I don’t care what the weather report says where you are today: it’s a beautiful day across Canada.
Tonight, in over 60 communities big and small, people will be gathering to celebrate and defend the determined student and people’s movement in Quebec. It’s a night of cross-Canada Casseroles, inspired by the spirited pots and pans protests of the past week in Quebec.
The world’s joining in too, with solidarity Casseroles happening tonight in London, Paris, Brussels, New York City – and even Little Rock, Arkansas, believe it or not.
This is a remarkable and nearly totally spontaneous coming together; the idea of a coordinated ‘Casseroles Night in Canada’ was hatched barely 72 hours ago in some late night twitter banter.
Tonight, in every corner of the country, from Halfmoon Bay to Halifax, Saltspring Island to Sudbury, Whitehorse to Winnipeg (and in 50-some other not-necessarily-alliterative towns and cities), neighbours, friends and perfect strangers will gather to bang some pots and pans in solidarity with the student strike and in defence of civil liberties in Quebec.
Tonight, with a great clanging from coast to coast to coast, we will say clearly: an injury to one is an injury to all. Jean Charest’s draconian Bill 78 will not stand.
Tonight will be our special, collective response to that odious ‘Special Law’ meant to crush Quebec’s movement.
The pots and pans that give the Casseroles their name are a tool of protest made famous in Latin America, particularly in Chile. Last year, Chile’s massive student movement brought back the pots and pans protest in a big way; last week, Chilean students sent a message of solidarity to their counterparts in Quebec. (Like with Egypt and Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street, the form and content of protest movements is shared generously and instantaneously in today’s world – often with those in the Global South leading the way and us following their example.)
My partner spent time during her childhood living under the dictatorship in Chile. She remembers how the people used pots and pans as a weapon against the regime. Underground resistance activists would often cut off a neighbourhood’s electricity, as a signal for people to go out on their balconies and bang their kitchenware.
In that darkness, the collective clanging sounded like hope. An almost ridiculously simple form of protest, it was creative and effective. The dictatorship’s deadly enforcement of restrictions on public protests was powerless to stop it.
Our political situation here today is of course not analogous, but Charest’s ham-fisted, repressive legislation does invite comparisons to shameful periods in Canada and Quebec’s history, including the War Measures Act of 1970 and the earlier, overall climate of repression of the Duplessis years.
Charest’s attempts to turn back the clock to a darker time, however, are failing and will be defeated. On May 22, hundreds of thousands openly flaunted Bill 78 and its absurd restrictions on the free right to protest, and each night since has featured marches joyously disobeying the government and the police.
And maybe that’s the biggest lesson Quebec is teaching the rest of us. When faced with a dour, right-wing, repressive government, it is possible and necessary to fight back. And given what Harper has been getting away with, and what he has coming down the tar sands pipelines with the ominous omnibus Bill C-38, it’s urgent that we in the rest of Canada learn and apply this lesson.
Those are just a few thoughts to take with you, tonight, as you head out to join the first Casseroles Night in Canada. But no need to think too hard while you’re out there – we are supposed to enjoy this one. And let’s hope it’s just the beginning.
Quebec has kicked off a rêve générale, and together who knows what we’ll dream up. Forget Harper. We can imagine a much better world.
These may be dark times in Canada, but I hear a lot of hope in the clanging.