Hundreds mourn the death of Denis Blanchette

Photo by writer.

Hundreds gathered to honour Denis Blanchette at a candlelight vigil and makeshift memorial outside Metropolis last Wednesday night.

As Premier-designate Pauline Marois gave her victory speech during the Parti Québécois rally on Tuesday, Sept. 4, Blanchette was shot at close range outside the building.

Those in attendance at the vigil were invited to share their thoughts and feelings and to remember the 48-year-old lighting technician at a microphone set-up in front of the venue. Many speeches called for harmony and peace, as well as tougher gun laws.

Friends and colleagues tearfully remembered Blanchette as a hard-working man, a loving father and a good friend.

One colleague, who was only identified as Marie-Jo, told the crowd that Blanchette’s death was not a political statement.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” shouted Marie-Jo. “The man who killed him is mentally ill.”

“We’ll overcome this together,” she added before stepping away from the microphone.

Former Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois attended the vigil to show his support for the victim’s family.

“It was very shocking,” Nadeau-Dubois said of the tragic end to election night. “We’ve talked a lot about violence in the past few months in Quebec but this was real violence. It’s possible to debate the strike, it’s possible to debate on what a protest should be, but there’s no debate to be had on the events that happened last night – it’s just total horror,” he said.

Concordia University marketing graduate Kim Belair was on Ste-Catherine St. when the shooting occurred. Belair said it was strange for her because her mother was present for the Concordia University massacre in 1992 and her cousin experienced the Dawson College shooting in 2006.

“I like to think that everyone involved, no matter what language they speak, would be able to look at that [shooting] as not representing an opinion but as representing mindless violence,” explained Belair with regards to the gunman’s words about an English uprising during his arrest.

“I optimistically think that no one would ever take his words or his intentions as representative of anything.”

A second victim, Dave Courage, survived the shooting but suffered severe injuries.

An official civic funeral for Blanchette was held on Monday, Sept. 10.

With files from Kalina Laframboise.


New government ushered in with violence

Pauline Marois and the Parti Québécois were elected to form a minority provincial government in a night that ended with a fatal shooting Tuesday, Sept. 4.

The victory party for the newly elected sovereignist government was interrupted when security rushed Pauline Marois off-stage at the Metropolis venue on Ste-Catherine St. in downtown Montreal.

Two colleagues who were working the event, Denis Blanchette and Dave Courage, were shot just outside the concert hall minutes before midnight as Marois delivered her speech onstage to a sea of supporters.

Blanchette, a 48-year-old lighting technician, died at the scene after being shot at close range while Courage suffered severe injuries. The gunman then set the stage door on fire with hundreds of people still inside the building.

The alleged suspect, Richard Henry Bain, was taken into custody by Montreal Police shortly after the shooting. Dressed in a blue bathrobe and escorted into a police car, Bain screamed in French that it was “payback time” and that “anglos are waking up.”

The final results

After a 35-day campaign run, Pauline Marois will become the first female premier in Quebec history as soon as she is sworn in.

The Parti Quėbécois won the provincial election with a total of 54 seats in the National Assembly while the Liberals obtained 50, and the Coalition Avenir Quėbec gathered 19 seats.

In order for a political party to form a majority government in Quebec, they must have a minimum of 63 seats out of 125 in the National Assembly.

The Liberal party is the official opposition after nearly a decade in power. Quebec’s outgoing premier Jean Charest lost his own seat in his home riding of Sherbrooke by a landslide of nearly 3,000 votes to former Bloc Quėbécois MP turned Parti Quėbécois MNA Serge Cardin. Charest’s loss came 28 years after he won a federal seat as a Progressive Conservative member of parliament.

Leader of the CAQ, François Legault, secured 19 seats in the National Assembly and came in third place overall.

Québec Solidaire, led by Amir Khadir and Françoise David, gained a seat. The party now has two seats while Jean-Martin Aussant of Option Nationale, lost his only seat.

The undoing of Charest

After a nine-year era, Charest and the Liberal party were defeated and shelved to become the official opposition to the new PQ government.

Following months of social discontent, Charest called a provincial election August 1., which led to his defeat and resignation.

