October 27, 2018

Over 3000 people march against racism in Montréal

Adrien Welsh 

On Sunday, October, 7th, over 3000 progressive and anti-racist people representing 60 different organisations took the streets of Montréal opposing racism, islamophobia and xenophobia. The rally was organised less than a week after the far-right CAQ, led by François Legault who is now the designated Prime Minister, was elected during the last Québec elections. Protesters upheld clear anti-Legault and anti-CAQ slogans, with this party being associated with racist and reactionary ideas.

Indeed, CAQ campaigned on limiting immigration to 40,000 people per year in Québec and gave a second life to the infamously notorious « Charter of Québec Values » proposed by the Parti Québécois in 2014 by introducing the concept of a test on Québec values that all migrant people would have to pass if they want to stay in La belle province. Would they fail this test, they would basically be persona non grata in Québec. The far-right party also made it clear that religious signs would be banned for all public servants who hold a « position of authority », despite their seniority. Of course while this law claims to be aimed at everyone to make Quebec a secular state, which is already the case anyways, targets Muslim women in particular.

It is in opposition to these racist measures that people took action in Montréal, but also to oppose resistance to the broader trend aiming to trivialise and to promote the ultra-right, xenophobic, racist and islamophobic ideas and organisations in Canada, and elsewhere throughout the world.

Indeed, CAQ’s victory last week is not an isolated factor. It is not different from Doug Ford’s election last May nor is it different from the political shift to the right that we are witnessing throughout the world. It also dangerously sets the tone for the next federal election which will take place around one year from now.

Organisers, along with many protestors made it clear that this demonstration had nothing to do with any kind of anti-Québec sentiments. Instead, they outlined the fact that only 1 out of 4 Quebecers voted for CAQ and that its message praising exclusion has nothing to do with the genuine values of the Québec people. The same message came from many protesters, especially from newcomers to Québec who chanted slogans against exclusion and discrimination and for solidarity.

As the newly elected government is now finding its feet in the National Assembly, it is now more than ever time for the popular forces to build a strong fightback in defence of all democratic and social rights that this far-right government is targeting. Fighting against racism, xenophobia and islamophobia will certainly be central to the agenda, as CAQ is already paving the way for this to be a central debate in the National Assembly as it correctly sees it as a manner to divide the working class.

However, CAQ’s programme isn’t only about targeting racialized people. It aims to target all kinds of democratic rights, social programmes and benefits to working people and to further shift the burden of the crisis of capitalism on the shoulders of the people. To name a few: one of its spokespersons, Simon Jolin-Barrette, already defended the 60-hour work week (a measure that would bring us back to the 1930s), and the party already supported a two-tiers system for education outlining that high ranking universities should be free to increase their tuition. They have also demonstrated that they have clear anti-labour policies.

In the face of what we could see as one of the biggest threats to labour and democratic rights since the Dupplessis fascistic government, the people and especially the youth of Québec cannot stand still. They have showed a strong will to build the fightback through Oct. 7th demonstration, and this effort has to be praised. However, we need more than one single demonstration. What is needed here is a broad, united and continuous fightback, one that will be able to pressure and challenge CAQ’s corporate and far-right agenda. We need to revive the momentum of the 2012 Québec student strike and build the opposition from the street. There is no way that the Québec people and its youth can afford 4 years with CAQ in office.

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