Friday, May 11, 2012

Students and Tourists

We often think of students and tourists in the same light--folks actively trying to observe and learn from their surroundings, people are not really doing a job, and people who drop a fair amount of money wherever they go.  Educational institutions and tourist traps serve the local economy in ways that are often underestimated.

However, according to the US Embassy in Canada (the helpful folks who turned out my wife's passport app in two weeks--thanks, guys!), tourists in Montreal need to be alert to the dangers posed by student dissent.  Yes, Montreal 2012 is, to the US government, risky, not unlike Cairo 2011. 

The U.S. Consulate in Montreal alerts U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Quebec Province of the potential for continuing student protests, some of which have resulted in violence and arrests. The U.S. Consulate urges U.S. citizens to avoid the areas of demonstrations, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any protests.
For several weeks, there have been large demonstrations in Montreal and outlying cities protesting university tuition increases. While the majority of the protests have been peaceful, some participants have incited violence, by throwing rocks and engaging in other acts of vandalism. These demonstrations have varied in size, with some attracting thousands of protestors to downtown Montreal. Businesses remain open although vehicular traffic patterns and public transportation may be temporarily disrupted due to protest actions. Most of the protests have been well-publicized and announced several days in advance, while others have occurred with no prior notice. While the demonstrations are intended to be peaceful, some can turn into confrontational or potentially violent situations.
There are no indications that foreigners or U.S. citizens are being threatened or targeted. Nonetheless, U.S. citizens are advised to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security. The local police service, Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM), provides frequent security updates in French and English via Twitter (@SPVM).
The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to avoid demonstrations, as bystanders can quickly be caught up in unforeseen violence and in some cases detained by the local police. If you believe your security is compromised, call the police at 911

However, that is as far as I go.  The idea of Quebec Spring is rather quite appalling since the students are asking for less tuition, not democracy.  The government has used some repressive force but not in any way on the scale or intensity as folks in the Mideast.  The student groups, having not distanced themselves sufficiently from those sending smoke bombs into the metro and doing other dangerous deeds, have lost heaps of support.  Whatever they wanted is not worth it for the rest of Quebec society--the damage, the inconvenience, the costs to business and to government. 

But given the multiplicity of groups and how unrepresentative they already are of the students, it is unlikely to end soon.  The government cannot really negotiate much further since it would look like they are giving in to terrorists. 

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