Security guard battles with student protesters as they burst in prior to the National Bank Financial Group AGM in Montreal in April, 2012
Credits: REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Thousands of students will decide in the coming days whether or not to continue their strike, which started over six months ago, after the government proposed increasing tuition by 75% over five years.
On Monday, students in social work at a Montreal university were the first to vote. The results were controversial as less than 10% of students showed up -- about 60 people. However, it was enough for that union to continue the strike.
Students are holding general assemblies over the coming days in the lead up to the scheduled start of a special shortened semester in mid-August. The provincial government said the upcoming semester is the last chance for striking students to make up for their lost class time.
However, if students continue to strike, many of their teachers said they will join them.
Quebec's legislature passed emergency legislation in May which suspended classes that were being affected by the student strike. About 150,000 students were on strike at that time, representing about one-third of Quebec's post-secondary student population.
Last spring, some students and teachers blocked the entrance to schools whose students voted to strike. Often aggressive confrontations embarrassed the provincial government and could re-occur in the middle of the election campaign if the strike continues.
Premier Jean Charest stuck to his student strike talking points at a news conference Tuesday morning.
"Let's be clear, there is no strike," he said. "The government is not the employer of the students. They are free to boycott their classes if they want to."
He said students who want to go back to school have the right to do so.
"I want to defend the right of students who want to go back to school and that is the difference between me and (my opponents)," he said.
Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois vowed to cancel the proposed tuition increase if elected.