Students reject Quebec government’s offer

Thousands crowd Montreal streets for fourth consecutive night

Students showed their opposition to the latest offer from the Quebec government by marching in droves through the streets of Montreal on Friday.

The protest came hours after the Quebec Premier Jean Charest called for spreading the five-year, $1,625 tuition hike, over seven years.

Because of inflation, Charest’s proposal would amount to an 82 per cent hike in tuition fees instead of the original 75 per cent.

The protest

Thousands of students gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin at around 8:30 p.m. before marching peacefully through the downtown area.

The protest remained calm until demonstrators reached the intersection of Ste. Catherine and Bishop.

At that point, protesters mobbed a marcher who had smashed the window of a Canadian military recruitment office.

Riot police later intervened on the corner of Bleury and Ste. Catherine by splitting the crowd into three groups and arresting several protesters.

Despite the arrests, one officer told the crowd that the march could go on.

Small altercations between protesters and bystanders later occurred on St. Laurent.

The crowd dispersed at around 1:00 a.m.

The proposal

The provincial government also said that it would increase access to student bursaries. Under the new plan, students whose family income is less than $45,000 would have access to bursaries, instead of the original $35,000.

$39 million would be added in bursaries and in student loans.

At a press conference on Friday, the Education Minister, Line Beauchamp, said that the new plan would cost students “less than 50 cents per day.”

A commission to overlook university spending would also be established.

The spokespeople of the three largest student associations in Quebec said on Friday that it was unlikely that students would accept the offer.

“This is an offer that is falsely portrayed as a compromise,” Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE), told Radio-Canada in French.

“The hike isn’t diminished; it’s raised. Students and their families won’t have to pay $1,625, but $1,778.”

Talks between the student associations and the government broke down earlier this week after Beauchamp chose to exclude CLASSE, considered the most militant of the student associations, from the negotiation table.

The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec and the Fédération édutiante collégiale du Québec left negotiations in solidarity.

The offer came as the student strike in protest of the tuition increase, now the longest student strike in Quebec history by nearly a month, enters its eleventh week.