Well, you can’t say Montreal doesn’t know how put on a show for the Grand Prix weekend.
Student protestors demonstrating against tuition fee hikes in Quebec this week targeted Montreal’s biggest tourism weekend: The Formula 1 Grand Prix. The GP is vital to Montreal’s tourist industry, an industry already hurting from the effects of months-long protests across the province. 300,000 people are expected to make the trek to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve over the three-day event, spending on hotels, restaurants and shops to the tune of $100 million in between jaunts to the grandstands.
But protestors are doing their best to rain on the parade (don’t they know that rain makes for a good race?). Threats of protests caused race organizers to cancel the popular Open Pit day on Wednesday, the day fans are given free access to wander around the track and see the race cars up close. Undeterred, the groups made their chanting way towards Montreal’s Crescent street, the focus of the Grand Prix nightlife with restaurants, bars and patios jammed with tourists and F1 stars. “1-2-3-4, this is f—ing class war”, they chanted. “5-6-7-8, overthrow this fascist state!” Police attempted to stop the protestors from entering the street, kettling the group and bringing out the pepper spray in order to subdue the crowd. Police made several arrests, but protestors vow to return and disrupt as much as possible.
The contrast could not be more stark. Students protesting tuition fees and claiming fascism in the face of the champagne-sipping Ferrari-driving Formula 1 glitterati. The cost of an individual part on a Formula 1 car is probably more money than the tuition fee increase itself. There are, however, more similarities between the two groups than the protestors might like to think: visitors to Montreal on Grand Prix weekend also like to partake in some of the more exotic offerings on Rue Ste Catherine, while the protestors seemed to be doing the same thing.
Protestors are objecting to government plans to raise tuition fees in Quebec by up to 75%. Fees at Quebec universities are currently the lowest in Canada, and would still be among the lowest with the hike.