Eternal Sunshine of the Stupidly Optimistic Mind

by Adam Kovac

There is nothing I can say about Bill 78 that hasn’t been said.

If I have any American, Asian, South American, Australian or European readers, or Canadians who don’t pay attention to Quebec, or Quebecers who have been living with wolves in the wilderness for the past few months, here’s the background.

Students have been striking for several months. Some protests have gotten violent, but most have been peaceful. The violence has by and large been caused by asshole anarchists. Now, the Quebec government has passed Bill 78, a piece of legislation that both suspends the Winter and Summer terms of universities and colleges, and also places severe restrictions on the rights of people who engage in protest. Those limits include forcing protesters to announce their intent to police 8 hours in advance, if it’s a group of 50 25 50 or more (the original bill had that number at 10). The police are given the power to alter the protester’s route at any time.

The bill, in essence, puts the onus on student group leaders to maintain order during a protest. It also may be a violation of the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

The reasons why this bill is a bad idea, and possibly even unconstitutional, have been written about extensively elsewhere by people much smarter than myself. Just check the hashtag #loi78 on Twitter, and I’m sure you’ll find something educational to read.

Me, being a stupidly persistent optimist, am going to look at the slim, almost invisible silver lining to this.

There has been a lot of ugly things said by both sides during the tuition debate. One side accuses the students of being lazy, not wanting to pay their fair share, of being a spoiled generation of brats. The other says the older generation is out of touch, fascistic, selfish, undemocratic. It has, in many ways, divided the province. It’s very hard to take a neutral stance. There have been many cleavages: along language lines, generational lines, even a split among those with “valuable” degrees (engineering, finance, etc…) and “useless” ones (arts degrees, mostly).

I’m hoping this bill gives us cause to find common ground.

Civil liberties concern everyone. Once they start eroding, everyone suffers. We might disagree with each other, but the right to (peacefully) disagree is what makes Canada and other democratic countries great. You have the right to piss me off. That’s a beautiful thing.

I can only hope that when the protests against Bill 78 start, students are joined by people opposed to their cause. When one group is forced to shut up, everybody loses.