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Thousands of Quebec students protest austerity measures

By Ken Hanly     Apr 5, 2014 in Politics
Montreal - Quebec students in the thousands took to the streets in downtown Montreal on Thursday to protest "austerity measures" in the 2014 provincial budget.
The police declared the protest illegal before it began as organizers did not have authorization for the protest. The declaration was made while students were still gathering at Parc Emilie-Gamelin in Montreal. Six people were arrested before the protest ended for what the police termed criminal acts.
Some of the protesters threw rocks at police, who in return used tear gas, pepper spray, projectile launchers, batons, and shields, to push back the crowds of protesters. The students were primarily from Francophone CEGEPS,( post-secondary colleges), and universities from Montreal and southern Quebec. In 2012 there were six months of protests against the then Liberal government's attempt to increase tuition fees. The tuition fee hikes became an issue in the provincial election in which the Parti Quebecois defeated the Liberals and were able to form a minority government on Sept. 4 2012. Another provincial election is slated for Monday with the Liberals leading in the polls but it is not clear whether they will be able to form a majority government.
The average fees, not adjusted for inflation, at Canadian universities increased from $1,464 in 1990-91 to $6,348 in 2012-2013 and are expected to rise to $7,437 in 2016-17. Actually fees are lowest in Quebec and highest in neighboring Ontario province.
At another protest at the anglophone CEGEP Vanier College in Montreal the focus was on a new provincial history course that is to be introduced.
The separatist Parti Quebecois(PQ) had the support of the students prior to the 2012 election. Pauline Marois the leader of the party had even marched in a demonstration and worn the red square symbol of the student movement. However, many students now are against the PQ for not cancelling the fee increases only lowering the increase. They also blame her for increasing the cost of public services and electricity. However, two former student leaders are now candidates in the provincial election for the PQ. The election is scheduled for April 7.
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