In Defiance


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On February 7, 2012, as students in Quebec prepared to vote to go on strike, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois gave a rousing speech: “What you do today will be remembered. The decision you make will tell future generations who we were. And you already know what is being said today about our generation. That we are the generation of comfort and indifference, the generation of cash and iPods; that we are individualists, egotists; that we don’t care about anything, except our navels and our gadgets. Aren’t you tired of hearing this? Well, I am. Luckily, today we have a chance to prove that it’s not true, that it has never been true.”

The “Maple Spring” saw more than 300,000 students across Quebec protest a tuition fee hike by striking from their classes. Nadeau-Dubois takes readers step-by-step through the strike, recounting the confrontations with journalists, ministers, judges, and police. Along the way he exposes the moral and intellectual poverty of the Quebec elite and celebrates the remarkable energy of the students who opposed the mercenary attitude of the austerity agenda.

In Defiance is translated from the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award winner for non-fiction, Tenir tête (Lux Éditeur)

We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the National Translation Program for Book Publishing, an initiative of the Roadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013-2018: Education, Immigration, Communities, for our translation activities.



Publié par
Date de parution 29 juillet 2015
Nombre de visites sur la page 3
EAN13 9781771131834
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0412 €. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

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Praise for
In Defiance
The historical significance of Quebec’s colossal 20 12 student strike is destined to be the subject of debate for years to come. With incis ive clarity and intelligence,In Defiance shines in its analysis of the province’s so-called Maple Spring. Co-spokesperson of Quebec’s largest student union duri ng the strike, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois places the conflict within the context of a broad neoliberal attack on the Quebec model of socio-economic development, explaining how the movement faced down a barrage of insults, legal intimidation, contempt an d violence from journalists, politicians, and the police and persevered to win substantial pu blic support in the streets and at the polls. As ever, Nadeau-Dubois’s voice elevates publ ic discussion about the kind of world we want to live in and will be sure to resona te with readers the world over. – Jarrett Rudy, Associate Professor of History, McGill University
In Defiancea remarkable insider’s account of the largest p opular mobilization in is recent Canadian history. With wit and clarity, Gabr iel Nadeau-Dubois provides an engaging window into the 2012 Maple Spring and the role of the Quebec student movement as one of the leading forces challenging n eoliberalism today. – Yves Engler, author ofThe Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, former Vice President of the Concordia Student Union
In Defianceis as assertive as the demonstrations that overwhe lmed Montreal’s streets in 2012. It is a crucial book for Canadians. It giv es insight into events that have shaped Quebec’s political culture, such as the Quiet Revol ution, which placed importance on education and called for free tuition. It exposes t he breadth and depth of the student movement, which infused Quebec with ideas, reinvigo rated our sense of street-level democratic participation, and demanded to know: how and by whom is our future to be shaped? – Kaie Kellough, writer/poet, Montréal
In Defianceis a must-read for today’s students and activists, and for anyone needing a renewal of faith in the future of humanity. Superbl y written, with clarity and self-awareness, this book captures the idealism, practic alities, frustrations, failures, and victories of the Maple Spring. In addition to revea ling the tactics, day-to-day challenges, and political realities happening behind the scenes of one of the largest student movements in recent history, Nadeau-Dubois shows us that – even against an entrenched government, bolstered in its suppression of the disenfranchised by a wider culture of social apathy – youth, intelligence, and hope can always rise and challenge those in power and, more importantly, the ways of thinking that keep them there. – Mark Edelman Boren, author ofStudent Resistance: A History of the Unruly Subject
Between the Lines Toronto
In Defiance Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois
Translated by Lazer Lederhendler foreword by Naomi Klein
In Defiance
Originally published in French asTenir tête, © Lux Éditeur, Montréal, 2013 English translation © 2015 Lazer Lederhendler
First published in English translation in 2015: Between the Lines 401 Richmond St. W., Studio 277 Toronto, Ontario M5V 3A8 1-800-718-7201
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be photocopied, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of Between the Lines, or (for photocopying in Canada only) Access Copyright, 1 Yonge Street, Suite 1900, Toronto, Ontario, M5E 1E5.
