Quebec students clash with police at tuition hike rally
Published Thursday, March 1, 2012 9:45PM EST
Police used tear gas to disperse thousands of students protesting planned tuition hikes outside the provincial legislature in Quebec City Thursday.
The protest was initially peaceful but the situation escalated when a breakaway group of students tried to jump across barriers erected around the national assembly. Protesters and members of the riot squad were pushing and shoving each other before tear gas was deployed.
The crowd scattered as protesters coughed and cried from the effects of the gas, CTV Montreal's Maya Johnson reported.
About a dozen tear gas grenades were thrown into the crowd. Both city and provincial police were on hand to control the demonstration.
"Why is there a barrier? There is no need for that," one male protester told CTV News. "We are pacifists."
Marie-Pierre Desilets, a third-year Universite Laval student, told The Canadian Press sending out the riot police was an extreme measure.
"I think the fact that they were shooting pepper spray when the students are just trying to walk towards the parliament, it's kind of extreme," she said.
Since Jean Charest's government announced plans to raise tuition fees to about $3,800 from $2,200 over the next five years, students have been organizing demonstrations and mass walkouts in protest.
More than 80,000 college and university students are on an indefinite strike over the increases.
About 37 students were arrested two weeks ago when they occupied a junior college in Montreal and threw objects at police officers.
Although Quebec's tuition fees will remain among the lowest in Canada, students say they can't afford the hikes.
Finance Minister Raymond Bachand said raising tuitions is "only fair" to taxpayers, who will be on the hook for a $3-billion investment in the province's universities over the next five years.
Opposition parties have sided with the students, but the government says it's not budging.
With files from The Canadian Press