From the Archives
We dig through our archives for the obscure, random and memorable moments of Montreal & Concordia history.
In the Oct. 31, 2000 edition of The Link, a story ran about protesters were getting arrested while demonstrating against G-20. Jaggi Singh—who made headlined this week for winning a court case against the SPVM—wasn’t so lucky back then
Written by Robert Scalia. Photo by Vince D’Alto
Three protesters arrested at Monday’s G-20 demonstration outside the Sheraton Hotel for allegedly throwing rocks at police officers are still behind bars.
Stéphane Blais and Carrière, both 18, and Kevin Spillane, 25, were arrested along with 36 other protestors for “illegal gathering” and “participation in a riot.” On Wednesday afternoon, at the Montreal Courthouse, the three young men were also charged with armed assault on a police officer and were denied bail.
Spillane and Blais are presently being detained in the Centre de Détention Rivière-des-Prairies, while Carrière is at the Bordeaux Prison.
“Their detention is political,” lashed out Jaggi Singh in a telephone interview Saturday. The Montreal self-proclaimed anarchist, writer and member of the Capitalist Anti-Convergence, was the only other protester detained for more than 24 hours.
“There’s a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Cops accused of manslaughter are usually granted bail,” he added.
The three will remain incarcerated for at least another two weeks while they await their individual trials.
Pascal Lescarbeau, Blais’ lawyer, has demanded a revision in Superior Court, pointing out that bail can only be denied if a defendant is deemed a threat to society or a risk to flee before his next court date. Blais’ preliminary hearings are set for Nov. 17.
Lescarbeau insists that Blais will probably end up spending more time in jail awaiting his trial than anyone else, although the street youth has no previous criminal record.
“I think the judge simply wanted to make a point [against protesters].”
In a press release by the G-20 Welcoming Committee—organizers of Monday’s protest—Judge Gerard Locas is quoted as reasoning that releasing the three men would undermine confidence in Canada’s legal system in the eyes of international public opinion because police officers are the “guardians of democracy.”
“I would like to know the context in which these three guys are being charged with armed aggression. I think [their actions] could be justifiable,” continued Singh, claiming that riot police could be seen bulldozing innocent protestors walking away peacefully.
Singh said he was “whacked” in the stomach with a baton and witnessed a protester get knocked to the ground while attending to a pepper spray victim.
Singh was arrested shortly after the demonstration, while he and two friends were headed to a support demonstration for those arrested.
Their van was stopped by MUC police shortly after dusk. With six officers (three of them plain-clothes) present , Sergeant-Detective Poletti called him by name, charged him with violating previous bail conditions for rioting in Westmount on May 1, and handcuffed him.
“[The police] are trying to cherry-pick those who they think are the leaders of the ant-globalization movement,” Singh said.
He maintains his involvement Monday only included passing out flyers, chanting a few slogans and giving a speech on the World Bank and the IMF.
He spent the night at Bonsecours jail, located under the municipal courthouse. The following afternoon, Singh received a separate hearing in which the Crown called him a “risk to public security” and demanded he be kept in custody until trial.
He was transferred to RDP prison Wednesday morning and waited until 3:30 p.m. to receive his bail hearing. Based mostly on hear say-evidence, Poletti testified that Singh’s speech on Monday incited his alleged “followers“—protesters wielding baseball bats and gas masks—to riot.
“[It was] complete and utter fabrication,” maintains Singh. Poletti, he points out, referred only to the “tone” of the speech.
With a court date slated for January 16, Singh has been ordered to keep the peace and to avoid all demonstrations in Quebec occurring on private property, or those that may potentially turn “violent.” He faces a $4,000 fine and jail time if these conditions are broken.
“They’re keeping me from protesting effectively,” said Singh, pointing out that nothing can stop the Crown from postponing the trial to June or July.
That would be after the heads of 34 Western Hemisphere governments meet in Quebec City from April 20 to 22. Singh’s bail conditions, should they stick, have only primed him. In fact, he insists he’ll be “three times busier” in Quebec, passing out flyers and organizing workshops.
