Canada: New bilingual publication born of Maple Spring

Sunday, June 1, 2014

In 2012, Quebec’s student movement carried out a months-long strike, managing to push back and hold off a neoliberal government’s bid to raise tuition fees.

Repeatedly mobilising upwards of 200,000 people at monthly “mega-manifs”, the “Maple Spring” was an all-too rare win against the forces of austerity, and so it captured imaginations around the world.

Within Canada, however, this historic movement in Quebec was poorly represented in the mainstream media. Pundits disparaged the students as “entitled” and “lazy”, while many outlets all but ignored some of the largest protests in Canadian history.

When the media did pay attention, they tended to focus on trivial matters, or on sporadic incidents of property destruction, ignoring the core issues involved in this political battle.

At the time of the 2012 Quebec movement, I was the editor of rabble, a progressive Canadian publication. We quickly turned our limited resources towards all-out coverage of the Quebec movement.

Any statement we could translate from French, or any supportive commentary we could publish, found an instant and wide audience. There was clearly a thirst for sympathetic coverage of this struggle against neoliberalism.

We had a similar experience with the Idle No More movement that brought indigenous struggles for sovereignty and rights to the forefront.

Idle No More spread rapidly on social media, and inspired solidarity events globally, but much of Canada’s media ignored, downplayed or distorted the movement. Yet there was a real desire for actual reportage on Idle No More, and for commentaries sympathetic with this historic social movement.

These experiences convinced many of us that we needed to build new and innovative media platforms. In short, we realised that if we wanted to change the world, we needed to change the media.

If properly and widely presented in the media, radical and dissenting ideas turn out to be much more mainstream than we might think.

All this has led a number of us, in Quebec and throughout Canada, to found RicochetMedia.ca, an ambitious bilingual online publication.

Ricochet is the product of collaboration between anglophones and francophones in a plurinational Canada, informed by an understanding of our colonial histories and supportive of contemporary Indigenous struggles.

Ricochet brings together anglophones and francophones within the same publication, composed of two editions that maintain their editorial independence.

The French side of Ricochet includes several past spokespeople of Association for Student Union Solidarity (ASSE), the key group behind organising the 2012 strike, and will highlight important progressive voices in Quebec.

The English editorial committee includes well-known writers and authors, such as Ethan Cox, Justin Podur and Belen Fernandez, as well as a whole roster of emerging critical commentators and investigative journalists.

We look forward to translating key articles for English readers across Canada, and as far afield as Australia and elsewhere around the world, partnering with progressive and independent publications like Green Left Weekly. Ricochet will be a home for critical commentary and investigative journalism that follows the money and exposes injustice.

We are now raising start-up funding, on our way to a full launch later this year. If you would like to donate to Ricochet, visit our Indiegogo page. Here’s to spreading this new media ricochet together.

[Derrick O’Keefe is a principal editor of RicochetMedia.ca.]

From GLW issue 1011