's use of closure in passing such laws. The Commission scolaire de Montréal's Executive Committee requested permission from the Minister of Education to run a deficit as they could not guarantee maintaining services to students, a demand that was rejected by the Minister under threat of being placed under trusteeship.

CEGEP directors did not want to go before the Labour Relations Board for an injunction against teachers from 30 CEGEPs who voted in favour of a strike mandate on May 1. CEGEPs saw cuts of $20 million in November and $40 million in new cuts in the Leitão budget. The State intervened directly, through the Comité patronal de négociation des collèges — CPNC (Management Negotiating Committee of Colleges), at the eleventh hour on April 28, to try to obtain an injunction from the Superior Court.

Dozens of CEGEP and university student associations also voted to strike on May 1 against the Couillard government, as did many high school students. Hundreds of parents joined with teachers and formed human chains around elementary schools on May Day to show their solidarity and support for teachers, educators, support staff, etc. Over 870 organizations went on strike for the day and local actions were held across Quebec and in all regions in the morning, at lunch hour, and throughout the day. This does not include the thousands who worked on May 1, or those supporting the resistance to austerity in the streets, in their cars, and on their balconies. So who are the people you are talking about, Mr. Coiteux?

Legitimacy has to do with what is fair, on what is based on justice. The Oxford dictionary defines legitimacy as: "Conforming to the law or to rules; able to be defended with logic or justification; valid." The Couillard government's austerity agenda is illegitimate. The fact that Philippe Couillard and his ministers incessantly repeat that they will carry on because "they know" they are right while those who oppose the austerity fraud hold "one opinion among others," shows that the issue of Who Decides? is becoming the order of the day. Having obtained a "majority" government (with the support of less than 30% of registered voters) does not confer so-called legitimacy because of the corrupt nature of the electoral system.

The growing opposition of workers, youth, women, the most vulnerable and all those who oppose the dismantling of social programs and the sell-off of natural resources by a government at odds with society's needs deepens the crisis of legitimacy and places on the agenda the need to renew the democratic institutions. That is what Chantier Politique has dedicated itself to doing.

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Opposition to Couillard Government's Anti-Social Austerity Agenda Continues to Assert Itself

Tens of thousands are estimated to have participated in May Day actions in Quebec. The entire anti-social austerity agenda in the service of the rich was rejected. The focus was on opposition to the imposition of that agenda by way of legislation adopted through closure and the concentration of even more power in the hands of a few ministers by a majority government totally disconnected from the needs of the people and the necessity for major investment in public healthcare and education, instead of cuts and the privatization of services. Opposition to abandoning the regions and the struggle for their future were also at the centre of the actions.

This year, opposition to the anti-social austerity agenda took the form of local initiatives in all of Quebec's regions. Under the theme of defeating the Couillard government's austerity agenda, workers and organizations fighting in defence of the most vulnerable and against user fees and the privatization of public services blocked access to major financial institutions, roads, government and other buildings. Over 870 organizations went on strike for the day, including teachers from 30 CEGEPs Quebec-
wide. The previous day the Labour Relations Board had declared their strike illegal, but irrespective of that several teachers' unions went ahead with their strike day, while in other colleges students themselves decided to walk out of classes on May Day so that the strike could be held.

Workers everywhere held pickets outside their workplaces during lunch hour, handing out leaflets to passers-by illustrating the effects of the austerity agenda on working and living conditions, public services and the economy and called for its repeal. Demonstrations were also held in several neighbourhoods.

In Montreal, starting at 6:00 am, workers blocked access to the construction site of the Montreal University Health Centre (MUHC). Later that morning, more than 5,000 workers held demonstrations in the financial district and blocked access to various institutions.

In regions such as the North Shore and the Gaspésie, workers and members of community organizations slowed down traffic on regional roads, distributing leaflets to motorists and truckers. Defending the regions and their future was at the heart of the actions, reflected in this comment by a CSN representative from the North Shore: "We're slowing down traffic. It is being let through in turn. However trucks are being pulled to the side of the road and stopped completely. The North Shore will not be used for the sole purpose of extracting the natural resources while the government cuts services to citizens" he said.

