Quebec students take to the streets with anti-Liberal message as election looms
Published Sunday, July 22, 2012 1:46PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 22, 2012 7:50PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Thousands of Quebec students and their supporters are marching through the streets of Montreal Sunday -- with talk of a possible provincial election in the air.
Protests against the Quebec Liberal government's tuition increases have calmed down during the summer months, but students say Sunday's turnout shows the movement hasn't died out. A demonstration in Montreal began at Emilie-Gamelin Park at 2 p.m.
Some student leaders say tuition hikes are still the main issue but many people at the protest say they are concerned about a wider range of issues including the government's environmental and economic policies.
“We are also for something,” CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told CTV News Channel on Sunday. “We are for more social justice, for more ecology, for accessibility to education. It’s those types of values and ideas that we’re trying to transmit in our mobilization today.”
Nadeau-Dubois recently introduced CLASSE’s new manifesto, which focused on four core themes: democracy, ecology, social justice and feminism.
“As students, as the youth of Quebec, we think it is our responsibility not only to take a position on the issue of our tuition fees, but on the general direction that Quebec has taken,” Nadeau-Dubois said.
He described the manifesto as “what we want for the future of our province,” and said that while the protests were sparked by the proposed tuition increase, demonstrators quickly saw support from many other groups, including trade unions.
It's widely speculated that Premier Jean Charest could call an election Aug. 1 for an election date in early September.
The powerful student group CLASSE has promised it won't support one particular party, but will work to make sure the Liberals don't return to power.
The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, or FEUQ, said it would outwardly target the Liberals.
"The major tool is going to be the criticizing of their platforms and going and speak with people about what we think of the platform," said FEUQ vice-president Yanick Grégoire.
Student groups will soon be required to vote on whether or not they'll return to class in mid-August, a provision on the controversial Bill 78, which suspended classes after violent clashes in front of schools.
Students have been holding major marches on the 22nd of every month since March -- there are also protest marches scheduled for Sunday in Quebec City and Trois-Rivieres.
Earlier in July Quebec protesters made nine stops in Ontario for the “Student Solidarity Tour” to speak to Ontarians about protesting tuition increases, where post-secondary students pay the highest tuition fees in the country.
Asked about the level of public support for the student protests in the Quebec, Nadeau-Dubois said the issue of tuition increases has become very polarizing.
“The conflict is now on for so long that the population is very divided,” he said. “There is a big part of the population that supports us totally and another part that is really angry with us.”