Flanked by family, Charest congratulated Marois publicly and expressed gratitude for the continuous strength and contributions from his colleagues and supporters on election night.

“I want to say to all of you tonight and all of you interested in the future of Quebec that the result of this election campaign speaks to the fact that the future of Quebec lies within Canada,” he said.

Charest bid his opponents good luck but did not announce his resignation the same night. He officially resigned as the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and from politics Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Ending his 14-year tenure as party leader and nine-year term as Quebec’s premier, Charest said he had no regrets.

The student movement

Léo Bureau-Blouin, former president of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, won his riding of Laval-des-Rapides to become the youngest MNA ever elected to the National Assembly at the age of 20.

Bureau-Blouin joined Marois in July as rumours swirled about a pending provincial election.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, former Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante co-spokesperson told The Concordian Wednesday night that this win was a step forward for the anti-hike cause.

“It’s a beautiful day for the student movement,” said Nadeau-Dubois. “We have forced the Parti Québécois to take a position on the tuition increase, we have forced them to promise they will cancel it. So, it’s a pretty big victory for us today.”

Alleged suspect charged

Richard Henry Bain, the man allegedly behind the attack on election night, was formally charged with first-degree murder and 15 other charges Thursday, Sept. 6.

The other charges against Bain include weapons violations, three counts of attempted murder, arson-related offences and aggravated assault.

Police seized 22 weapons from the accused, all of which except for one were registered. Two were recovered from the scene, three were in Bain’s vehicle and the rest were found at his home in La Conception. Bain’s next court appearance is set for Oct. 11, 2012.


Léo Bureau-Blouin on his choice to enter Quebec politics

MONTREAL (CUP) – At 20-years-and-seven-months-old, Léo Bureau-Blouin is the youngest candidate running in this campaign to become a member of Quebec’s National Assembly.

Bureau-Blouin became a well-known face in Quebec over the course of his term as president of one of the province’s largest student organizations, the Fédération étudianté collégiale du Québec. After completing two presidential terms on June 1, he joined the ranks of sovereigntist provincial party, the Parti Québécois.

The FECQ is one of four student unions officially representing students throughout the now seven-month long general strike against the Liberal government’s scheduled increase of tuition fees. During his two-year run as president, Bureau-Blouin represented the interests of CÉGEP students in negotiations with government officials.

Bureau-Blouin says he was approached by the PQ in late June and decided to take the party up on their proposition to assist and support him in running as a PQ candidate in the riding Laval-des-Rapides, just north off the Island of Montreal.

He was reached by phone mere days before the election. The interview was conducted primarily in French.

CUP: There’s a stereotype that executives from the student federations often use their roles as student representatives as a launch pad for their political careers. How do you respond to this considering that you are a former FECQ executive who has now joined a major political party?

Bureau-Blouin: First of all, if all I had wanted from the start were to create a place in politics for myself, I would have achieved something completely different because it’s a lot of work and a lot of energy. That is to say it is extremely difficult [for others] to interpret someone’s intent for creating a career — [it could be] because they are passionate. We need to encourage youth to be involved in politics. People who talk of these stereotypes present it as if politics are a bad thing but in many ways [political processes] are very positive.

Concerning the number of youth in politics, 10 per cent of the electorate is youth but zero per cent are present in the National Assembly. So it’s time to take part and, as for me, I wish that more young people would run in the next elections because if we want to youth to get involved in politics, it takes young candidates.

CUP: So you have not attended university — do you feel you would make a statement of sorts if you were to become a member of the National Assembly without a university degree?

BB: Regardless, I wish to finish my studies — it’s absolutely necessary to obtain my degree however already in the National Assembly there are several elected members who do not have degrees. It’s not a novelty because in this society, it’s only 20 per cent of the population who obtained university degrees — so it’s normal in governments to have representatives without degrees. But, me, I see myself getting a degree in the long-term, just not right away.

CUP: As the former president of FECQ, you were a representative for CÉGEP students. Do you feel students support you now as an electoral candidate?

BB: Yes, but students, like society, are not one unit — there are people who feel differently, there are all kinds of people who are students — but, I think, yes. I think that the majority of students are happy with what I’m doing. The objective is to demonstrate that we can continue to build in different ways.

