The latest student displays of arrogant self-indulgence, culminating in the UQAM riot, have been nothing other than thuggery. The same kind of criminal activity we witnessed in the “Red Square” period. Destruction of private and public property, intimidation of others trying to exercise their own rights, criminal trespass and a resort to the appropriation of the facades of terror when rioters broke up classes with faces covered.
What is beyond comprehension is why there is yet again a debate as to how these thugs should be treated? If they can be identified, charge them. If they can’t, then UQAM should use the student association fees to make up the damage. Including the destroying soft drink dispensing machine which some of the riot’s leaders would justify as an attack on global capitalism.These students constantly talk about their “rights.” Obviously something went amiss in their education since they have failed to be taught their “responsibilities.” As the song says, “you don’t get one without the other. And the student “leaders” always make a point about the necessity of treating all citizens equally and equitably before the law and the state. Then let us give them what they want. Let us not hesitate to bring down the full measure of sanction just because they are students. If construction workers caused the same damage in a riot, can anyone imagine a debate as to how they should be treated?
And, of course, how many times have these petty criminals attempted to cloak their activities by invoking their Charter rights. Well, Charter rights are not one-sided. It’s not just the students who have them. The students’ victims — all of us — have them too. Particularly the students who voted against the strike. Even at UQAM only one student faculty group voted to strike. Yet they violated all students Charter rights to be free from fear.
The reality of the current troubles is that a small group of students, probably positioning themselves for a future in Quebec politics, gave a large number of their cohorts a reason to engage in a frat party gone mad. A massive, moveable rave snaking its way through the streets and buildings that belong to all of us. Even the PQ finally had to denounce the madness.
These mobs have ignored injunctions ordering them to stop blocking access to schools and free movement of other students. They have declared that they want to “halt the economic engines of Quebec” and have styled themselves as modern-day trade unionists. Unions marched on issues of life and death. Working conditions, food, jobs, wages, housing. These kids are just about mayhem and havoc. If it was just about their message, they could have taken the south slope of Mount Royal as a “Democracy Park”, to use Michael Shafter’s designation, and screamed all day and night instead of disrupting the lives and livelihoods of so many.
They refuse to respect the rule of law. Their arrogance and narcissism would be amusingly breathtaking if they weren’t accompanied by reckless and dangerous acts.
The Charter indeed protects expression and assembly and no authority should ever refuse a permit to demonstrate. But permits aren’t there to stop expression, they are there to ensure public order. The Charter is an adjunct to our constitution where the foundational responsibility of the civil administration is to provide “peace, order and good government. All levels of government have the responsibility to ensure the public peace. The freedom of the city for all. The Charter gives no group the right to ensnare the community – or individuals – to its whim, nor to ignore judicial orders.
Section 15 of the Charter is called the Equality Clause. That clause states that “everyone is equal in front of the law and has a right to equal protection of the law.” Well, the students who could not study, and whose vote was not respected by these thugs, were denied their equal protection by the law.
By treating the rioters with kid gloves in determining punishment, we are actually infringing the Equality clause because we are not protecting the other students.The thugs want rights without responsibilities. They propose anarchy in place of liberty. And too many among us are too scared of being labeled politically incorrect to state that truth. Liberty does not imply license. It demands courage and resolve in its defense, for no free society can stand if it succumbs under the weight of the twin yokes of fear and impotence.