Casseroles Night in Canada: Working its way into our consciousness with no media help

A scene from the casseroles video by Montreal videographer Jeremie Battaglia that has gone viral worldwide, telling the story of Quebec’s dignified and powerful protest as the Western Canadian media refuses to do. It is still largely unmentioned and unseen here in the West.

If tonight is “Casseroles Night in Canada,” will any Albertans show their support for affordable education for all – and opposition to the all-too-typical neo-Con restrictions of our fundamental freedoms – by clanking their pots and pans in sympathy with our fellow citizens in the streets of Quebec?

Maybe a few will, for, notwithstanding the best efforts of our Western Canadian media to make it appear otherwise, it is increasingly apparent even here in darkest Alberta that a democratic social movement of startling potency and potential has arisen in Quebec.

After more than three months, the burgeoning social protest by a broad swath of Quebec society has typically been reported here, when it is reported at all, as if it were an effort to skip classes and make trouble by a minority of lazy students, who are greedy, self-interested and violent to boot.

The meaning of nightly eight o’clock demonstrations by dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and eventually hundreds of thousands of Quebeckers who are outraged at the neo-Conservative policies of the government of Premier Jean Charest – and, it is safe to say, at the same polices at the federal level by the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper – failed to arouse much interest among our media.

Even the totalitarian suppression of Quebeckers’ fundamental rights of assembly, association and free expression, so reminiscent of the imposition of the War Measures Act in 1970, was met with silence or outright support by the Alberta media and those right-wing political parties and their offshoots so influential in this province that tirelessly portray themselves as defenders of our rights.

Where the nightly demonstrations by masses of ordinary Quebeckers were discussed at all, they were typically portrayed in the context of Alberta’s continual whining about its financial contribution to Confederation, as in the ignorant and offensive screed by a Calgary Herald columnist who argued, in effect, that the neo-Con ideologues who run this wealthy province ought to have a veto over Quebec’s social policies

Well, that would make our continual efforts to cry poverty in the midst of plenty less embarrassing, one supposes, but that’s about it.

The reality is it’s all baloney, as even a senior economist for the Canada West Foundation, hardly a liberal think tank, was moved to point out recently. The money for the federal transfer payments the Calgary Herald complains about so vociferously doesn’t come from Alberta revenues, Michael Holden explained more patiently than I would have, it comes from federal taxes collected all across this great big land. They’re even collected in Quebec, a fact that may have escaped the Herald editorial staff’s attention, preoccupied as they must be with their own fading prospects.

“Equalization does not affect the Alberta government’s bottom line,” Mr. Holden explained more gently than the Herald really deserved.

So if we Albertans want to stop feeling so ripped off, the solution is pretty simple – start collecting a reasonable level of taxes and royalties (or even just make the effort to actually collect the ones that are on the books) and build some decent social services of our own.

No matter what the Herald may tell you, it’s not as if Quebeckers are taking something from Albertans. Au contraire! It’s pretty obvious that most of the people in the streets of Montreal and throughout Quebec for the past 107 nights are not just fighting for themselves and their children, they are fighting for all of us, whether or not we have enough sense to recognize it.

The credit for our sense of dismay at our own shabby government and health services amidst all the wealth of this province resides squarely with the Conservative governments at both senior levels of government, the very people we keep trooping back to the polls to re-elect with metronomic regularity.

As Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair said of these Conservatives in the House of Commons yesterday: “Under their policies we are becoming the first generation that will leave less to our children than what we inherited from our parents. … We are one of the richest countries in the world and yet we are one of the countries with the greatest disparity between the richest and the poor.”

The legacy of these Conservatives, said Mr. Mulcair, who is scheduled to visit Fort McMurray and the Suncor plant in the Alberta bitumen sands tomorrow, is “unprecedented attacks on the middle class.”

If Mr. Harper used one of his F-35s to drop an atomic bomb on Alberta, how many of the survivors would crawl out of the rubble to vote Conservative?

Well, a few might not. Tonight some people will gather in Edmonton to bang their pots and pans in solidarity with Quebec. There are signs this respectful but forceful form of protest – which requires no one to venture too far out of their own neighbourhood comfort zone – is creeping across the border into Ontario too.

Who knows, perhaps it will keep growing in places other than Quebec as citizens face down the neo-Cons. Perhaps even Mr. Charest’s conversion to the idea he must seek a deal with the students will not put the genie of this social movement back in the bottle, as the Harper Conservatives must devoutly hope.

As progressive commentator Murray Dobbin wrote recently, “We owe the Quebec students (and their hundreds of thousands of supporters in civil society groups) a huge debt of gratitude for shaking us out of our ideology-induced political torpor.”

Slowly, one clank at a time, the sound of those hundreds of thousands of pots and pans and casseroles in Quebec may be working its liberating way into our stubborn English Canadian consciousness!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

8 Comments on "Casseroles Night in Canada: Working its way into our consciousness with no media help"

  1. Ronmac says:

    Yet one more front in the struggle against parasitic capitalism which is threatening to strangle us all.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Citizens of Quebec have always seemed to grasp the fundamentals of the relationship between government and the public, that the government is there to serve the interests of the public and not business. If government has any role in business it is to regulate the actions of business to provide fairness to consumers, and to tax business for the use of shared resources.

    We in the other provinces seem to have been caught in the thrall of the Regonomic ideal that government is to provide for business so that the mythical 'trickle down effect' somehow makes all our lives better.

    Rather than accepting the toadying media conglomerates view of the Quebec protest movement as being childish students who want everything handed to them, we should join in taking back our country from governments who no longer represent our interests.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Seems our definitions of "dignified" differ by quite a degree David.

    Mine does not inclue: masks, violence, vandalism nor preventing students from attended classes NO MATTER what "alleged" provocations are claimed

    mohammad

  4. Sam Gunsch says:

    @ mohammad

    re: violence, vandalism

    Given 107 days of activism and counting, tens of thousands then a few times some hundreds of thousands of people in the streets…

    I just don't see the evidence for the general claim that the student movement is violent and full of vandals A very small number have acted that way.

    The army would have been called out by now to shut this down if the students were behaving as you smear them.

    Have you given any thought to how much damage would actually be possible by thousands of people actually acting as you imply?

    Do you remember how much damage was done in Edmonton on Whyte Ave in a matter of hours by hockey fans in Edmonton?

    The Black Bloc types and other idiots doing random vandalism, provoking the police (who hardly need provocation to lash out) and just generally indulging themselves… sure, grab them up, and prosecute.

    The evidence is just not there that the students deserve the generalizing smear of violent/vandals against their actions.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well Sam,

    If the "student protesters" are truly being dignigied and respectful and following the lawss and not vandalizing etc…

    WHY do they not turn over the "black bloc" types.

    Their silence/aceptance of these types is support.

    Remember, perception is reality, and if somebody throws a brick through my window during a protest, WHO would I naturally associate the brick tosser to associate with?

    The protesters (guilty by association) naturally. May not be fair, but go figure, life is not fair either

  6. Anthony says:

    Please see my effort to make sense of it all from my desk right here in Lethbridge Alberta.

    Anthony Hall

    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2012/05/31/quebecers-lead-the-way-in-the-global-rejection-of-voodoo-reaganomics/

  7. Anthony says:

    Please see my effort to make sense of this fast-moving story from right here in Lethbridge Alberta.

    Anthony Hall

    http://www.veteranstoday.com/2012/05/31/quebecers-lead-the-way-in-the-global-rejection-of-voodoo-reaganomics/

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