With Bahrain behind us, it would be OK if you thought that Formula 1 wouldn’t have to worry about the safety of staff and fans again (well, at least until Brazil).

Turns out that may not be true.

Students in Montreal are protesting university tuition increases, and it appears things are getting a little bit rough. Students have “clashed” with police in recent, according to coverage by the Montreal Gazette.

Now, I know these things always can seem or be overblown — we’ve got a 100 students here, 30 there — but what caught my eye, and made me think there might be more to the story, was an editorial last week in the Gazette on the issue. It lays out the more serious actions that have been taken:

This was driven home by Thursday’s concerted attack on the métro that shut the system down, disrupting the lives of tens of thousands of Montrealers. It was an attack on a vital public service – in effect, an attack on the general public, on us all. Thus all of us now, all Quebecers, have an obligation to reflect and decide – and let it be known – whether we want a society governed by democratic rule and a legitimate system of laws, or whether one governed by the dictates of mobs and vandals. If any good comes of this outrage, it will be to make it clear that this conflict over tuition fees has brought Quebec to a societal crossroads.

The crippling of the métro may or may not have been perpetrated by boycotting students. But it happened in the context of the student revolt, and would probably not have happened in the normal course of Montreal life. So the students who have pushed the confrontation to this intolerable point will find themselves rightly wearing some of the blame.

The Gazette continues, with not much sympathy for the protesters:

The time has come for true majority rule enacted by Quebec’s democratically elected government backed by a decisive majority of Quebec’s citizenry – something that the latest polling happily shows is shaping up. It is evident by now that no accommodation short of abject surrender will becalm the student mob. It is up to the government to draw its own line, and to draw it hard. Students who wish to attend classes or exams should be enabled to do so, if necessary by law-enforcement authorities. Students who wish to keep cutting classes in defiance of a deadline to return should have their semester scrubbed. And teachers who don’t show up on the job should have their pay suspended.

An assertion of the lawful and legitimate order of things would be in the long-term interest of all Quebecers.

From an NPR story I heard this morning, the ongoing protests are becoming more of an issue because Montreal is quickly coming up to its tourism season — and that’s when the lights went out (to keep in F1 lingo) for me. The grand prix is part of that tourism.

Now, will it actually be unsafe for people to go to the race? Probably not — but right now, of any city set to hold a race, Montreal would appear to be the most chaotic (other than Austin around 3 a.m. on any given Sunday morning).

And just so I’m not the master of hyperbole on this story, I’m going to leave you with the end of the Gazette’s editorial:

But it is madness to repeat now what was foolish then. It may take a certain wrench of the collective mindset, but in light of the current situation, Quebec must decide in short order what it wants, now and for the future: order or anarchy.

We know which one Bernie Ecclestone would choose, right?

  • Carter

    I am a Canadian and regularly visit Montreal. I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to visit during the GP weekend. The entire province of Quebec is going through a tumultuous time with student protests. More today and more arrests. Montreal police have arrested 4 people, who turned themselves in, in connection with the smoke bombs last week. No good, but not even close to the escalated scale of Bahrain. I do not believe that there is any reason F1 should have any worries about travelling to Montreal.

  • nofahz

    “And if there isn’t a story you make it up as usual.” BCE
    Seriously though, F1 isn’t political so no problem, they wouldnt go anywhere if they cancelled every GP because some trouble makers smashed a window, threw a smoke bomb, shut down the metro so you cant the to the GP. If no one can make it to the race thats no problem, FOM has a lot of experience blocking their camera shots to hide empty grandstands.
    So SJ Skid, instead of worrying about Montreal I’ll quote BCE again:
    “Go to Syria and write about some of the things there because that is more important than here.
    What we really need is an earthquake or something like that now so you can write about that.”

  • F1 Kitteh

    Come on how can you believe this is overblown but Bahrain wasn’t? The rioters would be upset to be underestimated like that.

  • Y’all don’t think if these protests are still going on come the GP, that the students won’t target it? I’m not saying violently, necessarily, but any other number of ways to disrupt transportation, getting into and out of the track?

    And there is zero way that the race organizers aren’t already fretting about this and putting pressure on the govt. to find a solution. Race organizers and a bunch of other folk who are eyeing the tourist season.

    Heck, maybe Occupy Wall Street will realize F1 is coming to Austin …

    • budred5

      The Metro is so crucial to the race weekend in Montreal. If they were to shut it down before or after the race, it would be bedlam.

  • F1 Kitteh

    Don’t worry they’ll be off to summer holidays by then and for sure Canada has no APCs :O

  • Nathhulal

    Every tourist loves to get a taste of local delicacies and broaden their experiential horizon

    “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

    What would be better than a Molotov cocktail or smoke bomb to clean the doors of perception.

    I hope the government doesn’t clamp down these students and deprive the tourists of the Taste of Montreal , unlike certain non-democratic regimes in those far off countries.

    • Thanks for getting the Blake quote right! :)

  • dude

    Don’t underestimate something like a good Canadian hockey riot, just check out Montreal riot on youtube to see what the locals are capable especially by the lower drinking age. I don’t feel this GP will be as controversial as Bahrain though, despite Canada oil exportation.

    • HP

      True! We all remember the night the Canucks lost in Vancouver!

  • HP

    A timely article! Ever since the Bahrain GP, I’ve been thinking the exact same thing. I’ve been following the student protests for a while now and wondering how it might affect the GP.
    What’s ironic though is that the riots/protests in Bahrain happened because there was no democracy in the nation whereas the student protests in Quebec are happening as a consequence (albeit indirectly) of democracy!

  • Antares

    As a Canadian, i’ll confirm that the rioting in Quebec is legitimate and it is getting pretty crazy. I really don’t know what they would do during the GP weekend.

  • Entropy

    Kudos that you picked up on that story Steve.

    I mentionned my worries last friday in the ‘Bernie wants pricey upgrades’ story. I don’t think anyone would get hurt or anything like Bahrain-like-force-india-scare situation, but the protestants do have a tendency to screw things up. I’m much more concerned about people putting out big bucks to spend a special ‘holiday’ in Montréal and then seeing them being harassed by manifestations that have nothing to do with the race itself. They do block off things: metro, street, bridges, even access to colleges from students with court-ordered-injonctions that want to finish their semesters, which is ironical considering that protesters want to defend the right to study to all (by having low tuitions fees) !! That alone shows you the whole situation is a mess. But let’s not get too political here. Decorum and civility oblige.

    Anyway, the education minister resigned yesterday. There’ll be more new discussions from now on. Lets hope it gets settled soon.


  • F1 Kitteh

    Undergrad engineering tuition fee at Queen’s (Ontario) – $9,677

    Undergrad engineering tuition fee at McGill – $8,027

    Undergrad engineering tuition fee at McGill(Quebec resident) – $4,337

    WTF !??! They can even afford to go watch at paddock club with those kinds of savings.

  • Carter

    This may be more dangerous than the protesting students….

  • Someone please tell me that the quoted article appeared in the editorial or opinion section of the Gazette…
    If it didn’t, then it’s a shame to journalism.

    • I’ll just quote myself and ease your mind:

      “but what caught my eye, and made me think there might be more to the story, was an editorial last week in the Gazette on the issue”

  • At least the Canadians, so far, have had the brains not to break any Statutes regarding the Grand Prix. By remembering to comply with the rules of the contract, I already have far more faith in their ability to resolve the matter sensibly before the F1 brigade reaches them than their counterparts in Bahrain.