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.
A few small rooms above a bank at the corner of Viau and Beaubien, François Saillant's campaign office is purely functional. Amidst empty workstations and stacks of campaign materials, Saillant, who is taking a pause from his longstanding position as coordinator of the housing rights group FRAPRU to run for Quebec Solidaire (QS) in Rosemont, greets us in the late afternoon.
"As long as we deny free education, the struggle will continue. It's a struggle for rights," he says. Québec Solidaire proposes abolishing all tuition fees, and plans to pay for free universities by taxing financial institutions. "We're going to get the money from the people who have money coming out of their ears!" he says.
Saillant was part of the Quebec student movement in the late sixties and early seventies, and cites it as influential in forming his political identity. "At the time, we thought it was big," he says. "But this spring is much bigger. To have protests [...] every month with hundreds of thousands of people, that’s never been seen in a Quebec social movement."
Another longtime activist, he says that the student struggle has made him more hopeful than he once was. "It revived a spirit of community, collectiveness […] knowing that you need other people. I feel more of that right now."
He adds, however, that the conflict has made for a challenging campaign. "The strategic vote is more pronounced than in past campaigns [...] people don't want a liberal victory, so they're hesitant [to vote QS]. The Party Québecois has managed to gain from the movement, in a certain sense."
He's skeptical about the PQ's promise to index tuition fees, saying that in the end, university rectors will likely have the last word. Saillant also has harsh words for Pauline Marois' having taken off her red square. "When you have convictions, you stick with them, even when it's no longer useful with the electorate," he asserts.
Saillant also mentions the arrest of Amir Khadir and that of his daughter, Yalda Machouf-Khadir, as having hurt the party's image among certain voters, but shrugs. "It's important that a party like us be in the street," he says.
And if the Liberals are re-elected? Saillant pretends to shoot himself with his hand, then laughs. "No, no! I don’t think that will happen. If it does, I hope it will ignite the struggle rather than put an end to it."
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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