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Quebec protests the farce of 2012

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Young people have been criticized by some for their lack of imagination and ambition, but they also deserve flack for their inability to protest effectively.

Remember the Occupy movement of 2011? It turned into the protest that didn't end, as disenchanted and unemployed 20-somethings decided to set up camps in public parks in Canada's largest cities, disrupt life for others, remain on site for weeks and months, and shout how they were the 99 per cent.

(Judging by the way in which they were scorned and mocked by the majority of the public, they didn't represent the 99 per cent. It would be safe to say that the only "per cent" that they did represent was the 7.3 per cent of people who are unemployed).

The latest farcical protest comes from Quebec, where an estimated one-third of students have been on strike for weeks to oppose the "soaring" tuition costs and student fees in the province, even though Quebec's tuition fees are the lowest in the country, and about half of the national average.

(Imagine how cranky they would be if they had to pay the tuition fees of students in neighbouring Ontario, or any other English-speaking province).

The latest escalation in the strike came on May 16, when some of the striking students invaded a Montreal university, shouted "scabs" at the students who were in the classrooms, physically accosted some of their peers, scattered school books, and even spray-painted a message on a wall.

If those on strike are among the best and brightest minds that Quebec has to offer, then we can only expect that unemployment will continue to be high in La Belle Province, that Quebec's economy will continue to sputter, and that if the Occupy Movement ever returns, it will have a significant influx of unemployed protesters. 

There's nothing wrong with a protest, but there also has to be a limit. The Occupy Movement became a punch line, in large part, because its participants didn't know when to quit. If they would have conducted a one-day rally on Wall Street, and in a select few other major cities in North America – such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington and Toronto – their message might have been embraced by more people.

But when they lingered for weeks and even months, people shunned the message, and the Occupy Movement became a farce.

Quebec's tuition strike might have drawn a little more sympathy from the public, if Quebec didn't have the lowest tuition rates in the country, if the students walked out for a day instead of for a quarter of the calendar year, and if the protests didn't turn ugly in recent weeks.

It's time for the striking students to return to class, or drop out, and hopefully find a job.

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