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NEWS: Massive protest for the ‘common good’ to take place in Montreal this afternoon

Council of Canadians Board member Abdul Pirani says that the Montreal chapter will be particpating in this afternoon’s protest in Montreal. I will also be traveling to Montreal later this morning to join what is being reported as “the largest environmental gathering in Quebec history”.

The Montreal Gazette reports, “Thousands of people are expected to gather in downtown Montreal on Sunday afternoon for a march to mark Earth Day. …Organizers hope 100,000 people will show up… The theme of Sunday’s march is protecting the common good. There are several environmental issues that have drawn controversy recently over natural resource development, such as oil and gas exploration in several parts of the province, and the development of Quebec’s natural resources in the northern part of the province. …The march will begin at the Place des festivals next to Place des Arts at 2 p.m. Organizers say the march will be about one kilometre long, but did not disclose what the route would be.”

A Canadian Press article notes, “Protests against a planned tuition hike, Plan Nord and police reaction to previous demonstrations have raged across Quebec in the past few weeks. …For about 10 weeks now, thousands of college and university students across Quebec have been rallying against Charest’s plan to increase tuition fees by $325 annually over the next five years. …Students and environmentalists banded together Friday to protest the Plan Nord, Charest’s political project to develop the province’s north. ‘It’s not just the tuition increase,’ said Alexis Remartini, 18… A small group of representatives from the Mohawk and Innu communities held up signs protesting Charest’s northern development plan. They walked for three weeks, covering 900 kilometres, to attend Saturday’s demonstration.”

Yesterday, the Gazette reported that, “Police, showing less patience than the day before, were quick to declare illegal a second day of protests against the Salon Plan Nord job fair and made 90 arrests. Hundreds of protesters had gathered around the Palais des congres to protest the fair one day after a similar protest descended into chaos. …First Nations groups had also set up tents outside the building to protest against the event, which aims to recruit manpower for the $80-billion, 25-year development plan for Quebec’s north.”

The Canadian Press adds, “Demonstrators had gathered in the rain near Old Montreal to denounce a conference on Premier Jean Charest’s plan to develop northern Quebec. …Many protesters wore the red square that has become a familiar symbol of the student movement against the province’s planned tuition hikes, though their grievances were farther-reaching. …Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police outside the convention centre – and some managed to get inside – forcing Premier Jean Charest to delay his speech by nearly an hour. …Charest’s highly-publicized Plan Nord promises to develop a 1.2-million-square kilometre stretch of the province’s north over the next 25 years, but it hasn’t gone over well with some nationalists and environmental groups.”

And the QMI Agency news service reports, “Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesman for the largest – and least moderate – student federation, which represents about half of the roughly 170,000 students on strike, said the violence started after police ‘quickly and brutally’ intervened at the convention centre. Nadeau-Dubois had been widely criticized in the media and by provincial politicians for refusing to outright condemn vandalism by student protesters. He said condemning actions by protesters was not in his mandate. …Student leaders have promised to disrupt the Quebec economy in an attempt to force Charest to reverse a decision to increase tuition by $1,625 – or 75% – over five years.” Nadeau-Dubois spoke at the Friday night public forum of Indignez-Vous! this past October.

For more, please see these campaign blogs:

UPDATE: Major environmental demonstration planned for Montreal (April 13)
NEWS: Innu walk 900-km to protest Plan Nord and La Romaine dams (April 14)
NEWS: Hundreds of students arrested in protests against tuition hikes (April 19)