On Saturday, October 15, over a thousand Montrealers descended on the heart of Montreal’s financial district in Victoria Square to bring the worldwide occupation movement to the city. Protesting a broad spectrum of issues, focusing for the most part on financial and social inequality, the occupation – now almost a week old – has attracted a number of influential players from the Quebec political theatre.
Here are selections from the interviews:
François Gourd, president of the Rhinoceros Party of Canada
“What’s fun about this thing is there’s no leadership and that, in some ways, it’s just a place to tell people that they can do something. You see people, they wrote something on a paper, so we are now in a moment where people have a tendency to get away from leaders, because we’ve been led into chaos. So it’s a spontaneous happy movement.”
David Suzuki, co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation
“What’s certain is that there needs to be this massive movement to retake our country, to retake our planet… Right now, the corporate agenda is driving everything. We have to explore new ideas… What’s important is to register a broad dissatisfaction with the status quo… I’m hopeful.”
Jaggi Singh, Decolonize Montreal
“Sometimes large gatherings have a way of erasing identities that are important identities to keep in mind. So when we say, ‘We are the 99 per cent’ it doesn’t mean we’re all the same within that 99 per cent. So it’s important to talk about that to make our movement stronger, to talk about racism, to talk about patriarchy, to talk about all that is to make our movement stronger, because otherwise we’re going to have this false sense of unity.
Also we were very critical of the fact that some people within the Occupy Montreal movement managed to pass the idea that the police are our potential allies. We’re not necessarily here to like get into a pissing match with the police, but the police are not our potential allies. Our movements are better and stronger when we don’t let the police, or the mainstream media, or the one per cent – the people in power – navigate our differences. We navigate our differences in a spirit of respect and solidarity and don’t let the police sort of divide and rule. So we’re very critical of that idea and want to promote a respect for diversity of tactics.
There’s an emphasis here on consensus decision-making, and horizontalism. It’s only day two. It’s going to be very raw and clumsy and messy and frustrating and long, but that’s what direct democracy is. I have had only rare occasion to participate in assemblies of several hundred people. I have never participated in one where 99 per cent of the people in the assembly were people I had never met before. Of course, that process is going to be a bit difficult, but I think as we break down the committees, have delegation, begin to get a sense of our comfort levels, begin to learn about things, that will help that process. And this needs to gain traction, and this should be seen as a microcosm of what we should be doing everywhere. And, if it’s cold, then we should be occupying spaces inside the stock exchange there – the [Bourse], it’s not a stock exchange anymore – but [the Bourse] building, that’s a building where they have completely empty floors. Well, we should be making that into something beautiful and expressive, maybe a place where people can live, maybe somewhere we can go in the winter so that we can continue this experiment of direct democracy.
I’m not a camping person. I enjoy the wilderness, I enjoy being in the wild, I don’t mind being out there, but, I’m not a camping person, and I can contribute here in many, many ways. So, we’re trying to organize workshops, we’re here talking with people, we’re trying to keep a presence, but definitely, as this continues, there needs to be a rotation of task, and I’m going to cuddle one evening with Moose and keep warm, and that part of it is actually essential, because the people who are making this happen – like we all are making it happen – but the people who are physically making it happen are the people who are staying here. And tonight is a very sensitive part of it, because I’m sure the police don’t mind letting it go on a Saturday, and letting it go on a Sunday, but the work week starts. I think they’re hoping that the weather, and the winter – which is a big factor in Quebec – will disperse people. But that’s how we need to start talking. I think we need to start bringing in shelters here that have stoves inside – yurts as they call them – so that we can be warm and continue here, because you’ve got Quebecor, you’ve got the Centre de Commerce, you’ve got the [Bourse], you have the major banks, power corporation, you have the ruling class of Quebec capitalism within blocks of here. They work here, these are their offices, this is what they’ve taken for granted, and we are re-occupying it, and we should make sure that they see us and they take us seriously. And that will be a discussion we need to have in assembly’s, in our smaller groups.
When those two things can hook up – the inspiration of occupying a public square and keeping it going and having these democratic processes – when that can hook up with the survival and the organizing that people are doing in their neighborhoods and their schools and their workplaces, then we’re unstoppable. But how we get there, that’s a huge, huge question, but we definitely should start talking about it, start talking about our dreams, and talking about our dreams and then talking about what we need to do to fight to meet those dreams.”
Amir Khadir, MNA for Québec Solidaire
“I want to remind people that banks in Canada make outrageous profits, oil companies make outrageous profits, pharmaceutical companies make outrageous profits, and they often don’t pay taxes while the middle class is crumbling under the weight of taxes. This system cannot last, there’s an economic injustice that we came here to denounce and correct.”
Alexandre Boulerice, NDP MP for Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie
“I have come in a personal capacity because I find it important. This is not a movement, an action, concerned with what people have at the NDP. But I find it important to be here today to express my [something] to a popular citizens movement where the people decide to stand up an protest against… I share their sense of outrage at the justice in our world.
In the modern era…inequalities in Canada increase and increase faster than increases in the US. Canada is a less egalitarian society than the US… There is a fundamental problem with the financialization of the economy, with speculation in financial markets, and it would be a carbon tax on financial transactions to limit speculation… These injustices – there are the very, very, very rich and the people who live in more and more poverty – this makes anger and indignation necessary, and I share it here, and that’s why I’m here today.
It was good, there were no disturbances. I love this aspect: spontaneity, citizens not very organized, it’s not a political party, it’s not a platform, it’s something more. It’s people who say it’s pretty in here. That’s correct. One is not here to say the same thing as everyone else.”