An Open Letter to Jean Charest

Mr Premier,

To start off, let me say that throughout my life, I have heard my father, a distinguished now-retired lawyer, speak of you with reverence…discussing exchanges he has had with you with nothing but admiration in his voice, which in turn, led me to carry a certain respect and admiration for you as well, because after all, what better example could I possibly follow than that shown to me by my father?

Let me continue by saying that I am not writing this to attack you. I am not in the habit of appealing to politicians, because I generally don’t believe that politicians act in the best interest of their constituents, but because I occasionally like to have myself proven wrong, I am now going out on a limb by writing this to you. Prove me wrong.

Montreal and the province of Quebec is in crisis. The last time public opinion was as polarized as it now was at the last referendum in 1995, and back then, politics was the catalyst for the divide. The same old story, French vs. English, English vs. French. Well, I’m proud to say that 17 years later, language isn’t what’s getting your cities’ inhabitants riled up. You are.

When the student protests over tuition began, I generally adopted the belief that it was par for the course. I was in London, England when the same thing happened a little over a year ago when the now infamous photo of Prince Charles and Camilla was published with them being driven in their limousine as hordes of irate students trued to smash the windows of their vehicle in. I believe that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, so if the government tries to tighten their belt financially speaking, I expect some sort of backlash from that tightening…and you know what? I’m PROUD to live somewhere where the citizens feel passionate and empowered enough to stand up and let their frustrations be known. Despite being highly annoyed at having to re-route my travels to and from wherever I try to get in the city because of riots and demonstrations, I am proud of our Montrealers. I am proud to be a Montrealer. Because of that pride, I’m writing to you to ask you to let go of your ego, to let go of your role as a potential tool that is controlled by your buddies in government around you, and to forget about what the leaders of the opposing political parties in the city and country think. I am appealing to you as a human being and as a leader to open your eyes. Forget about re-election. Pay attention to now, because if you don’t, we’re fucked.

I saw what happened to the United States of America because they elected a leader that refused to act in the interests of his country’s population. On a global scale, the USA went from being a leading global political and economic power with clout and respect to the butt of jokes, a write-off, a source of pity and referred to with rancor and disgust. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and often been a part of it. With that said, I knew that it all came down to its leaders. Hurricane Katrina wasn’t devastating because it was a hurricane. It was devastating because George W. Bush didn’t care enough for the citizens of New Orleans to step in when it mattered and maintain order and peace with humanity and attention to the people affected. Mr. Charest, this situation you’re now (not) dealing with is your Katrina. Don’t make the same mistakes the ex-American president made. Despite making ridiculous comments while giving your speech at the Salon du Plan du Nord, comments that even your supporters felt were inappropriate and unnecessary, it’s not too late for you to act. In the interests of the people who believed in you, who elected you, who need you. If you care about your city and your province, then how can you allow this situation to keep growing and growing? When my older brother was a toddler, he would sneak off to eat candy with his hand over his eyes, solidly believing that if he couldn’t see anyone, they couldn’t see him and wouldn’t catch him with candy. Remove your hand from over your eyes, Mr. Premier. With talk of the army being called in and martial law being called to prevent the demonstrators from bringing their indignation to your doorstep, I am seeing the potential consequences of your lack of participation. You are supposed to protect your people. You’re supposed to ensure that Montreal and the province continue to stand as beacons of progressive thought and a melting pot of global cultures, but yet even CNN is reporting about what’s happening here. Stand up and look after your people. Deal with this problem like an adult. Responsibly, with compassion and empathy, as a role model should do. Have a discussion, face to face. Diffuse this before we are all paying for it. It’s your job and your responsibility, and sitting back refusing to budge simply makes you look like George W. Bush – happy to line your pockets with the blood of the people you were elected to protect and represent.

Montreal is about to move into its summer months, when we take the global stage with the Jazz Festival, the film festivals, the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. We need people to want to come to our city, and we need to want to go down into the downtown core without fear of being pelted with tear gas and blinded by an adrenaline-charged riot police officer. This is only going to get worse, and the more resistance you display, the less support you will get. People have been badly injured already, and the climate of fear is growing. Pull your finger out and do something. Please. For the sake of your career, for the sake of your reputation, for the sake of your safety, for the sake of our city and the province it resides in. Do something. It’s not too late.


Bram Levinson

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