Villeneuve slams student protesters

Villeneuve slams student protesters

Published Jun. 7, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve criticized Quebec's student protesters Thursday after they tried to disrupt a cocktail party kicking off Canadian Grand Prix festivities.

The student protest movement has received enthusiastic endorsements from many Quebec celebrities and near-unanimous support from the artistic community. But the Quebec-born, Monaco-raised driver just might have become the most famous, most virulent new critic.

''It's time for people to wake up and stop loafing about. It's lasted long enough,'' Villeneuve told reporters at the cocktail benefit. ''We heard them. We listened. They should stop. It's costing the city a fortune. It makes no sense.''

As for their parents, Villeneuve said: ''I think these people grew up without ever hearing their parents ever tell them, `No.' So that's what you see in the streets now. People spending their time complaining. It's becoming a little bit ridiculous. They spoke, we heard, and now it's time to go back to school.''


At the start of the demonstration before the cocktail party, police swept in and surrounded the protesters, many of them masked or wearing black, as the group approached a barrier about 100 yards from the party. About 20 people were arrested and police said they confiscated light bulbs filled with paint.

Villeneuve said in a democracy, people can vote, and speak their mind between elections to make themselves heard — but they have to know when to give it a rest.

''That's what democracy is. We vote for people — and if you're not happy, then you vote for other people the next time around. And if you're not happy you complain, they listen, and that's it,'' he said.

''Same with your parents: 'Daddy, mommy, I don't like this.' Well, go back to bed now.''

Villeneuve said he was raised to believe in hard work, and not imagine money will fall from the sky.

He also compared the students to the London rioters last year and said they were ''rebels without a cause.''

In the end, he said, the students are hurting themselves because they're pushing for things that aren't fiscally sustainable — and they'll end up paying one day. Unfortunately, he said, if they keep it up there will be fewer taxpayers around to help foot the bill.

''And where does the government get the money? From taxes, from selling stuff. The next thing they will say is, 'Well, take it from the rich,' '' he said. ''And that's when you have the rich moving to another country.''

The Formula One race usually attracts 300,000 people — many of them tourists. The protesters have promised to disrupt Grand Prix-related events — some out of opposition to tuition hikes, others out of opposition to capitalist practices.