Politics
Quebec premier's tuition compromise rejected by violent protest

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois gestures following the Summit of Higher Education in Montreal, February 26, 2013.

Credits: REUTERS

QMI AGENCY

MONTREAL -- A tuition-fee compromise by Quebec's premier couldn't prevent a violent protest that rekindled memories of last year's Quebec Spring.

The window-smashing rally of 10,000 people took place despite Pauline Marois's efforts to appease student hardliners with a bilateral meeting.

The hardliners instead boycotted Marois's summit and organized a massive demonstration after the premier refused to abolish tuition fees.

As the meeting drew to a close south of downtown, Montreal riot police charged crowds of mask-wearing protesters north of the summit site.

Suspects pelted officers and their horses with rocks, eggs and red paint. Windows were smashed and vehicles were damaged along the rally route and police tackled at least one masked man and led him away in handcuffs.

It was the second straight day of vandalism related to the student movement. Suspects splattered red paint at the offices of several provincial politicians hours before the meeting got underway on Monday morning.

The premier concluded her two-day summit by holding firm on a $70 annual tuition increase and $250 million in cuts to university budgets over two years.

Marois marched with the students when she was opposition leader but has since drawn their ire despite cancelling the previous Liberal government's seven-year, $1,800 tuition hike.

Before the violent outbreak Tuesday, she suggested the summit that brought together unions, university rectors and moderate students was a success.

"We have done a tremendous job," she told reporters. "We managed to put the fighting behind us and return to dialogue."

Even moderate student groups opposed to Tuesday's protest gave Marois the thumbs down.

They said they were "extremely disappointed" Marois didn't maintain a tuition freeze first implemented in 1993.

University principals and rectors are also upset at the budget cuts, warning that student services will suffer.
Quebec students have been willing to create social unrest to make their point.

The previous Liberal government's decision to hike tuition led to months of protests last year that taxed police services, disrupted Quebec's economy and made international headlines.

 

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