François Legault strike protest Montreal Quebec

Why anglos and all Montrealers need to join the strikes — to bring down François Legault

“That should be our community’s goal for the new year: support the striking public sector workers, join the protest wave and bring everyone else harmed by this egomaniac to the picket line. Legault might talk tough now, but just a little more force may very well be enough to end his dark reign over Quebec once and for all.”

If there was ever a time for the city of Montreal to go on strike, now is it.

I had initially thought that the anglophone community of Quebec should join the current protest wave and add their admittedly diminished demographic heft to the mix of striking public sector workers. I still do, but I’m realizing that an ‘anglo strike’ alone both isn’t enough and doesn’t fully demonstrate the totality of those aggrieved by François Legault’s reckless ethnonationalism.

So perhaps it’s time for the anglos, whoever they are, to lead all of Montreal in a strike against François Legault. Join the picket lines, show solidarity — we’re all in this together.

Frank Lego has got to go.

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François Legault and Simon Jolin-Barrette of Bill 21 and Bill 96 infamy

The anglophone community — be it of Montreal or the province more broadly — also needs to make it abundantly clear it is no longer the ‘angryphone’ community of yore. We owe it to ourselves to build common cause with everyone else suffering because of Legault’s poisonous and xenophobic attack on constitutionally protected rights, our health and education systems and, now, some of the last remaining institutions of the province’s historic minority (a population, I might add, that has always been in the minority in this province). The anglophones — whatever that means in an era in which the community is both predominantly multi-lingual and multi-ethnic — have common cause with all immigrant communities, as much as striking public sector workers, to take this government down.

It won’t take much: Legault is a bully and nothing more. 

He is as completely undeserving of any praise as he is fundamentally devoid of leadership. His political tactics are merely of the divide and conquer variety, a constant shifting of who constitutes “nous” and “them” while he rams through his tired broken-down neoliberal agenda. It finally hit a wall as the cumulative effect of his pandemic mismanagement — namely in the health and education sectors — is now laid bare, with schools and hospitals that barely work, save for the tireless efforts of public sector workers now firmly at the end of their rope. As he destroys all Quebec has built since the beginning of the Quiet Revolution 60-plus years ago, he aims to replace it with American-style for-profit everything.

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It has been said that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing us he didn’t exist. In Legault’s case, it was convincing us he’s any kind of nationalist. In truth, he’s all too happy to sell out the very foundations of this province, be it in terms of the people-powered social safety net, the province’s institutions, even the defence of the French language. He is a fraud.

No matter which way you cut it, this isn’t about supporting the French language in Quebec, or in Montreal. This has been clear from the beginning: consider that French-speaking students from Ontario and New Brunswick will actually have to pay more for their tuition than international students from Belgium and France. 

If Legault was genuinely interested in protecting the French language, you would think he would want to encourage Canadian francophones from outside Quebec — where the language faces greater challenges — than people who come from countries where French is the official language. 

I’ll say it clearly: François Legault doesn’t care about the status of the French language.

He certainly doesn’t worry about ‘creeping anglicization’ — at least not as long as it comes to the educations of the children of the province’s elite. The rich will always have access to the best educations, in whatever language they choose, irrespective of what language is spoken at home. Ever since he started off on his warpath to further limit education options, including closing alleged loopholes with private and semi-private primary and secondary schools, there’s been a noticeable uptick in Francophone enrollment in traditionally English private schools.

The government’s recent counter-proposal to the three ‘anglo’ universities was made in bad faith.

The tuition increase is still far too high for out of province students. This isn’t about making sure there’s enough space for locals — there’s plenty. It’s about financially crippling universities that are largely dependent on attracting foreign students for growth because Bill 101 insisted all immigrants to Quebec have their children educated in French. For more than 40 years, successive provincial governments of a variety of inclinations on the nationalism question have all taken a hands-off approach to the anglophone community’s institutions of higher learning, as much as their hospitals. It was understood that francophones would never be turned away, that they could access all the courses and services in their mother tongue without any problems. The system worked. Mon’onc Frank, sensing his plunging popularity, sought out a problem that didn’t exist to fix. Now McGill’s looking to expand its way down the 401 to Toronto.

How badly will we let this creep fuck things up before we stand up and fight back?

Quebec tuition university petition

Again, this isn’t about the status of the French language, nor of encouraging foreign students to stay and integrate into our society. If it were, Legault wouldn’t have insisted on the exclusionary expectation that 80% of them would become conversant in the French language. This is completely untenable for already over-burdened undergraduates (I’m also not certain how on Earth the province would monitor this without developing some massively expensive bureaucracy, one that would eat into whatever money they now hope to make off the backs of the international students who now have no incentive to come here). It is an unnecessary hardship to impose on university students, one that will likely provide no additional interest or love of our culture or the French language. It’s another barrier to enrollment, one that for some students would be even greater a barrier than the excessive financial penalty.

General Franco is a bully, and an authoritarian one at that. None of these decisions were made in the interest of the institutions, none were made with public consultation. He certainly never spoke to the mayor about the devastating economic impact of these measures. He’s simply out of ideas, running out of steam and polling poorly. 

So he picked an easy target, not expecting any form of resistance.

Let’s show him the error of his ways.

If you’ve ever dealt with a bully, you know their strength and power is mostly an illusion—it’s conquering the fear of that illusion that’s so difficult to overcome. But once you do, once you become determined to fight back no matter what the cost, the bully’s power evaporates. Legault might talk tough now, but just a little more force may very well be enough to end his dark reign over our province once and for all.

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And we’ve been here before, not even that long ago. Jean Charest’s political career was terminated by mass protests. It only took five months of sustained pressure. Arguably, the Liberal Party brand never really recovered from Charest’s mishandling of the 2012 student protests. It’s not inconceivable that both Legault and the CAQ might not similarly be destroyed after a sustained campaign of protest.

That should be our community’s goal for the new year: join the protest wave, commit to supporting the striking public sector workers and bring everyone else harmed by this egomaniac to the picket line. Supposedly stronger leaders have been broken by fewer people over less egregious assaults on fundamental freedoms. We have no excuse to take this one laying down.

The leading associations, organizations and institutions of the anglophone community should spend the rest of this year pulling themselves together and planning for a strike to start the new year. Doing so would reduce Legault’s time left in office down to months, if not weeks. ■

Read more editorials by Taylor C. Noakes.