Unions? Pressure tactic. Students? Terrorism.

Unions? Pressure tactic. Students? Terrorism.

Montreal (Quebec) August 10, 2014 – Last June, in the wake of an important protest of police, firefighters, and blue-collar workers in which union protesters illegally lit a bonfire in front of Montréal’s city hall, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois wrote what I believe to be a wonderful letter to the police officers who had taken part in the protest.  I strongly suggest you read it all, but for those who can’t, I’ve translated an excerpt from the controversial former student leader’s open letter which sadly turned out prophetic.

Today, the roles have changed.  It’s you being hit by austerity policies. It’s you in the streets. It’s you on the receiving end of the opinion-makers’ blows. It’s you that the self-proclaimed defenders of “tax payers” offer as a sacrifice to the gods of finance to calm the public debt. And like us, this makes you angry.

The same causes produce the same effects.

I don’t think I qualify as an opinion-maker, but I do have a blow to send.  Many will remember how, during the 2012 Maple Spring, four supporters of the student strikes ignited a smoke bomb in the Montréal metro system.  Though no one was hurt, they did succeed in causing a small amount of panic and a widespread shut-down of the underground transit system, leading the four to be charged with terrorism.  I want to be clear – I do believe these charges were accurate.  Terrorism, by definition, is the use of fear against public safety to promote a sociopolitical agenda.  This may not have been a particularly severe case of terrorism, but it was certainly still terrorism.

So I was surprised, to say the least, when last Friday afternoon smoke bombs were ignited in front of no fewer than five fire stations in Montréal and not a single arrest was made.  Surely, if one smoke bomb on the Montréal metro consists of a valid reason for the public to fear a terrorist attack, five simultaneous smoke bombs in civic buildings should merit the same response.  Yet, two days later… nothing.

One wonders how the public will find it in itself to respect the moral authority of police and firefighters the next time they politely ask one of us to put out a small impromptu campfire.  Our roasted marshmallows pale in comparison.

This is made worse, I’d argue, by the fact that – unlike the 2012 protests – there is a centralised leadership behind these acts and responsibility for these acts can be fairly placed on the same people asking to be taken seriously by the government and by the people.  These five fire stations were clearly not acting on the whims of isolated, angry people loosely affiliated to a loosely affiliated movement, as was the case in 2012, but out of a single, deliberate, concerted effort of public relations.  I’d find it hard to believe otherwise.

When individual students let their anger get the better of them and stupidly smokebomb public infrastructure, we accuse them of terrorism.  But when the very same act is increased five-fold and carried out in a deliberate, calculated, and premeditated manner by the very people supposed to be protecting our safety and freedom… we shrug and move on.  Try not to think about that too much.  Or better still, think about it long and hard.
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Categories: Opinion

About Author

Farnell Morisset

Farnell Morisset has an engineering degree from Université Laval and common law and civil law degrees from McGill University, where he also studied economics.

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