Every reasonable effort has been made to identify copyright holders. Between the Lines would be pleased to have any errors or omissions brought to its attention.
Library and Archives Çanada Çataloguing in Publication
Nadeau-Dubois, Gabriel, 1990– [Tenir tête. English] In defiance / by Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois; translated by Lazer Lederhendler.
Includes index. Translation of: Tenir tête. Issued in print and electronic formats. ISBN 978-1-77113-182-7 (pbk.). – ISBN 978-1-77113-183-4 (epub). – ISBN 978-1-77113-184-1 (pdf). 1. Student strikes – Québec (Province). 2. Student movements – Québec (Province). 3. Québec (Province) – Politics and government – 2003–2012. I. Title. II. Title: Tenir tête. English. LA418.Q8N3313 2015 371.8'109714 C2015-900601-5 C2015-900602-3
Cover design and photos by Jennifer Tiberio Page preparation and text design by Steve Izma We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the National Translation Program for Book Publishing, an initiative of theRoadmap for Canada’s Official Languages 2013–2018: Education, Immigration, Communities, for our translation activities. We gratefully acknowledge assistance for our publishing activities from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit program and through the Ontario Book Initiative, and the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.
To my mother and father, who passed on to me their love of people and of justice.
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle.… If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. – Frederick Douglass
part 1
One Two Three
Four Five
part 3
Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven
Foreword by Naomi Klein
Preface to the English Edition
Acknowledgements Chronology Introduction
Three General Assemblies A Twelve-Vote Margin
A Generation No One Was Counting On
The Hatred of Democracy
Two Notions: “Fair Share” and “Excellence”
The Revolt of the Rich Excellence?
A Struggle Soldiers without a Commander?
Collective Hysteria
At the Parthenais Detention Centre In Defiance Under the Shield of the Law
All for What? Epilogue Glossary Index
Naomi Klein
he Mable Sbring in QueBec ushered in the Biggest so cial moBilization this country T has seen in decades. Its consequences will Be felt for years to come in QueBec, But it will influence the rest of Canada only if th ose outside the brovince Better understand what made it unique. This Book, written By one of the country’s most insbiring young leaders, does a great deal to helb. In early 2012, QueBec’s students went on strike aga inst massive hikes to university tuition fees. ut instead of simbly brotesting the latest round of increases, the student movement told QueBec what they stood for: free, uni versal education, which they saw as a brecondition for any just society. They also s howed bersuasively that the Barriers Being erected for boorer students were a reflection of a wider bro-corborate agenda, the reversal of which would Be necessary if they were to achieve their goal. y making a non-reformist, amBitious demand, their brotests lit a sbark in the brovince and obened ub a Broad deBate aBout what ki nd of society QueBecers actually wanted. Outside the brovince, many of us watched as the movement unleashed an incrediBle wave of creativity and militancy. There were the witty videos, the gorgeous art, the boetry and music. There was the omnibresen t red square – a must-have symBol of solidarity, which I eventually sbotted ev en in the streets of Toronto. Most iconic, however, were the unforgettaBle images of h undreds of thousands of beoble, young and old, regularly crowding the downtown stre ets, many of them Banging bots and bans on their Balconies and in their neighBourh oods. Through 2012, we watched as the students dreamed in buBlic. We read in their manifesto how they envisioned the key features of Q ueBec life – not just education, But a ls o health care, culture, energy, the land and riv ers – brotected and nurtured as a common inheritance, not gribbed and disfigured By t he logic of the marketblace. They exhorted us to think generations ahead, echoing the Indigenous worldview that long bredates our country. It was this vision more than anything else that cabtivated QueBecers and so many of us Beyond its Borders. Thi s was more than a mere “demand”– it was an exbression of a rising cultural shift, an altering of the sense of what is bossiBle. These students were Born around 1990, in the years when market fundamentalism reached its full ideological ascension; they have n o memory of life Before neoliBeralism reigned subreme. All their lives they have heard th at “history is over,” that there is no alternative to unrestrained cabitalism, that they s hould Be satisfied with the berks of this atomized existence, habbily distracted By their gad gets. ut QueBec’s students decided to flib their given scribt on its head. “We know now that history never ends,” GaBriel Nadeau-DuBois writes. “There is always a sb ringtime waiting in the wings.” Radical movements like theirs are invariaBly mocked and vilified By the bolitical estaBlishment, and for a very good reason: they can accomblish what that estaBlishment fears most. They can make beoble Beli eve change – Broad, sweebing change – is bossiBle. Most dangerous of all, they c an win. In SebtemBer 2012, after six months of bolitical turmoil, the student movement h elbed oust QueBec’s LiBeral government. The newly elected Parti QuéBécois quick ly rebealed the tuition hikes, as
