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Quebec's carrés rouges: Mélanie Robert on taking down Jean Charest's Liberals

On the eve of the Quebec election, rabble.ca is proud to showcase profiles of nine individuals amongst the hundreds of thousands who have proudly worn the red square of solidarity with the historic Quebec student strike. 

Contrary to the wishes of Quebec's establishment, tomorrow's vote, regardless of the result, will not mark the end of what has come to be known as the Maple Spring. The impact and the inspiration provided by Quebec's carrés rouges, which has spread all across Canada and even around the world, will long outlast Jean Charest. 

Journalists Jane Gatensby and Nicolas Quiazua compiled these profiles over several weeks this summer. We will continue to feature them throughout this Election day and night in Quebec.


For Mélanie Robert, a photographer, journalist and contributor to Voir, wearing the red square is, in essence, about promoting the bien commun.

"We fought during the quiet revolution for accessible education, and now, we've gone over to a user-payer mentality," she says. She's speaking to us in a cafe across from Parc Molson, a major site of the casseroles protests this spring.

Just a few weeks before our conversation, Robert began work on the campaign of Pierre Duchesne, an ex-journalist for Radio-Canada, whom she knew personally before he became a Parti Québecois candidate. She says that in the past, she's voted Québec Solidaire, but that now, she's "fed up with Jean Charest," and thinks it's crucial to vote PQ.

"For me, the choice is simple, you have to vote for a party that will take [the Liberals] down."

Though Robert speaks highly of Duchesne himself, she is critical of the leadership of her new party. "I don't completely trust [Pauline Marois], because when she was Minister of Education, it was a disaster," she says. "I wonder what they're actually going to do and what they're just proposing."

Robert understands, however, Marois' reasons for taking off the red square before the campaign. "Jean Charest really succeeded in getting people to think the red square is bad. When we go door to door, people will say things like, 'all those things that are happening in Montreal, the poor mayor!' [Marois] needed to do it to bring in people who might be tempted to go towards the CAQ," she explains.

Robert reports seeing a lot of cynicism on the campaign trail, "and sometimes a bit of anger."

"People have had enough, they don’t believe in the system anymore and don't feel like voting," she says.

But couldn't a call for strategic voting just reinforce cynicism? Robert says she doesn't know, but she still thinks it’s necessary. At least, she says, the PQ will make Quebec more democratic. "Marois over Charest, there’s no contest! [...] I think it will be a big change, and then, well, the struggle will continue."


Jane Gatensby is a news reporter for The McGill Daily and a contributor to Ceasefire Magazine. Nicolas Quiazua is Editor-in-Chief at Le Délit.

The interview for this profile was conducted in French and translated by Jane Gatensby. 

Photo by Nicolas Quiazua. 


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