Spartacist Canada No. 158
Rage Over Racist Cop Killing in Montreal
Defend Immigrants, Minorities! Independence for Quebec!
Montréal-Nord exploded in fury on August 10 over the police killing of 18-year-old Fredy Villanueva, an immigrant from Honduras, and the wounding of two other youths. Fredy, his brother Dany and some friends had been playing dice in a park the previous evening when two cops came up and harassed them. When they grabbed Dany Villanueva, Fredy called out Let go of my brother!—and was shot dead. The cops also shot Jeffrey Sagor Metelus and Denis Meas, Fredys best friend.
The next day more than a hundred angry protesters marched through the area, chanting Policiers assassins! That evening, elemental rage spilled over into the torching of cars and breaking of shop windows. An army of 500 cops descended on the scene, arresting at least six. Two nights later, youth in nearby Rivière-des-Prairies stoned police cars, leading to another 12 arrests. Drop all the charges!
Montréal-Nord is one of the poorest areas in Montreal, with many immigrants and second-generation families, especially from Haiti and Latin America. Unemployment is the highest in the city, particularly among black and Latino youth, who face constant racial profiling from the cops. The police shootings and repression, accompanied by a vicious media campaign against immigrant youth gangs, show what the debate over reasonable accommodation in Quebec is really about: the cynical manipulation of Quebecs national oppression into a racist crusade to keep other ethnic minorities in their place.
Anti-immigrant bigotry and police violence are on the rise across Canada. Even as it issues hypocritical apologies for past abuses of immigrants from China, India and elsewhere, the federal Tory government has tightened the immigration laws to keep out or deport people from poor and working-class backgrounds. The repressive war on terror has been used to demonize whole communities—Muslims, Tamils, Sikhs—and to further strengthen the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state. In B.C., the cops have become notorious for deadly taser attacks, including the killing of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekański at Vancouver airport last fall. In Toronto, black and Filipino youth have been shot dead. Last year the Quebec public security ministry admitted that police had killed 53 people in the province since the start of 2005—an average of 20 a year.
Mobilize Labours Power!
Three hundred people gathered for Fredy Villanuevas funeral on August 14. One mourner told the media that the sentiment in Montréal-Nord was rage, lots of rage
. The whole community is concerned. Seeking to contain the anger, various community leaders have called for a public inquiry into the killing. Such whitewash inquiries, as well as independent review boards and the like, have long been used by the rulers to divert discontent into safe channels. They will do absolutely nothing to end police violence or ameliorate the grinding racist reality of capitalist society.
Québec Solidaire (QS) issued a statement on August 11 whose opening sentence declared: The violence that took place in the streets of Montréal-Nord yesterday evening is unacceptable. Despicably, this nationalist-populist outfit, which is supported by most self-styled left groups in Quebec, points the finger of blame not at the cops but at the rioters! Wringing its hands over the social malaise in areas like Montréal-Nord, QS pleads for an open dialogue to end the climate of distrust and suspicion that reigns between youth and police authorities.
Against such timeworn schemes to reform this racist capitalist system, it is necessary to understand that the state—the cops, the courts, the prison system—is an instrument of the rule of the capitalist class, of repression against the working class and all the oppressed. It cannot be reformed to meet the needs of workers and the oppressed. It must be smashed and replaced by workers rule.
The Montreal-area labour movement must take the lead in protesting the racist police killing of Fredy Villanueva. Mass labour-centered protests in the streets could unite the social power of the working class with the anger of oppressed minority youth, showing a way forward for all those under attack by the capitalist ruling class. As we wrote last year:
The bourgeoisies attacks on immigrants and ethnic minorities—the most vulnerable and exploited sectors of the working class—are poison to labours struggle. Muslims and other ethnic minorities make up a growing part of the working class in the Montreal area. This simply underscores that to win against the bosses requires defending the unity and integrity of the working class against racist anti-immigrant demagogy. An injury to one is an injury to all! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
—Quebec: Labour Must Fight Anti-Muslim Backlash, SC No. 153, Summer 2007
National Chauvinism and Anti-Immigrant Racism
To unleash labours social power requires a political struggle within the unions to build a class-struggle leadership, ousting the pro-capitalist labour misleaders who subordinate the interests of working people to those of their exploiters. That means taking head on the fact that the working class in this country is deeply divided along national lines.
In English Canada, the union bureaucracy and its political arm, the social-democratic New Democratic Party, push the lie that the workers have a common interest with the Canadian capitalists. This includes flagrant chauvinism against Quebec, shown for example in the NDPs support to the Clarity Act, anti-democratic legislation that denies Quebecs right to national self-determination. For their part, the pro-capitalist Québécois union tops push support to their own bourgeois nationalists, represented by the Parti and Bloc Québécois. The Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste advocates independence for Quebec, seeking to get the national question off the agenda and thereby make clear to the workers in both English Canada and Quebec that their own capitalists are the enemy, not each other. This is the road to forging fighting anti-capitalist unity among Québécois and English Canadian workers, including their key immigrant/minority components.
The night of anger in Montréal-Nord points to deep tensions bubbling below the surface of this profoundly unjust society, which must be given a class axis and expression. Many tens of thousands of non-white youth of immigrant background in Quebec today go to the same schools as white Québécois and speak French with the same accents. But for the capitalists, federalist and sovereignist alike, these youth will always be the other—they can never be truly equal.
Justice for Fredy Villanueva and the many other victims of racist police violence will only come when the entire capitalist system is swept away in a socialist revolution. The working class is the social force that has the objective interest and power to overturn this whole system of capitalist exploitation, racism and misery, and build a workers state based on a planned economy. It is necessary to forge a multiracial, binational revolutionary workers party, through breaking workers in English Canada from the chauvinist New Democrats and in Quebec from illusions in the PQ and the other bourgeois nationalists. The Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste is fighting to build such a party. As we wrote 13 years ago on the eve of the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum:
Nationalism and chauvinism have been the key strands in the ropes which bind the English-speaking and French-speaking workers to their own capitalist enemies, setting them against each other, and against anyone else who is not us. Thus French-speaking Haitians in Montreal, English-speaking Jamaicans in Toronto, Asians in Vancouver, aboriginal peoples struggling to assert their rights, are all victims of racist abuse and open state terror justified in large part by the vicious logic of nationalism which currently defines and bedevils this country.
We advocate independence for Quebec to help clear the way for united struggle by the racially integrated working class of the whole continent against the system of exploitation and oppression that threatens the future of all humanity.
—For Quebec Independence! SC No. 105, September/October 1995