Let the Vélorution Begin

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For four days, our 38-wheel rolling counter-summit of bikesheviks pedaled through the countryside towns and villages of Highway 138, between Montreal and Quebec City. We raised awareness about the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the impact it would have on the environment, on labour standards and on human rights. We also talked about the security overkill of "Fortress Quebec."

Now it seems that our message is finally getting through. Quebec Public Security Minister Serge Menard marvelled about the $100-million security price tag, saying that the money could have "created a lot of bike paths" for the provinces citizens.

We must add to that figure:

  • The $13 million that a NAFTA tribunal ordered the Canadian government to pay to Ethyl Corporation in compensation for its attempt to ban MMT (a carcinogenic gasoline additive).
  • The millions of dollars that will have to be paid in compensation to multinational PCB exporters in Canada).
  • The millions of dollars our health system will have to spend in order to treat cancer victims).
  • The incalculable environmental and human costs that we will bear collectively so that corporate "investors rights" can be protected.

Once we add up this larger price tag, we begin to realize that - by scrapping the FTAA, NAFTA and other investors rights agreements - we could build bike paths in every city, town and village across the Americas.

This is what the vélorution is all about. It is gratifying to see the Public Security Minister warming to our bikeshevist ideology. Unfortunately, the message has yet to filter down the chain of command.

Upon entering Quebec City on Highway 138, our merry band of vélorutionaries was stopped by some heavily armoured members of the province's finest. They demanded that we identify ourselves, that we divulge our political opinions vis-à-vis the FTAA and that we tell them what our intentions were while in the province's capital.

Throughout the weekend, bikesheviks experienced what we considered to be forms of police harassment. Most incidents occurred nowhere near the famous security perimeter. Riot-squad checkpoints in residential areas all over the city made our comings and goings their business. When videotaping police removing the gas mask of a passerby, I was threatened with arrest, ostensibly because I did not have a light on the front of my bike (even though I had flashing lights on both the front and the back of my helmet). I was told, "You don't need to film police on the corner for thirty minutes." The officer put his hand over the camera lens.

Serge Menard should give his troops a little talking to. The bikesheviks would be happy to set up a vélorutionary re-education camp for the job. The vélorution will not be motorized!

David Bernans is a researcher for the Concordia Student Union, a part-time professor at Concordia University, a member of the bikesheviks vélorutionnaires and is the author of the forthcoming book, Con U Inc: Privatization, Marketization and Globalization at Concordia University (and beyond). He ran for the NDP against Finance Minister Paul Martin in the most recent federal elections.

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