As the Quebec student protests continue to gain international attention, Queen’s students and Kingston residents have taken to the streets to show their support.
Since May 30, Kingstonians have gathered in McBurney Park, also known as Skeleton Park, every Wednesday at 8pm and marched through Downtown Kingston banging their household pots and pans.
The event, officially known as Casseroles Night in Kingston, aims to spread awareness about the situation in Quebec, including the passing of Bill 78.
The event’s name derives from cacerolazo, a form of peaceful protest that originated in Chile in the 1970s.
Participant Graham Beverely, ArtSci ’12, said using pots and pans as a tool of protest is conducive to calling attention against Bill 78.
“The whole idea behind pots and pans is that it’s a loud way to demonstrate that there is political discontent being felt,” he said. “It was actually used … as a means of expressing frustration without actually doing anything directly against the government.”
Bill 78, which restricts freedom of assembly, protests and picketing in Quebec without prior police approval, was passed on May 22.
The Bill was proposed by Quebec premier Jean Charest and minister of education Michelle Courchesne after student protesters against tuition increases failed to reach an agreement with Quebec liberal party representatives.
Bill 78 is set to expire on July 1, 2013.
Event organizer and past Occupy Kingston protester Matt Thornton called the bill a “national problem.”
“Bill 78 sets the precedent for provincial and federal governments to take away not only our right to assemble and organize but also sets the precedent to take away all of our rights,” he said.
The first event in Kingston had over 200 people in attendance. It coincided with numerous other Casseroles nights around Canada, as well as in international cities such as New York and Paris.
The weekly protests run for around an hour, taking to downtown residential and commercial areas. Participants hand out flyers to on-lookers and encourage them to join the march.
“What we’re doing now shows the government that the issue is far bigger than they ever though it would be,” Thornton said.
Thornton said the relatively small size of Kingston allows the protest to occur spontaneously and with little organization, factors that contribute to the event’s overall success.
“Whereas in larger cities like Toronto they actually have to have people discuss it and pre-plan it, we’ve just decided to do it very spontaneously and it’s been working great so far,” he said. “We generally march through residential areas quite a bit and we try to finish it on Princess to remind people that there is a Casseroles in Kingston.”
Thornton also said a growing mistrust of local and national politicians have discouraged participants from lobbying or writing to their local MPs.
“Our intended target is the people of Kingston. We’re not looking to get the attention of the mayor or the MP or any politicians because they’re just a part of the problem. We want the attention of the community,” he said.
A special protest on June 22 marked one month since Bill 78 was passed. Thornton said close to 180 people attended.
Ted Hsu, MP for Kingston and the Islands, said he thinks the root cause of the international unrest associated with Bill 78 is income inequality.
“It goes beyond the dollar amount of tuition fees for students in Quebec,” he told the Journal via email.
He also said that steps must be made to address income equality in the region.
“We understand that the protests represent real concerns and that these real concerns are not going away,” he said.
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