Last Saturday, over 300 people marched through the streets of downtown Montreal calling for an independent Quebec, inviting demonstrators at Occupy Montreal to join them.
The march – held a day before the 16th anniversary of the failed 1995 referendum that saw Quebec lose a bid for independence by 1.16 per cent of the vote – left Place du Canada early in the afternoon and wound its way down Ste. Catherine street towards Champ-de-Mars.
In the days leading up to the rally, the organizers Cap sur l’independance appealed to the occupiers to join them.
“We would first like to affirm our solidarity with all those involved in the Occupation movement of financial markets, around the world,” said Cap sur l’independance leaders – Claude Béland, Pierre Paquette, Gilbert Paquette, and Geneviève Boileau – in an October 26 press release in French.
“In Quebec, we are doubly indignant: by the international financial system and the political dependence of Quebec that deprives us of a national state capable of action,” they continued.
Yvan Lamonde, a professor emeritus in French Language and Literature at McGill, said he found the Occupy movement to be “more social, more global, more radical” than the Quebec independence movement.
“The link between the occupying people and the [Parti Québécois] is not obvious for me, honestly,” he said.
Pauline Marois, leader of the Parti Québécois, joined the march going east along Ste. Catherine. She spoke to The Daily about the Occupy movement.
“The national independence movement…[is] a movement that protests the exaggeration of financial institutions and large financial banks, and I [have] the same logic as the youth who [are occupying],” she said in French.
Lamonde, however, described a “lack of vitality” within the independence movement.
“If [they marched] supposedly to present some kind of a unified sovereignty movement it’s, let’s say, a minimal vital sign,” he said.
“There is a kind of fragmentation, almost everyone in the party has its own ideas,” he continued.
Many of the demonstrators reached different conclusions about the relation between the Quebec sovereignty movement and the Occupy movement.
Claude Talbot, who attended the rally with “99%” written on his hat – in reference to the label many occupiers have adopted – felt that the Quebec independence and Occupy movements were similar.
“The independence of the people is in the context of the global battle” against financial institutions, he said in French.
“The Quebecois of Occupy Montreal who are for national independence, [are] at the same time [for] changing the world economy and changing the democracy. Therefore it’s going to be…a country with a different economy and a slightly different democracy,” he continued.
Jean-François Faucher, a U4 McGill Political Science student who attended the march, said he saw Quebec independence as an opportunity to build a new society along the lines prescribed by global Occupy movements.
“We don’t get much money out of our resources, our social programs are being dismantled, and with a sovereign Quebec we have a unique opportunity to make a state that’s more democratic, that’s more just economically and socially,” he said.
“That kind of project can include others, like Anglophones, immigrants, who can also get on board with a project for a new society with a vision for a just future,” he continued.
Faucher said he thought the sovereignty movement and the Occupy movement were variations on the same theme.
“They are linked, and they’re about the same thing, it’s just they’re different takes,” he said. “The Occupy Wall Street thing is a useful thing because it brings up awareness, and this is one of the ways – independence done the right way – is one of the ways that we should address the problems that Occupy Wall Street brings up.”
At the occupation in Place du Peuple, occupiers acknowledged a number of sovereigntists living in the camp. One occupier, Stéphane, said he didn’t see “how l’independance du Quebec can solve anything.”
Reda Birouch, who works at the information tent in the camp, said he doesn’t support Quebec independence.
“I am not for the separation of people for the reason that I am for the conviviality of cultures, for change, for love between cultures,” he said in French.
“If it’s just independence for [the sake of] independence, and separation for [the sake of] separation…No, I am against independence in Quebec,” he added.