Professor arrested as Quebec tuition unrest grows
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2012 6:28PM EDT
Chanting students blocked traffic while others entered a Quebec university on Tuesday as ongoing tensions over the province's planned tuition hike continue to swell.
The protest at the University of Quebec's Outaoauis campus in Gatineau resulted in the arrest of at least one person -- a social sciences professor accused of obstructing police as they tried to evacuate a school building.
Students told CTV Ottawa that the professor wasn't trying to defy police, but was gathering his belongings at the time of the arrest.
Colleagues have said the instructor has epilepsy and was injured during the arrest, but details about the man's health remain unconfirmed.
More than 165,000 college and university students across Quebec are rallying against Quebec Premier Jean Charest's plan to increase tuition fees by $325 annually over the next five years, bringing them to about $3,800 a year.
Demonstrations are approaching a tenth week, raising questions about how thousands of students will complete their academic requirements for this semester.
Outside the University of Quebec in Outaoauis, students marched down Alexandre-Taché Boulevard as yellow-vested police officers looked on from their cruisers.
Const. Pierre Lanthier with Gatineau police said more arrests are expected later on.
"We're still doing the evacuation of the protesters inside the school at the moment, so it's not over yet," he said early Tuesday afternoon.
Elsewhere in Canada, most college and university students are polishing off assignments and prepping for final exams. But in Quebec, protests have stretched on for more than two months and neither side appears ready to bend.
For its part, the Charest government has said it won't back down on tuition hikes.
"We've debated this issue of tuition fees for about 20 years, we've made a decision that we know is right and is balanced and equitable," he told reporters earlier this month.
Student protesters at risk of not completing semester
Meanwhile, demonstrations against the hike have become more and more heated.
Recent protests have interfered with traffic in Montreal's downtown core, resulted in dozens of arrests, and blocked the entrances to bridges and buildings.
Earlier in the week, vandals targeted Quebec government offices by smashing windows and using what police said appear to be Molotov cocktails. The vandalism hasn't been linked to the student movement, but graffiti painted outside the building depicts a red square -- which has become a symbol for striking students.
It's a dispute that's prompted some strike-wary students, who argue that their academic records are at risk, to push for a class-action lawsuit.
One student, Laurent Proulx, convinced a Quebec Superior court judge to reopen one of his classes after arguing that the strikes could interfere with his summer job.
School administrators, it seems, are also divided on how to approach the protests. Concordia University says it's unwilling to extend the semester, unlike the Universite de Montreal, which has pushed the term back until April 30.
But as the end of the semester approaches, many professors in Quebec will be tasked with grading students that haven't shown up to class in several weeks.
Martine Desjardins, president of the Quebec Federation of University Students, says the student movement is aware that thousands are at risk of not completing a semester.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Joanne Schnurr and The Canadian Press