Quebec seeks to increase tuition by 75 percent over the next five years. This has fuelled student protests. Student fees would still be among the lowest in Canada, but the increase is significant, and represents an assault on social contract ideals.
The Premier Jean Charest provincial government’s decision to reject a new round of discussions over access to post-secondary education has inspired protests on Montreal downtown streets. Student groups have vowed to protest every night until talks resume.
The breakdown came after Education Minister Line Beauchamp barred members of the Coalition de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) from participating in talks.
CLASSE, considered the most radical of the major student associations by the government, denounced violence carried out during the 10-week-old student strike, but refused to condemn civil disobedience or acts of self-defence.
Quebec student demonstrations have been linked to vandalism. However, is it possible that there are police operatives acting as agent provocateurs of violence in the student crowd toward the demonization of student protests? Indeed, the police had been linked to such activities during the G-20 summit which had been held in Toronto in late-June 2010
More than 5,000 protesters gathered at Place Émilie-Gamelin at around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday before marching through the streets of downtown Montreal.
The demonstration remained calm until protesters reached the intersection of Ste. Catherine and Guy. Demonstrators overturned garbage bins, smashed bank windows, and hurled rocks at police cars.
Riot police intervened at around 10:30 p.m. This police contingent then assaulted protesters with concussion grenades and tear gas canisters. The protesters were charged by police at the intersection of Ste. Catherine and Metcalfe.
CLASSE has publicly stated that it would not look to negotiate with the Quebec government regarding tuition hikes unless Minister of Education Line Beauchamp agreed to discuss tuition freezes. CLASSE has a long term goal for the abolition of tuition fees altogether.
Quebec students are not simply protesting a significant rise in student tuition fees. These students also seek to defend social contract ideas between government and people as members of communities. Quebec students through student groups seek to affirm a culture of economic democracy from further assault by capitalism. CLASSE has been the principle champion of this campaign.
The 'Civil Code' has been instrumental in fostering a context of social responsibility and economic democracy in Quebec which student protesters and organizers seek to defend and re-affirm.