Hundreds gather for anti-corruption protest in downtown Montreal

The idea for Saturday’s protest came from Patrick Poirier when the local historian noticed on Twitter that anger was building over the corruption allegations which surfaced in a leaked report.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of Premier Jean Charest’s office in downtown Montreal on Sept. 24 to protest loudly but peacefully against allegations of corruption in the construction industry. Similar protests occurred in Quebec City and in Sherbrooke.
Over the last 18 months, a pall has hung over Charest’s government as allegations of corruption have swirled around both the government and the industry. While Charest has pledged to investigate, he has refused to launch a public inquiry. Last November, Charest narrowly defeated a non-confidence vote over his refusal to hold a public inquiry.
Saturday’s event was billed as a non-partisan citizen’s protest to kick off “le mouvement du 24 septembre.” The idea for the protest came from local historian Patrick Poirier, who noticed on Twitter that anger was building over the corruption allegations.
“The first thing you can do as a citizen is speak, and the place to do that is the street,” he said in French. “We’re going to plan a protest, and we’ll see what happens. I’m very happy with the results. People have things to say. We had to come together to express our discontent.”
Organizers asked that politicians refrain from addressing the crowd, though a few did attend, like former Parti Québecois MNAs Louise Beaudoin and Pierre Curzi and sole Québec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir. Labour organization CSN was also present, and put out a statement supporting the event.
Poirier, along with friend Claudine Simon (neither are members of any political parties) organized the rally through Twitter and Facebook with the help of volunteers and community groups. To prove the non-partisan nature of the event, Poirier held up his bill for the stage he was standing on to show the crowd. The total: $159.50.
A call was made for people to contribute to the costs, and members of the crowd came forward to tip money into a hat on the stage. Poirier said any money left over from the contributions would be put towards supporting future rallies.
Le mouvement du 24 septembre will continue, added Poirier, though they do not have specific plans yet. He thinks the cause will pick up momentum: “People should bring a friend, and that’s how the movement will grow.”
Many of the protesters expressed frustration over perceived corruption in the provincial government.
Richard Labrie, a geography student at Université de Montréal and member of Québec Solidaire, called the allegations “scandalous” especially as the government is raising tuition fees for university students. “After they come to us saying they have no money for education… well, we know where they’re taking it from.”
Recent graduate Tommy Collin said he considered attending the protest part of his duty as a citizen. “Charest is a big part of the problem,” he said, adding that he hoped the protest would send a clear message to the premier.
Protester Sol Denot propped up a sign that read in French “Power to the people: out with the Liberal mafia.” She said that she felt the government was not listening to people’s concerns.
The protest comes shortly after a report was leaked to the media last week; within it, investigators revealed they had found evidence of widespread collusion and corruption that implicated the construction industry, organized crime and public bureaucracy.
Jacques Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief and head of the anti-corruption squad that produced the report, spoke publicly after the leak. He also appeared Sunday night as a guest on the popular Radio-Canada talk show Tout le monde en parle, revealing that he had been a victim of intimidation since taking on the position.
A Léger Marketing report released after the leak said that 75 per cent of Quebecers want to see a public inquiry into the allegations.


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