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'Night of Casseroles': Canadian Protesters Expand Beyond Quebec and Single Issue Focus
Citizens across Canada vow to stand with students as protest movement grows beyond Montreal
The 'casserole' movement in Canada -- a phenomenon that first grew out of student protests against an increase in tuition fees earlier this year and escalated in size and media coverage after the passage of Bill 78 brought unprecedented numbers of people to street marches in Montreal and evening rallies of banging pots and pans across Quebec -- is now threatening to spread across the country as more and more Canadians rally to the cause and adopt it as their own.
"On Wednesday, May 30, starting at 8pm, people from coast to coast to coast all over Canada are showing solidarity by banging pots and pans everywhere," reads an announcement for 'Night of Casseroles' on a facebook page established to help organize the event. "This will be the first of many casseroles nights across Canada. Once Quebec student students stop the tuition hike and Law 78, we're all going to Stop Harper together."
Such language demonstrates a desire by organizers to expand the protests both geographically and politically. Over 15,000 have already confirmed their attendance, say organizers, but they expect turnout numbers to be much higher. The event will see meet-ups in over 60 communities in Canada, from Saltspring Island to St John's, as well as international rallies in London, Paris, Washington, New York and other locations.
"We need to have an open and democratic discussion about the direction of our society. The current model, where governments give billions in tax cuts to profitable corporations and high income earners, and then plead poverty as they slash our social programs, is broken." --Derrick O'Keefe, Vancouver activist and organizer
"I'm very surprised," said Kevin Audet-Vallee, 24, speaking to The Guardian at a protest last Friday. "Now that the ordinary citizens are in the streets I think the government is really in trouble, because the middle class is in the streets. At first [critics of student protesters] were saying we were radicals. These are not radicals."
"All we did was set up a Facebook page, what this has become is entirely organic," said Ethan Cox, a Montreal writer who has been covering the student strike, and who helped come up with the idea for the cross-Canada Casserole. "People from across the country took the idea and ran with it. Many communities have made posters, distributed flyers and held planning meetings. In the space of 72 hours this has grown to over 60 cities and more than 15,000 people, which goes to show how much support is out there for what's happening in Quebec."
"The issues faced by the student movement in Quebec, and the citizens who have joined them, are the same ones faced across this country," added Vancouver activist, and co-creator of the event, Derrick O'Keefe. "We need to have an open and democratic discussion about the direction of our society. The current model, where governments give billions in tax cuts to profitable corporations and high income earners, and then plead poverty as they slash our social programs, is broken."
In addition to supporting the students' demand for a tuition freeze in Quebec, protesters will be calling for the repeal of Bill 78.
"It is no exaggeration to say that Bill 78 is the most serious threat to our civil liberties since the War Measures Act. It has been judged unconstitutional by the Quebec Bar Association, constitutional expert Julius Grey and a wide variety of civil liberties and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International," said Cox. "Governments cannot be allowed to resolve their problems by legislating away the right to dissent, to protest. There can be no resolution of the situation in Quebec until this draconian law is repealed."
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The following videos, both of which have gone viral since first appearing, have helped galvanize support for the movement:
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