Manifesto for a Maple Spring

| April 26, 2012
Photo: sympathiquecommentateur.blogspot.com

The Manifesto for a Printemps Érable (Maple Spring) has recently been circulating through various social networks. It is addressed, according to Michel Lambert of the Quebec-based NGO Alternatives, to two major themes that are being expressed in popular mobilizations this spring in Quebec: the student movement's fight for a freeze on university tuition fees, and the call for protection of the environment and natural resources that brought some 250,000 or more persons into the streets of Montréal on April 22. "These two calls," says Lambert, "heard by thousands and thousands of Québécois, share a common demand for a vast public debate on the need for a real transformation." The title of the Manifesto is a play on the words "Arab" and "maple" (érable), which have a similar pronunciation in French.

The following is the text of this Manifesto, in a translation by rabble.ca. Its authors describe themselves as "indignés of Quebec, aware that we are living in an historic moment. Our society is alive and convulsed in turmoil, indignation is at a height but the political, economic and media elites turn a deaf ear. It is time to mobilize and to blow the winds of change over Quebec. This manifesto was drafted jointly by former participants in the Quebec Social Forum and some members of the Occupy Montréal movement. It is now in the public domain and we urge you to share it, discuss it and act together to change Quebec."

* * *

Charest, that's enough!

2011 was the year of indignation and revolt. The Arab spring unnerved autocrats, swept out dictators, destabilized regimes and drove many to grant reforms. The images of these Arab peoples deposing their oligarchies went around the world and set an example.

Inspired by the spontaneous occupations of public places in the Arab world, the first Indignados appeared in Spain, when deep-going austerity measures were imposed on the country. The Spanish highlighted the real limits of democracy in that country, strongly affected by the economic crisis, subject to the dictates of the financial markets, with 46 per cent of its young people unemployed. The initiative produced its emulators and the movement spread in Europe and beyond.

The movement extended to North America, and from New York around the Occupy Wall Street initiative. That movement was aimed at the richest 1 per cent, the major banks and multinational corporations, which dictate the laws of an unjust global economy that is mortgaging the future of all of us. The movement then spread to more than 100 U.S. cities, but also to Canada (Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal).

The rebellious Arabs, the European Indignant, or the American occupiers, all have gathered behind the same message of hope: Another world is possible!

This storm of global protest against economic and political elites out of touch with the legitimate concerns of insecure peoples who are always being asked to pay more, to work harder, and above all not to demand anything in return, is now blowing over Quebec. The students' courageous fight for the right to education now constitutes the spearhead of a profound movement of indignation and popular mobilization that has been stirring in Quebec for several years. The monster demonstration of March 22 launched the printemps érable!

Let us join in this global current of revolt and follow the example of the Icelanders who, in January 2009, forced the resignation of the neoliberal government of Geir Haarde, which had participated in the genesis of the economic and social crisis in which that country plunged in 2008.

It's Quebec's turn to bring down its corrupt clique!

Charest, that's enough! Let us demand the government's resignation!

If the youth are the future of a society, education is their tool for constructing a just, sustainable and mutually supportive society. However, in a world grappling with an economic and ecological crisis caused by some short-sighted policies dictated by a financial oligarchy concerned only with its short-term profit, Quebec sees its youth as nothing more than an exploitable resource.

The search for profit at whatever cost, the corruption, and the collusion with the world of business have become trademarks of the Charest government. This has been going on for years. The PPPs, Mont Orford, Suroît, shale gas, Malartic, the Plan Nord, the secret funding of the Liberal party, the construction industry scandal, the corruption in the appointment of judges... are all affairs and projects testifying to a shameless use of power, a greed for profit from the exploitation of our collective resources by private interests. We are back to the Duplessis era.

While the earth is silent when it is disembowelled in the rush for the minerals so coveted by world markets, the student youth know how to revolt and to make their voices heard. It is not the young students who should pay Quebec's debt. Instead of distributing millions to multinational firms that will relocate their activities as soon as they smell bigger profits elsewhere, the Quebec government should invest in its youth, the sole guarantor of our common future.

A débat de société, a collective brainstorming is more needed than ever, and the government's silence does not encourage that. What society do we wish to live in? How do we want to share the knowledge and resources in Quebec? What future do we want for our children and what society are we going to pass on to them as a legacy?

The government's blinkered obstinacy in refusing to listen to its young people has spawned a profound desire for change in Quebec. The student strike has become the catalyst of a more global social movement, fueled by indignation at our arrogant political elites who, after close to 10 years spent in power, have visibly lost any sense of the general interest. We are ripe for a Quebec spring! We need a new Quiet Revolution, to construct an innovative social agenda that looks ahead.

Accordingly, we demand:

The right to education for everyone, without discrimination linked to money.

The right to a healthy environment and the conservation of our natural resources, to protect our water, our rivers, our forests, our regions, and not to yield to the voracious appetite of the mining and oil and gas companies.

The rights of the indigenous peoples to their aboriginal lands, and we are in solidarity with the Innu women of the North Shore marching toward Montréal.

The right to enjoy a responsible and democratic government, serving its people and not some financial interests, a government that delivers quality public services, that rejects privatizations, and that legislates against the illegitimate increase in fees of all kinds.

The right to pacifism and international solidarity, clearly displaying Quebec's opposition to the militaristic and commercial policies of the federal Conservative government.

The right to a local, sustainable, mutually supportive social economy that puts humans at the centre of its concerns, allows a real development of Quebec, and puts an end to wrongful and destructive outsourcing.

Like the slogans echoing in the Arab streets, it is time to tell the government 'Charest Go Home!' and to build together the Quebec of tomorrow. We are all collectively responsible for our future. It is time to arise and act together. We will change the world one action at a time, and we can begin in several ways:

Let us display our colours and proudly sport the red square on our breasts, in our windows, from our balconies!

Let us share this manifesto with those around us, discuss it, spark a real débat de société.

Let us keep on repeating: Charest, that's enough! We want the Charest government to resign!

Let us raise our voices. It is time to build the Quebec of our dreams.

 

- Translation by Richard Fidler. 

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