CUP: The PQ stance on tuition in the media has been to increase fees on par with inflation — do you think students will be content with this?

BB: What we said was that we will abolish the increase of tuition fees, we will abolish the Charest government’s special law [Law 12], and we spoke of holding financial and business consultations with universities. One of the propositions that were put on the table was to have tuition fees increase at the same rate as the cost of living.

For me, I defend the students’ cause, that is to say that tuition fees should not increase. But I am pragmatic and the objective is to engage with aim to finding a consensus in this discussion and I think what the students really want is not to have a drastic [tuition] increase like what we saw with the Liberals.

CUP: You and PQ leader Pauline Marois called for students to halt any strike actions because, according to your statements at the time, the student conflict plays into the Liberal Party’s strategy. Why did you feel this way and, considering the actions that occurred earlier this week at the Université de Montréal, do you feel the same now?

BB: First of all, the call we made was to end the strike for the duration of the election campaign because the Charest government profited from the student conflict to mask its track record for the last nine years. And the call worked as CÉGEP students decided to go back to class together with universities, with the exception of two faculties at the Université du Québec à Montréal and several modules at U de M — so we’re talking less than 2,000 students.

So why did we do it? Because the Charest government’s strategy is so simple: talk about the student conflict and avoid talking about corruption and collusion, avoid bad reports and shale gas, and the least successful events during their governance. And I think it’s important to not let those issues drop.

CUP: And finally concerning statements by Marois that some characterize as racist and xenophobic —notably the institution of French test for candidates running for public office — what is your view on these statements?

BB: There is already a test for immigrants to Quebec so there’s nothing revolutionary there. It’s already there; it’s just not a standardized test. We are just asking people to have command of French because for Canadian immigrants, you must have a good knowledge of French or English. In Great Britain, you cannot work in the country if you do not have a good knowledge of English — that’s how it works in most countries all over the world. How can you integrate someone into society if you cannot communicate with that person?

CUP: Do you see an irony between the two positions you are seen to represent; being against tuition hikes but for a French test that targets certain communities?

BB: I think it’s two separate things; tuition fee hikes because we think education should be affordable for everyone but, on the other side — [and] it’s two separate things — we think that we need to have a common language to be able to talk together. In Ontario and the rest of Canada, people speak English and understand themselves in one language. If the government can’t say something to the people, we have a big problem.

Right now, there’s a problem that is that more and more people don’t speak French at home in Quebec and for us it’s a huge concern.

For the moment there is already a French test to become a citizen of Quebec, but there is no real verification, there’s no real standardized test. What we want is to make sure people have a real understanding of French when they arrive here in Quebec.

I think it’s a matter of giving the immigrants all the chances they need to be integrated into the society and to emancipate themselves, because I think many people are arriving here in Quebec and they are really frustrated because they have difficulty integrating themselves. But maybe if we were giving people more tools to learn French and if we were saying to them at first, you need to speak French to come here, I think it would be easier for them to become part of the society.


May the best candidate win

Benoit Guérin from Option Nationale (left) and Liberal candidate Dave McMahon (right). Photos by Eveline Caron.

With only a few days before the provincial election, student associations from Concordia University, McGill University and Dawson College hosted an electoral debate on Thursday Aug. 30.

Candidates running in the Westmount—St-Louis riding from the Liberal Party, the Parti Québécois, Québec Solidaire, the Parti vert du Québec, Coalition Avenir Québec, Option Nationale and the Marxist-Leninist party were invited to speak at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.


At the start of the debate, some candidates began to criticize the leadership of Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois due to her shifting position regarding the tuition increase. Liberal candidate Dave McMahon argued that Marois lacked due conviction for her platform.

“Marois has had 16 different positions in only six months,” said McMahon.

Thierry St-Cyr, of the PQ, maintained that the party’s position has been clear from the start; to cancel the tuition fee increase and to abolish Law 12, also known as Bill 78.

Benoit Guérin from Option Nationale defended the free education approach by stating that higher education for the public leads to better jobs and therefore stimulates the economy.

“Education can fund itself,” Guérin explained.

