Poet Corrals Voices Across Canada Against Quebec Bill 78
Alessandra Naccarato watched the news in dismay as student protests in Montreal reached a fever pitch. Then she went to the city herself and got a first-hand account of what was going on. Her observations led her to believe there was something more that could be done.
Thus was born 78 Poems in 78 Hours Against Bill 78, an initiative that involves over 80 poets from coast to coast. Starting at midnight on June 1, poets from across Canada and beyond have been asked to show their solidarity with the student movement in Quebec and protest Bill 78 by creating 78 poems over a 78 hour period.
“On May 18th, an emergency bill (Bill 78) was passed by the Charest government. The law prohibits gatherings of over fifty individuals without prior police approval, a direct infringement of freedom of assembly. It restricts education employees’ right to strike (which they have been doing, in support of students). It disallows protest and picketing on or near university grounds, and imposes huge fines for those who ‘prevent’ a student from entering an educational institution,” explains Naccarato.
“Ever wonder why there are so many young artists in Quebec? I believe lower student debt can impact this directly. It did for me. While it is true that Quebec residents have had the lowest tuition in the country for some time, they also have high taxes that pay for social benefits like accessible education and prescription drug coverage. As someone who lived in Montreal for eight years as a student, community worker and full time writer, these things were crucial to my quality of life. I supported myself through a BA in Creative Writing and did not graduate holding a ticking time bomb with growing interest.”
It’s clear she feels a responsibility to work towards a funding regime in Quebec that retains the possibility of lower indebtedness to future generations. And since Bill 78 was passed into law, the focus on student tuition has expanded to a broader discussion of the rights of Quebeckers.
“How have the people of Quebec responded? On the one hundredth day of the protest, over 300,000 people took to the streets to peacefully protest. Every night, hundreds are marching through the streets of Montreal banging pots and pans. In this moment of severe state repression which is being shamed internationally and sorely underreported within Canada, one of the largest, most beautiful acts of civil disobedience in Canadian history is happening,” says Naccarato.
She is imploring people to join the poetic protest movement. “The project is a powerful, symbolic act of solidarity, as well as protest. I hope that it generates conversation, that is brings out dialogue in new areas – new cities, new stages, new kitchen tables. We aren’t organized into unions that can vote to universally condemn what is happening in Quebec, but this is a way to assert our community is against Bill 78. And it says a lot more than a petition.”
More information about the movement and poems already submitted can be found at www.poesie78.tumblr.com. Highlights will be shown on litlive.ca. All submissions will be accepted until June 4 at 6am and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.