The Hunt for the "Red Squares" in Quebec


red square

Free expression remains under assault in the Canadian province of Quebec, with government employees now forbidden from wearing the ubiquitous "red square," a small piece of red cloth pinned to their clothes indicating support of the student protest movement against college tuition hikes.

Six markers employed by the Ministry of Education were suspended from its Montreal offices on Fullum Street after wearing the symbol associated with the student movement against rising tuition, learned Le Devoir.

Wednesday, two markers were notified by the Human Resources Division that they could not return to work if they wore the red square. On Thursday, four other markers who wore the square in solidarity experienced the same fate.

Early this May, a memo was circulated internally in the Ministry of Education's offices, stating that officials have a "duty of loyalty and fidelity to [the Ministry of Education]." This memo was written because several of the employees were wearing red squares.

A government bureaucracy demanding "loyalty and fidelity" is chilling enough, but the Ministry isn't through. The ban on wearing the red square extends even into employees' personal lives.

"As an employee of the Ministry you have an obligation to display restraint…to act with neutrality in the exercise of your duties and reserve in the public expression of your opinions. This obligation applies in your personal and public lives," was written. "Also, you have the obligation of loyalty and allegiance to the constituted authority that requires you to defend the interests of the ministry." (Italics mine).

The ongoing conflict in Quebec is fraught with pertinent issues regarding free expression and civil liberties, which I explored in a recent Reason TV documentary.