Thousands marched through the streets of Montreal on Saturday in one of the largest protests witnessed since the beginning of the student strike. Demonstrators called for the resignation of Education Minister Line Beauchamp and demanding the cancellation of planned tuition hikes.
The protest was organized by the Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (CLASSE) and attracted students associations, trade unions, and community groups from across Quebec.
“It’s really unfortunate that Ms. Beauchamp hasn’t been doing her job as minister,” Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for CLASSE, said.
“She’s letting university and CEGEP administrations do the dirty job of having to break strike mandates instead of seeing for the end of the strike by having a conversation with students,” he added.
Several universities and CEGEPs have won injunctions over the past weeks against the picketing of classes. On Monday, the Université du Québec en Outaouais obtained a ten-day injunction prohibiting picketing within 25 metres of the university’s two campuses. On Thursday, the Superior Court of Quebec banned the hard picketing of classes on the campus of the Université de Montréal.
“We’re determined to see the strike continue in spite of all of these injunctions,” said Jeanne Reynolds, another spokesperson for CLASSE. “This conflict will be solved through dialogue, not through the courts.”
CLASSE estimated that over 30,000 protesters took part in the demonstration. At one point, organizers reported that the march stretched from the intersection of St. Denis and Rachel to its starting point at Jeanne-Mance Park.
Despite the large number of participants, the demonstration remained peaceful. The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) reported one arrest.
“There’s been some vandalism from students in the past,” said Amir Khadir, an MP at the Quebec National Assembly, adding that police were responsible for most of the violence. “We don’t wish for it; we don’t recommend it. The student movement as a whole doesn’t ask for it either. But we can understand that when the government is acting so close-minded and stubborn that this sort of thing happens.”
The upcoming week marks the fourth week of economic disruptions called for by CLASSE.