The Oct. 31, 1995 edition of The Link focused on an issue that this provincial election is definitely maybe not about.
“Nobody wins: stalemate vote sends out definite Maybe,” said the cover copy of The Link’s issue the morning after the crucial referendum vote. Link reporters witnessed the vote—decided by a razor-thin margin of just over 1 per cent—at the No and Yes camp headquarters.
No forces stuck in no win situation
By Alan Martin and Yves Faguy
On the eve of Halloween, Christmas came early for the No forces, as they won last night’s referendum by a vote of 50.6 per cent to 49.4 per cent.
With such a narrow victory, leaders of the No side called for Quebecers to respect the decision and to work together toward achieving their hopes and dreams.
“I want to address all Quebecers,” began Liberal leader Daniel Johnson to the growing cheers of the crowd at the Club Metropolis on St. Catherine Street. “I want to make sure there’s a rapid reconciliation between the sides.”
Pierre Patenaude, a community organizer for the CLSC, agreed with Johnson’s message.
“I sincerely hope that Mr. Parizeau will understand the message and that he will be more modest in his expectations in his projects for Quebec.”
Before the results started coming in, No supporters at Metropolis were not ready to predict the outcome. The last opinion polls, released over the weekend, had the No side trailing the sovereignists by a slim margin.
A youthful crowd cheered ecstatically as the early returns from the individual polling stations came in showing the federalists ahead. They booed when the results showed the Yes side still leading.
At 9:30 p.m., the No side surpassed the magic 50 per cent mark and the crowd went wild, chanting “Canada! Canada!” and “No! No!” while waving Canadian and Quebec flags.
For Julie Forget, a 23-year-old engineer, it was the moment she had been waiting for all night.
“When the No side crossed over the 50 per cent mark it was a real relief,” said Forget. “I must admit I was really afraid, I didn’t know what I was going to do in the event of a Yes vote. My future depended on the outcome of this vote.”
Even before the sovereignist side conceded defeat, the media declared a No victory around 10:30 p.m. The interpretation of the close vote is still unclear and reactions were varied. Echoing the words of Réné Levesque, Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard appeared on Metropolis’ large video screen, promising to continue the fight for sovereignty.
But for Lise-Marie Ferguson, 24, a law student at the Université de Montréal, the outcome was a clear message to separatists.
“There isn’t going to be a next time,” said Ferguson. “This is it. Forget the next time.”
Patenaude agreed, adding the federal government could not ignore Quebecers’ desire for constitutional change.
“I’m happy the vote was so close,” he said. “Because it puts the brakes on the sovereignty movement and it sends a message to the federal government that adjustments are necessary.”
In their victory speeches both federal Progressive Conservative leader Jean Charest and Quebec Liberal leader Daniel Johnson recognized the need for change.
“Let there be no mistake,” said Johnson. “While the majority have rejected separation we also have had talk in the No side of change and pride as Quebecers.” He later went on to say, “Those who voted Yes vote for change. I tell them I hear their message. We said no to separation. We equally said no to the status quo.”
Charest emphasized the contribution made by the rest of Canada in the final days leading to the referendum.
“To all those Canadians who came and reached out,” he said referring to last Friday’s massive unity rally in downtown Montreal. “They can touch a piece of that flag and say it flies because of what they said and what they did.”
Although people at the No headquarters were relieved by the vote, the debate over Quebec’s future in Canada remains unresolved.
“It was definitely a close call,” said Claude-André Paquette, a 22-year-old student at the Université de Montréal. “It’s proof to the rest of Canada that Quebec is not bluffing. I think as a result both Quebec and Canada will mature a lot.”
Tears and cheers at Yes headquarters
By Jonathan Gatehouse and Tom Fotheringham
An emotional and bitter Premier Jacques Parizeau blamed ethnic voters for the Yes side’s narrow defeat in last night’s sovereignty referendum.