Contrary to their fellow candidates, Johnny Kairouz for the Coalition Avenir Québec and McMahon both agreed the current rate is not enough and students need to contribute more money. Both said that they would facilitate access to student loans in order to ease the tuition swell.


Tensions ran high during the second part of the debate when candidates addressed language issues in the province. McMahon asked why Jean-François Lisée, a high profile candidate for the PQ, said publically that he favours a francophone from France over a francophone from China. He followed-up by asking if St-Cyr would apply the same attitude to Quebec.

“We give points to everyone, it has nothing to do with xenophobia,” replied St-Cyr. “It is how we measure the level of integration of the person.”

During this language segment of the debate, the PQ’s intent to extend Bill 101 to CÉGEPs was criticized by most candidates with the exception of Mélissa Desjardins of Québec Solidaire.

“Having a choice [to choose the language of instruction] is an important part of our culture to preserve,” said Lisa Cahn of the Parti vert.

The Option Nationale candidate said he believes that Bill 101 should remain as is and is not in need of revisions or adjustments. McMahon concluded by emphasizing his party’s belief in “linguistic peace,” saying that the the French language is not in decline.

Many undecided voters attended the debate Thursday in an attempt to have their questions answered. One audience member was Matthew Kabwe, a Concordia student studying communications and human relations. Kabwe said he came to the debate to decide who to vote for but left unsure, and he is likely not the only one.


Remember, remember (to vote), on the fourth of September

On Aug. 1, a provincial election was called for Sept. 4.In the wake of the student movement, provincial debt mounting, rumours of corruption and collusion, and the Charbonneau commission in mid-September, Quebecers will head to the polls to decide which party will form the next provincial government.The heavy and often confusing campaign trail filled with debates and promises are condensed into a little more than a month for potential provincial leaders to sell their parties to voters.

With 34 days to win the support and love of a province that is not, by definition, so easily led, recent polls suggest many voters, as many as 19 per cent, stand undecided and aggressive advertisements remind young adults to have their voices be heard.

The Concordian is here to simplify the voting process in such complicated times. It’s time for clarity and for students to be able to navigate the upcoming election with ease.

At Concordia, the fall semester was set to begin on Sept. 4 but is now delayed until the following day, Wednesday, Sept. 5. The university’s doors are open as of Wednesday and the additional day off will not be made up in the school calendar.

Are you eligible to vote?

In order to vote in the upcoming Quebec election, four factors must be met:

-You must be a Canadian citizen.
-You must 18 years of age or older to vote.
-You must be a Quebec resident for six months prior to election day.
-You must be on the registered voters list before Aug. 30.

Not registered to vote?

– Head to your local revision office before Aug. 30 to register to vote.
– You need to bring two pieces of identification. One must have your name and date of birth; the other must have your name and your address.

On election day

-It’s necessary to bring a piece of government issued identification such as a driver’s license or medicare card.
-Polls are open from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
-Employers must give you four consecutive hours off while the polls are open.


Liberals – Jean Charest
“For Quebec”

On Education… Increase tuition fees by a total of $1,778 over seven years. Extend and expand bursaries and loans program.
On Services… $47 million into special care for those suffering from chronic illnesses. Create 50,000 “green” environmentally friendly jobs.
On Separation… No plan for a referendum.
Worth noting: The Plan Nord, bill to tackle corruption in construction industry.

– – – – – – – – – –

Parti Québécois – Pauline Marois
“À nous de choisir”

On Education… Index tuition freeze to match the cost of living, repeal Bill 78 and review university management.
On Services… Provide additional 15,000 spots in daycares and cap daycare rate. Abolish health tax. Introduce a specialized financial aid program for entrepreneurs, especially farmers and fishermen.
On Separation… Hold a referendum for Quebec independence.
Worth noting: Restructure of the French Charter, adoption of Quebec charter of secularism.

– – – – – – – – – –

Coalition Avenir Québec – François Legault
“Enough, vote for change!”

On Education… Reduce planned tuition increase to a total of $1,000 over five years and later increase with the rate of inflation, extend high school hours to 5 p.m.
On Services… Introduce preventive programs for the young and the elderly to relieve burden on the healthcare system. $1,000 tax reduction for middle class families.
On Separation… No plan for referendum. CAQ will not promote sovereignty or federalism.
Worth noting: Ban bridging schools, several commitments aimed at reducing bureaucracy and promoting transparency.

