Student protest marks Charest's ninth year in power
Colourful protesters opposing the rise in tuition fees demonstrate in Montreal Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, April 14, 2012 6:28PM EDT
MONTREAL - Quebec students showed no sign of backing down Saturday in their battle with the provincial government, staging another massive march through the streets of Montreal.
Thousands of students were joined by residents young and old for the protest against the planned tuition hikes that coincided with the anniversary marking Premier Jean Charest's taking power nine years ago.
"I've always thought that change comes from the young," said Lise Lajoie, 72, who attended the march with a friend. "It's nice to see young people mobilize."
Students like Barbara Dufour say they remain committed to the strike, despite warnings the spring semester could be scrapped if the walkout continues.
"I think it's worth it," said Dufour, 25, an animation student at a junior college in Old Montreal. "What would be the point if we stopped now? Everything would be lost."
The march stretched along several city blocks and tied up traffic in the city's already congested Plateau neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, a group of students at Universite de Montreal set up tents on a campus lawn, vowing to "occupy" the university until the government backs down.
There were no incidents at the march on Saturday, but protests have grown more heated in recent days as the government takes steps to force students back to class.
The websites for the Quebec Liberal Party and the province's education department were apparently hit by a cyberattack on Friday evening. While no one had claimed responsibility, Twitter and Facebook users had circulated a link denouncing the Charest government and explaining how to crash a website.
Earlier Friday, seven people were arrested shortly after a group trashed the Montreal office of Education Minister Line Beauchamp.
The vandalism came a day after provincial police announced the arrest of a man for allegedly threatening a Quebec cabinet minister. Investigators also said two other investigations were underway involving alleged threats against two ministers.
Leo Bureau-Blouin, one of the student leaders, refused to denounce a turn toward more disruptive forms of protest.
"Our role is not to tell people what to do and what not to do," he said Saturday.
"At a certain moment, people want to be heard, and after nine weeks, they are at the point where they are doing those kinds of actions."
Bureau-Blouin said the only way out of the conflict is through sit-down negotiations with the government.
"For the moment, Madame Beauchamp has tried to solve this through injunctions, through the police, and it will never work," he said.
More than 165,000 Quebec students have been striking against Charest's plan for the past two months. Charest wants to increase tuition fees by $325 annually over the next five years, bringing them to about $3,800 a year.