Aaron's response to the "Our Not-So-Friendly Northern Neighbor" Op Ed in the New York Times
An op-ed piece written by two associate professors at the University of Montreal, and published in the New York Times, has served to give Americans a one sided and, in my opinion, unfair and unrealistic view of events in Montreal relating to the student protests.
I submitted the piece below to the Times, because I feel it's important to counter the fear mongering their views, intentionally or not, may create, particularly for those who otherwise might be planning to visit Montreal this summer.
A PLEA FOR CONTEXT
Before you decide not to come to Montreal this summer based on what you’ve read in this newspaper, please consider this about my city.
Despite what you may have recently been led to believe, by people who should know better, no one's fundamental freedoms are being run over roughshod by the city. There is no revolt in the streets. The government has not introduced martial law. No one is being repressed, and the climate of fear and insecurity described by those who choose not to respect the rule of law, exists only in their minds.
So long as you're not too bothered by the occasional clanging of pots and pans as a sign of protest, (think of it as a kitchenware festival in a city of festivals), you'll love Montreal.
But what about this Bill 78 described by some contextually challenged civil libertarians as draconian ? It was introduced by the government to stop students upset with proposed tuition increases, from routinely ignoring injunctions and using intimidation to prevent other students from attending class. Beyond that, the new law requires student organizers who are planning protest marches, to notify police of their intended route in advance. That’s the same provision that already exists in other major cities, like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, to name a few. Nothing very draconian there. There are also fines for leaders who refuse to respect the law, and the risk of arrest for those who defy it. Apparently that’s draconian too. And all this is happening in a city where peaceful protest has always been tolerated and has become almost a rite of passage from one generation to the next. All the government aims to do is keep it that way. Protest as much as you want, just respect the rights of others while you do it.
Here's what’s really important to know about Montreal. It remains one of the most beautiful and friendly and accommodating cities anywhere in the world, and one of the best and most convenient places for Americans to visit. World class events like the Canadian Grand Prix, the Montreal Jazz Festival (the largest of its kind in North America) , and the Just for Laughs comedy festival, rightly give Montreal its reputation as Canada's festival capital. Add to that some of the finest restaurants anywhere in the world, a distinct European flavour where French, English and other languages and cultures live, work, and play together, and you have something this city has always had - a charm, spirit, and je ne sais quoi, unmatched anywhere.
None of that has changed.