Festive Protesters March Against Simon Jolin-Barrette, CAQ Government
Far Right Counter-Protestors Drowned Out By Student Activists
The protest On fait la fête à Jolin-Barrette! was to show that people who feel attacked by the provincial government’s recent policies were ready to fight back, said political science student Oscar Berg.
“[The CAQ] isn’t done yet, there will be more surprises and we will stay mobilized,” he said.
The chilly morning didn’t deter the few dozens who gathered to protest the Minister of Immigration, Francization and Integration at Square Victoria on Friday.
As part of the birthday party theme, protestors brought their best children’s party accessories. They wore party hats and novelty sunglasses, blew kazoos, and brought birthday party decorations. They sang “Bonne fête Simon!” and “Jolin-Barrette, c’est à ton tour, de te laisser parler d’amour.”
The protest was aimed at Jolin-Barrette, who was speaking to the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal on “how the recent reforms implemented will promote successful immigration to Quebec” the day of.
The protestors called out Jolin-Barrette and the Coalition Avenir Québec for their recent policies. They decried the secularism law, the values test, their immigration policies, and, more recently, their changes to the Quebec experience program.
The changes to the Quebec experience program were reverted last week after massive outcry.
“The Minister of Immigration had looked at my file and my professional evolution for five years. Quebec chose me out of tens of thousands of candidates as a qualified worker,” said Ahman, a 32-year-old education student and hijabi who has been a permanent resident since 2017.
“The promise was broken. They promised me I would be a teacher, and here I am. They took my dreams, my years of experience and education and threw it against the wall.’‘— Ahman
“Imagine then my frustration and horror when the CAQ decided to exclude me because of my beliefs. The promise was broken. They promised me I would be a teacher, and here I am. They took my dreams, my years of experience and education and threw it against the wall.”
The protestors marched from Square Victoria through Downtown Montreal, before stopping in front of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec building in Jean-Paul Riopelle Pl., just in time to see Jolin-Barrette and others grabbing their lunch from a window.
Those protesting against the CAQ government were not the only ones there, though.
Eight right-wing counter-protesters also made their presence known. Jon Milton, a journalist who specializes in writing about the far-right and former editor at The Link, identified some of them as activists for Yellow Vests Quebec, an alt-right hate group.
So today's surprise anti-immigration demonstration was organized by Quebec Yellow Vests. Here they are in their FB group advertizing the counter-demonstration.— Jon Milton (@514jon) November 22, 2019
The Yellow Vests Quebec are a hate group whose leader, Pierre Dion, was recently sentenced to prison for hate speech. pic.twitter.com/6NUGWKTSCQ
Police had to separate the two groups of protesters after some small altercations during the speeches.
Flying Patriote and Quebec flags, the counter-protesters shouted pro-François Legault and CAQ messages to the crowd. But, they were mostly drowned out by the main protesters whose chants included “Tassez vous les facho,” “Tout le monde déteste les racistes,” and the topical “OK boomer.”
“We aren’t numbers, we aren’t files, we are knowledge, we are hearts, we are complete people and what we want is to be fully-fledged Quebecois,” said Berg in a speech to the crowd.
“What can people do when they might be kicked out of the country they’ve lived in for years? This is why we are here today.”