The minister responsible for the proposed Charter of Values, Bernard Drainville, declined to attend a debate on said charter, held earlier this week by the Graduate Student Association. He declined for reasons of security, saying that he felt the risk of things getting out of control were too high at this event, according to CTV. Yes, there was a well-publicized protest outside the room where the debate was to take place but a protest in itself is only a threat if violence is threatened.
The announcement of the protest, posted on QPIRG’s (Quebec Public Interest Research Group) website, solicited students and other community members to gather outside H-767 at 11:30 a.m. The posting contained no threat towards Drainville. It stated simply that, “QPIRG Concordia is encouraging both community and student members who oppose Bill 60 to mobilize this coming Thursday.” Drainville’s choice to boycott the debate implies that he did not think that his arguments for Bill 60 could stand up to the arguments of those who oppose this bill.
If Drainville really believes that Bill 60 has merit, he should have felt no fear in facing the people gathered against it. A person with strong convictions does not back down from a fight.
There was a lot of media present at the debate and it was a perfect opportunity for Drainville to make his points heard. Instead, his absence ensured that arguments against the bill were the only thing attendees heard.
Perhaps Drainville feared that a debate sponsored by a university would provoke questions that would poke holes in the ideology behind Bill 60. Especially since Concordia is mostly known to be in opposition of the Charter. Perhaps this was the real risk he saw in coming to Concordia on Thursday.
The PQ didn’t seem to feel there was any security risk when they attended debates about the tuition freeze during the student strike, but then in that circumstance they were on the side that had the most supporters.
The PQ should be embarrassed by Drainville’s conduct. By not showing up to defend his Charter he gave the Charter’s opponents all the power. His absence clearly shows a lack of conviction in Bill 60. If Drainville isn’t willing to do everything in his power to convince people of the validity of this bill, then it would appear that Drainville doesn’t really believe in Bill 60 and that says a lot.