Waves of demonstrators weaved through the streets of Montreal last week to protest against Quebec’s economic development project Plan Nord, intertwining with the collective and growing movement of Idle No More.
Approximately 200 protesters marched through Old Montreal Friday afternoon in the midst of a blizzard starting from Victoria Square around noon. Protesters made their way to gather outside the Palais des Congrès, the city’s convention centre, where a two-day job fair to promote the natural resources sector took place. Many donned red feathers and red squares in symbolic solidarity.
The Plan Nord, first introduced by former Premier Jean Charest in May 2011, is a controversial initiative aimed to access the natural resources north of the 49th parallel. The $80-billion plan encompasses a slew of multi-faceted proposals that is expected to create more than 20,000 jobs in 25 years. The plan has drawn criticism however, for opting to build on native territory.
The demonstration was declared illegal from the start since an itinerary was not provided and police cruisers were damaged. The next day, a second peaceful protest gathered outside the doors of the Palais des Congrès. When some tried to enter the building Saturday morning, it ended in 36 arrests.
Alex Tyrrell, a Concordia University student, said that following the dispersion by the Montreal Police on Friday, he was able to gain access to the Palais des Congrès and explored the job fair.
“The police asked for identification and searched us,” said Tyrell. “In the room there were about 30 booths set up.”
Tyrell and his friend were able to participate in a question period following a presentation on the mining of a community in northern Quebec where he wasn’t sure the best interests of the native population were being represented.
The Parti Québécois has yet to move forward with the Plan Nord, despite a passionate plea from Charest to continue it during his concession speech in September.
Recently, environmentalists and indigenous residents expressed their concerns over the initiative.
“The Plan Nord is an evil plan as far as I’m concerned,” said Ellen Gabriel from Kanesatake, a Mohawk human rights advocate for indigenous people during a panel at Concordia in September 2012. “Politicians always talk about job creation – creation of jobs at what cost? Why always the land?”
The fight against the Plan Nord intermingled with Idle No More, a developing movement that advocates for the rights of indigenous people and denounces exploitation of native land, where a third protest stretched on during Sunday. Idle No More gained momentum and international support during the winter months that triggered mass protests nationwide.