Marxist-Leninist Party of Quebec (PMLQ) activists participated in several of the actions, distributing the Party's statement (click here to read statement) calling on everyone to commemorate May Day by defeating the Couillard Government's anti-social austerity agenda, defeating the Harper government in 2015 and working for people's empowerment.

Brutal Assault by Police on Demonstrators in Montreal

Montreal and Sûreté du Québec police brutally attacked protesters in Montreal.

At 6:00 am, when hundreds of workers rallied in front of the Montreal University Health Centre (MUHC) construction site to block the entrance, police immediately charged them with nightsticks, injuring several protestors. When other workers came to their rescue, they were also clubbed. Workers denounced the police assault, shouting, "Our protest is peaceful! Why are you attacking us?!" The police told them the protesters had been "infiltrated," which speaks volumes about the political climate of increased repression of workers' and popular protests under the fraudulent claim that within the protests "violent groups" or even "terrorists" are hiding. The workers were not intimidated and continued their action until late afternoon.

Many police assaults took place throughout the evening against demonstrators calling for an end to the Couillard government's austerity agenda. Around 7:00 pm when a demonstration of approximately 1,000 people that had departed from CEGEP Ahuntsic approached Phillips Square, police charged the protesters to prevent them from joining the demonstrations organized by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC). Without warning, they began to fire tear gas into the crowd and violently push back demonstrators. The CLAC demonstrations were surrounded by police. The demonstrations began at 7:00 pm and at 7:10 pm the police had declared the demonstrations illegal according to the P-6 bylaw, because the organizers had not provided the route to police and some protesters wore masks. It has become common practice to use the pretext of breaking the law or regulations to prevent people from expressing political opinions. The police charged demonstrators with nightsticks and tear gas and arrested several protestors on false charges of mischief and obstructing a police officer in addition to serving them with fines for having broken the P-6 bylaw. Many passers-by were also tear-gassed.

The protesters continued their march, dividing up into small groups taking different streets in the downtown area. The police pursued and surrounded them, warning passers-by not to express their support to the protesters and not to join them.

The protests continued until around 9:00 pm. According to media reports, about 70 people were arrested and charged with mischief and obstructing a police officer and 70 people were given fines for contravening the P-6 bylaw.

Montreal Region


Pickets in front of the World Trade Centre and inside the building of the head
office of the National Bank


Actions in front of healthcare facilities and elementary and secondary schools


Picket line of teachers from Collège Marie-Victorin outside of their workplace. Beginning at 7:00 am they
held a picket and at its peak, close to 140 teachers had joined in.







Neighbourhood family demonstration

Quebec City Region



Gatineau


Over 3,000 workers from the Outaouais answered the call to protest against austerity on May Day. The protest was called by all the unions of Outaouais region. The majority of workers represented were from the public sector, followed by workers from community groups.

At 5:00 pm, workers gathered outside the office of Liberal MP for Hull Maryse Gaudreau, on St-Joseph Street. St-Joseph Street and a section of Boulevard Du Casino were closed by municipal police. The march was cheered on by several passers-by as well as by people working in the many shops that line St- Joseph Street. The demonstrators marched to the Casino where tents had been erected at the entrance.

The march responded to the need expressed by public sector workers for unity in action to develop opposition to the Couillard government and concretely block it from pursuing its plans for the destruction of public services and the erosion of the working conditions of those who provide those services. Several other activities were organized throughout the day. The PMLQ statement was received with a lot of enthusiasm from demonstrators.





