Of the protests that have been held in downtown Hamilton, this was certainly one of the noisiest.
In a show of solidarity with Quebec students, downtown Hamilton hosted a “pots and pans” or casseroles demonstration at Gore Park on May 30. Demonstrators joined an international movement of solidarity that spans more than 70 cities across the world and continues to grow.
“The issues we’re dealing with in Quebec are part of a broader struggle,” said Ethan Cox, the Montreal journalist whose May 27 article for Rabble.ca set in motion the wave of solidarity casserole protests last Wednesday.
Students in Quebec initially mobilized to protest the tuition increase being imposed by the provincial Liberal government, led by Jean Charest. However, with the advent of Bill 78, which limits the rights of protesters to assemble, the protest movement has evolved to encompass concerned community members from all walks of life.
“Economic systems that promote lower corporate taxes at the expense of social programs … are systems that are broken. And this is the unifying thread, fighting against these broken systems,” said Cox.
The casseroles protest concept, which involves protesters taking to the streets banging pots and pans, was taken from the Chilean Cacerolazos movement, which protested the repressive rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s.
Cox explained that each city has now created their own unique movement that represents their own voices.
The Hamilton event attracted about 150 attendees, comprised of students, community members and union members. It was organized by humanities student Dorian Batycka.
Hamiltonians and McMaster students alike have been pulled together by the cause. Ryan Sparrow, a labour studies student and a former member of the SRA, noted that a majority of the attendees at the Gore Park event were, in fact, students.
Sparrow and many other students believe that the solidarity casseroles should spur a stronger response from McMaster students and students across Ontario.
“Students have said, ‘Well why should they complain, our tuition is already expensive.’ Question is: why aren’t we complaining?”
The SRA brought forth a motion in November that declared the MSU to be in solidarity with Quebec student bodies. The motion did not prescribe any particular action, intending to leave room for students to take individual action.
The MSU is a member of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), one of the two major national bodies that represents students. The other, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), is typically more involved in direct student action campaigns, while CASA takes a political lobbying approach.
Schools in the GTA, such as Ryerson and York, which are members of CFS, have been extremely active in mobilizing students.
The Ryerson community has been particularly active, staging its own demonstrations as well as travelling to Quebec to support student bodies there. “Students in Ontario aren’t immune to the effects of high tuition fees,” said Rodney Diverlus, President of the Ryerson Students’ Union.
“We have the highest tuition fees in the country as well as the lowest per-student funding of any province. This means as education becomes more and more inaccessible, the quality of education received is also decreased … Reality of the situation is that if Quebec students lose, we all lose,” said Diverlus.
Although McMaster students seem to be less active, the casseroles solidarity movement has continued to build steam, and McMaster students remain an integral part of the Hamilton demonstration.
Another casseroles protest took place on June 6. As the movement continues, student activists have tried to challenge the notion of the ‘apathetic student’ by elevating the volume of a student voice.