– – – – – – – – – –

Québec Solidaire – Amir Khadir et Françoise David

On Education… Public education from the preschool to university level will be free. Improve nutritional support programs for underprivileged youth.
On Services… Provide a family physician to everyone and a midwife to all women who request one. Increase minimum wage.
On Separation… Plans to hold a referendum to create an independent Quebec.
Worth noting: Limit access to English public schools, encourage consumption of local produce.

– – – – – – – – – –

Option Nationale – Jean-Martin Aussant
“ON peut mieux pour le Québec”

On Education… Introduce free education from elementary school to post-graduate level. Make school compulsory until adulthood.
On Services… Nationalize natural resources while enforcing a moratorium on shale gas and oil. Take steps limit private healthcare.
On Separation… Promotes independent Quebec, takes steps toward sovereignty.
Worth noting: Abolition of bridging schools, extension of the French Charter.

– – – – – – – – – –

Parti Vert du Québec – Claude Sabourin
“Se donner une voix”

On Education… Abolish subsidies to private schools. Make school compulsory until adulthood.
On Services… Allot funding into preventive health measures. Implement environmental taxes on pesticides, harmful packaging, etc. Provide schools with the means to offer a variety of sports.
On Separation… Introduce a provincial constitution derived from sovereignty.
Worth noting: Promotion of four days of work per week.


Retired ConU prof sends email endorsing CAQ to students

A retired Concordia University professor drew criticism for sending an email to his former students Thursday morning encouraging them to vote in the upcoming provincial election and emphasizing his personal inclination towards the Coalition Avenir Québec party.

In a message sent around 10:30 a.m. from his Concordia University email address, Dr. Jack Ornstein stressed his concerns about students voting on September 4. Furthermore, Ornstein wrote that he was “seriously thinking about voting for the CAQ” for several reasons.

“I have always held my nose and voted for the Liberals in Quebec provincial elections, as I am sure many other anglophones have done,” wrote Ornstein in the email.  “But no longer.”

Ornstein listed his aversion to a sovereign Quebec and the current tuition freeze, his desire for “a strong and prosperous but socially responsible economy,” and his disdain for corruption as his reasons for potentially voting for the CAQ.

Ornstein maintained that he was not trying to sway students into voting for the CAQ specifically but merely to vote at all.

“I am not trying to influence any of you to vote for the CAQ, honestly,” Ornstein wrote. “But I am hoping you will all at least vote.”

Concordia undergraduate student Cleo Donnelly was one of several students who received the email from Ornstein. Donnelly had Ornstein as a professor for Biomedical Ethics last semester, an online philosophy elective taught by Ornstein offered through eConcordia.

“I thought that it was good that he encouraged students to vote for whomever, as long as they voted,” said Donnelly. “But at the same time he did sound a bit as if he was trying to sway us towards the CAQ.”

Although Donnelly was surprised by the email, she stated that she believes political discussions between students and professors are best done in person. She also took issue with Ornstein singling out the CAQ as his preferred political party.

“While I would love to discuss politics with teachers, there needs to be an opportunity for a rebuttal,” explained Donnelly. “Because now a bunch of people know nothing about politics save that one party.”

Kayla Butz, an accounting student at Concordia who also took Ornstein’s class, considered replying to the email.

“He claimed not to be influencing our votes but he was making his choice pretty clear,” said Butz.

Butz explained that she thought Ornstein was trying to persuade students to vote and explore other parties, rather than boycotting voting all together.

Concordia Student Union President Schubert Laforest said that he felt Ornstein’s message was sent through an inappropriate channel.

“The fact he’s encouraging students to vote is great because it’s time to put our ballots where our mouths are,” said Laforest. “However I do not think it’s necessarily appropriate to use this forum to propagate your personal, political views.”

“These are personal student emails,” continued Laforest. “I really question the ethics of doing it that way. It’s unethical, it’s bad practice.”

Jack Ornstein declined to be interviewed by The Concordian.

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