Abitibi

LaSarre


Rouyn-Noranda

Sainte-Anne de la Pérade

Municipal workers picket

Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean Region


Chicoutimi

Jonquière, St-Félicien

La Baie

Gaspésie Region



Îsle Verte



CEGEP de Rimouski


Sept-Îles



Baie-Comeau

(Photos: CP,  FTQ, APTS, FiQ,  Je protège mon école publique,  SPCMV, SCFP, CSN, E. Pelletier-Grenier, M-A. Gemme, La Frontière, EcoKartier,  MEPAC, Touche pas à ma région, Collectif Refusons l'austérité, A. LEbel, V. Thibault, Côte-Nord Debout contre l'austérité, Le Nord-Côtier, E. St-Gelais)

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75th Anniversary of the Right of Women to Vote in Quebec

The Demand Today is for Democratic Renewal

April 25, 2015 marked the 75th anniversary of the right of women to vote in Quebec. For the women of Quebec, obtaining the right to vote was the result of years of determined struggle for the affirmation of their right to be in society. Beginning in 1922 over 400 of them travelled to Quebec City to demand that the government of the day recognize the universality of the right to vote. In 1927 they succeeded in having a vote held on a bill granting them the vote and between 1928 and 1939, they would travel to Quebec City each time a similar vote took place. It was not before April 25, 1940 that the bill was finally adopted.

Urgent Need for Democratic Renewal

Now, 75 years later the problem facing women and the entire polity is the present political process that blocks them from exercising control and the power to decide over all matters which concern them. What is the significance of the right to vote today without the right to decide on the direction of the economy, how the wealth that has been created is distributed, without there being a mechanism enabling people to actively participate in the political affairs of the country? Women are active in all spheres of the society. They are at the forefront of the struggle in Quebec against the Couillard government's anti-social offensive and austerity agenda. They march, take stands, oppose the imposition of closures and rule by decree as well as omnibus bills which create havoc for society today and are a full-fledged attack on their rights, living and working conditions and those of their families and peers. Today's struggles are being waged with the statement ‘not in our name'! Just as with the entire Quebec people, women today face the opposition of the ruling elite who refuse to allow that will for change to take form in real life so that society is in the service of all its members. But how will this be achieved when people are so clearly deprived of power?

The public authority is being usurped by governments and turned over to private interests. The Couillard majority government uses it to impose its austerity agenda of national destruction through closure, decree and the diversion of public funds to the rich, by claiming he has the mandate to do so in the name of that same right to vote. At the federal level it is the pro-war dictatorship of Stephen Harper that defends monopoly right and the criminalization of all the collectives in order to serve the interests of the U.S. imperialists and the darkest and most reactionary forces. Anti-terrorism Bill C-51, aimed at criminalizing those who are fighting to open society's door to progress, is yet another recent example.

In order for the right to vote to be exercised, a modern process is required whereby the entire citizenry is guaranteed the right to elect and to be elected. This includes being able to select their own candidates, decide upon a political program that defends the best interests of all whether at the workplace, educational centres, neighbourhoods or seniors' homes, where people congregate, live and work. The Election Act should provide for the funding of the process in order to encourage and enable everyone to participate in political affairs, not only during elections but at all times. 100 percent of public funding should be placed in the service of the entire polity rather than the State funding of political parties representing private interests.

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the right to vote for women, the urgency is for the renewal of the political process, for a modern process whereby sovereignty is vested in the people, so that people are placed at the centre of decision-making in order to end the usurpation of power by private interests. Women today are already at the forefront of the struggle to change this state of affairs! It can be done! It must be done!

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For Your Information


Ligue des droits des femmes celebrating the 1st anniversary of the right of women to vote in Quebec (UQAC)

It was a great advance for the society when women, following a long protracted struggle, obtained the right to vote and to take part in the political affairs of the country. At the federal level, women were granted the right to vote in 1918. Provincially, that right was guaranteed to the women of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1916, British Columbia and Ontario in 1917, Nova Scotia in 1918, New Brunswick in 1919, Prince Edward Island in 1922 and Newfoundland in 1925. Women in Quebec had to wait until 1940 before they were able to exercise the right to vote, followed by Canadians of Japanese origin in 1948. In 1960 the Native Peoples were granted that right at the federal level and in Quebec they could not exercise that right until 1969.

Today those with resident status in Canada and in Quebec do not have the right to vote, despite the fact that they pay taxes and participate in the economic life of Quebec and of Canada. The battle is not over.


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