Parizeau told a crowd of 8,000 disappointed supporters at the Palais des congrès that over 60 per cent of francophones voted for independence, but “we were beaten by money and the ethnic vote.”
Parizeau appealed to new and old supporters to continue working towards their goal and not be discouraged.
“We want a country and we will have it,” he said. “Vive l’espoir. Vive le Québec.”
The crowd roared its approval and chanted “Le Québec aux Québécois.”
The evening began with jubilant cheers as the initial results from the eastern regions of the province suggested a solid Yes victory, but it ended in tears for the sovereignists. The No side came from behind to win the referendum by the narrowest of margins, 50.6 to 49.4 per cent at press time.
As the tide of returns swept from east to west across the province, the crowd waved flags and chanted, “We want a country.” When traditionally pro-sovereignist east-end Montreal began to post No majorities, the hall fell silent.
The momentum began to ebb as nervous and restless spectators watched their early lead erode. With 65 per cent of the vote returned, the margin between Yes and No was so slim it was being calculated in hundredths of percentage points.
Radio Canada waited until 97 per cent of the vote was counted before announcing a No victory at 10:20 p.m.
People in the hall broke down in tears, hugged their friends and waited dejectedly for three sovereignty leaders’ responses.
“Never before has a Yes victory been so close as it was today. It hurts,” said Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard.
In a voice choked with emotion, he told supporters not to give up the fight for a sovereign Quebec.
“They have not uprooted the sovereignty project,” said Bouchard. He urged followers to “plant deep roots of hope for the future.”
Bouchard warned that the narrow No victory was not an endorsement of the status quo by Quebecers, but an indication that the federal system “has never been as fragile.”
“Quebecers know that the next time will be for real,” he said. “It’s going to happen sooner than they think.”
Action Démocratic leader, Mario Dumont, stressed that a record number of Quebecers voted for radical political reform.
“The Yes side, the side of change, clearly won the campaign,” he said. “Quebecers have spoken in favour of change.”
Separatists sang several choruses of the nationalist anthem, “Gens du Pays,” in tribute to their leaders. Although faced with the grim reality of a second referendum defeat in 15 years, there was as sense of determination in the crowd rather than resignation.
On the night when sovereignists believed that Quebec would take its place on the world stage, supporters in the crowd refused to see the defeat as the end of the dream of an independent Quebec.
“It’s disappointing, it’s not demoralizing,” said 54-year-old engineer Paul Carrier. “The ball is in the federal camp.”
Marie-Rose Tessier of Montreal said that, with an almost 50 per cent vote for sovereignty, Quebec “has proven that we are strong. It’s up to Canada.”
Francois Arcand, a self-employed consultant, said Canada hasn’t worked for the past 10 years and is at a dead end. He said the No victory places the onus on the federal government to heal the country’s rifts. “Mr. Chrétien has to ask himself what he’s going to do tomorrow.”
In the 1995 referendum, non-francophone students complained they were being discriminated against and prevented from voting. Sound familiar?
Today, several out-of-province university students in Montreal are claiming that they, too, are being unfairly denied the right to vote in the upcoming provincial election.
This story by Ingrid Hein and graphic by Jeff Nearing originally appeared on Oct. 31, 1995 in Volume 16, Issue 15 of The Link.
Students denied right to vote
Students were left bewildered after being arbitrarily interrogated and denied the right to vote at the polls yesterday.
Voting procedures were completely chaotic, according to a lawyer from the No committee at the Sherbrooke and Simpson streets polling station, in the Westmount-St. Louis riding.
“We had the police at the polling station twice today,” said the lawyer at the Unitarian Church polling station, who didn’t want to be named. “We almost got into fist fights with reps from the Oui committee.”
Sarah Fowlie, a Concordia student working at the CSU-run housing and job bank, said she was completely denied the right to vote for reasons she cannot figure out. “There were three polling clerks behind the desk. One of them had my name, the other two had it scratched out. They wouldn’t let me vote.”
Fowlie went to the Directeur du scrutin on de Maisonneuve and was told she couldn’t vote, the decision was final and there was no appeal process.