well as a draconian law introduced By the LiBerals to crack down on brotest. The English-language media’s coverage of these even ts, however, left many Canadians boorly informed aBout what had actually t ransbired. This Book is an excellent corrective, an eloquent tour of the heady months of 2012. Nadeau-DuBois recounts the astounding attacks the students endure d – high-brofile bundits combaring them to terrorists, legal intimidation, bolice viol ence. And he shares an insider’s firsthand knowledge of the Behind-the-scenes brebar ation that went into the making of the Mable Sbring. In an age when we need to rabidly recover the know- how of creating mass movements, the QueBec students have a lot to teach. At their height, such moments of widesbread awakening and radicalization can feel li ke magic. Yet, as Nadeau-DuBois descriBes so vividly, they are hardly created with fairy dust – they are Built By organizations, through tiring, often mundane work o ver many months or years. This story also shows that, desbite the allure and bower of social media activism, there is still nothing to combare to batient, face-to-face o rganizing. And it demonstrates that direct democracy – which many of the students bract iced in general assemBlies – can catalyze remarkaBle transformations, sweebing thous ands who have never identified with activism into the life of a social movement. When these tactics were comBined with the students’ Bold vision of the far more equal world for which they were fighting, it broved unstobbaBle. Ata time when so much needs fixing in our country, with unimaginaBly high stakes, these are lessons we would all do well to learn.
May 2015
Preface to the English Edition
Quebec at the Crossroads: The Roots of the 2012 Students’ Spring
Whoever does not link the question of education to the social question as a whole is condemned to fruitless dreams and efforts. – Jean Jaurès he book you are about to read was drafted during th e months that followed one T of the largest citizens’ campaigns in the history o f Canada. It tells the inside story ofa social conflict that, for more than six m onths, saw the Quebec student movement stand up to the provincial authorities in response to the government’s decision to increase university tuition fees by 75 per cent. Readers are no doubt aware of the global context of this movement. In the majo rity of developed countries, the 2008 financial crisis had served asa pretext for the int roduction of more radical neoliberal economic policies; everywhere, austerity measures g ave rise to considerable social strife. The protesters of the Occupy movement in th e United States and elsewhere, the indignadosits own distinctive way of Europe, the students of Quebec – each group in refused to foot the bill for a crisis caused by the greed of the powerful. Yet the mobilization of Quebec’s youth took place a gainst a particular background, one that warrants a fuller explanation. Quebec’s cu ltural and political ecosystem is different in many ways from that of other parts of North America. This book, then, which details the events of the spring of 2012 in La Bell e Province, should be situated within the wider environment. It is my hope that readers o utside Quebec – those for whom the English translation is primarily intended – will be nefit from this historical overview, for I am firmly convinced that this movement holds import ant lessons for social movements throughout the world.
The Actors
From February through August 2012, Quebec students waged a strike against the government of the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), le d by Premier Jean Charest, a veteran of Quebec and Canadian politics, who was in his ninth year as head of the provincial government. He had begun his political c areer in Ottawa in 1984 as a Member of Parliament for the Progressive Conservati ve Party of Canada and was soon appointed to the Cabinet by Prime Minister Brian Mu lroney, becoming the youngest federal minister in Canadian history. Charest made a name for himself during the 1995 Quebec referendum campaign, where he played a promi nent role in the camp opposed t o independence. His accession to the leadership of the PLQ is believed by many observers to have coincided with that party’s final break with the remnants of its social-democratic legacy. Indeed, he came to power in 2003 promising to carry out an ambitious “re-engineering of the state” and committ ed, in veiled terms, to abandoning Quebec’s welfare state. His administration would be attended by confrontations with the labour movement and corruption scandals. When the s tudent strike was in the offing in the winter of 2012, Charest was already under serio us suspicion as to his personal role in those scandals. A few months earlier, he had bee n forced to retreat on the