Quebec Premier Jean Charest is planning emergency legislation, tabled as early as today, that will suspend the current academic session until August at 14 CEGEP and 11 university faculties where protesting students are preventing classes from being held. He did not say whether the legislation will include stiffer penalties for those who block classes.
“It’s time for calm to be restored,” he said, adding, “nobody can pretend to defend access to education and then block the doors of a CEGEP or university.”
But many students and their supporters did block classes yesterday when about 100 stormed the Universite du Quebec a Montreal (UQAM) in the afternoon. Some stood on desks shouting “scab,” referencing the student “strike.” A demonstration in Montreal Wednesday evening was declared illegal at around midnight. There were broken windows at banks (again), tear gas and 122 arrests.
Such violent protests have defined the intense 14-week protest over a university tuition fee increase that will now be $1,778 over seven years. Michelle Courchesne, the new education minister, said that students present “no openness to make the necessary compromises.”
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for university association umbrella group CLASSE, told Canada AM this morning that “we don’t do that because we like to protest.” He added, “the day when the government will listen to us we will stop protesting.”