“I’m freaked out,” she said. “I totally feel discriminated against, but I can’t figure out why.”
The lawyer from the No side argued that a lot of non-francophone voters were being discriminated against. Poll clerks were harassing voters, asking them to re-affirm their identity by swearing on the Bible.
“When they’re (the polling clerks) suspicious they can ask, but it’s happening way too much. They are swearing in ethnics, students and people speaking in english [sic].”
Voters who were challenged had to swear on the Bible or give a solemn declaration as to their identity.
Sanya Kiruluta, a second-year computer science major, was asked to swear she was actually in her home the day she was enumerated.
Dawson student Michelle Morrison was asked to swear on the Bible that she really was Michelle Morrison. She said a poll clerk contested that she was resident of Quebec and asked her to swear on the Bible.
“I told them I could show I.D. but they didn’t want it,” said Morrison, who lives in the McGill area. “Maybe they thought I have only been living here for a couple of months,” she added.
Helene Larocque, of the chief electoral office of Quebec said poll clerks have the right to ask people to swear on the Bible, or give a solemn oath that they are really the person they claim to be.
“You couldn’t use I.D., can’t use a driver’s license. You have to swear on the Bible. They will probably not ask for I.D.,” she said.
Questionable Enumeration Practices
However, some students never even got as far as the polling stations. Many were never enumerated, despite going to great lengths to get on the list.
300 Bishop’s University students protested two weeks ago after being kept off the voters’ lists.
McGill student Adam Jamieson said his experience trying to get enumerated was frustrating and horrendous. He waited four hours in a line-up at the office of the chief returning officer with his lease, passport, driver’s license and other identification in hand, but was still turned away.
“I wasn’t the only one. There were tons of people turned away, some of them were crying in the stairwell.”
Noah Beggs, a fourth year arts and science student at Concordia said he and his roommate were rejected after they showed all the relevant documents—and their B.C. health cards—to enumerators.
“They (the office of the chief returning officer) asked my roommate ‘How do we know you’re not going back to Vancouver?’”
According to Mario Couture, the returning officer for the Westmount-St. Louis reducing, potential voters were asked for their medicare cards because it was a proof of domicile in Quebec.
Couture explained that representatives from both camps decided who was eligible to vote.
Students were asked for their medicare cards because possessing a health card from another province means they are still eligible to vote in their home province.
As with any provincial election this means they are not eligible to vote in Quebec, explained Couture.
Concordia philosophy student John Lee ran into similar disputes with an enumeration officer. “The tone was that they didn’t want you to be enumerated,” he said. “It was the questions they asked, like, ‘Are you planning to stay in the province?’” Lee noted that he has been living in Quebec for two years, and is a Canadian citizen.
Nigel Lall, the proprietor of Café Cirque, a coffee shop near Concordia, was also denied the right to vote. “They said I didn’t have adequate proof of domicile,” he said. “I had my lease with me for the business. I pay 70 to 80 thousand dollars [sic] to Quebec in tax per year and I can’t vote because I haven’t got a medicare card.”
Lall said he was escorted out of the office of the deputy returning officer by a security guard.
“Once they start denying the right to vote, where’s the democracy in this country?”
—additional reporting Gen Napier
This Valentine’s Day we dig into Volume 26, to find an article about the rise of Valentine’s Day in India. Read about the clash of ideologies in this feature by Siddharth Bannerjee from 2006.
With the Concordia Student Union looking into a putting a co-operative café in the Hall Building mezzanine, we dug into our archives to find out what students had to say when CUSACorp first leased out the Mezz Café to Java U.
In 1998, the space was leased to Java U for $40,000 a year. With The Hive bar closing in 1995, this left Reggie’s as the only business managed by the for-profit corporation owned by the CSU. Some criticized the decision made CUSACorp useless, but it did help subsidize Reggie’s, which has a long history of questionable management.
Here are two articles from 1998: “Mezz Out of Student Hands” and “Mezz Café Back on Track.”