Tuition protesters unrelenting, in spite of injunctions
Published Thursday, April 12, 2012 10:44PM EDT
Protesters who oppose tuition hikes spent a busy Thursday marching, protesting and using every other means that they could to bring attention to their grievances.
The student tuition protests entered a new phase, as more injunctions were issued ordering protesters to allow others to freely enter classes, regardless of the existence of so-called strike mandates.
Those not attending classes are not considered to be participating in a legitimate strike, according to those legal decisions.
The Valleyfield confrontation
The action began early Thursday when some blocked off access to College de Valleyfield, two days after the school's director said classes must resume.
At 4 a.m. Thursday several hundred protesters massed in front of the doors to the school and prevented anyone from getting inside.The protesters say they are fighting for the rights of students who on April 2 voted to continue their boycott of classes as a way of pressuring the provincial government to rescind its planned university tuition hike of $1,625 by 2017.
This week College de Valleyfield director Guy Laperriere said classes must resume or else students would end up failing the semester.
Faced with blockade by hundreds of protesters, Laperriere said classes could not take place on Thursday because he wanted to avoid physical confrontations.
That angered students -- many wearing green squares -- who wanted to attend their classes and don't see why a strike vote should affect them.
FECQ President Leo Bureau-Blouin said that,"the Valleyfield protests were peaceful because the school asked students not to cross picket lines but if that stops, we'll have a major political crisis in Quebec, but that's the game the minister wants to play and we'll defend ourselves."
On Wednesday Education Minister Line Beauchamp reminded educational institutions that they are legally obliged to provide courses.
Premier Charest addressed the possibility of forcing the schools to open, in comments he made from Brazil Thursday, where he is leading a trade mission.
"We leave to each institution the task of taking the decisions they must make based on several criteria that include safety as well as the management of their establishments," said Charest.
Concordia University protest
Students showing up at Concordia University's Hall building early Thursday morning also ran into protesters.
At least one ground-floor window was smashed, although the school could not confirm if that window was intact before the protest began.
The knot of protesters prevented students and teachers from using the de Maisonneuve Blvd. entrance, upsetting students who were trying to get inside to take final exams.
Protesters did not move until forced to do so by riot police.
Concordia University immediately delayed Thursday mornings exams by half an hour.
Fights broke out in front of police officers, who eventually intervened to stop the conflicts by using pepper spray.
Similar scuffles took place at the University of Sherbrooke.
More than a dozen protests took place on Wednesday across the city, most of which were peaceful but there were a few confrontations with police. One person was arrested.
University of Montreal wins injunction
Meanwhile the University of Montreal won a court order banning protesters from assembling on campus until after April 20.
According to the university, all individuals must refrain from blocking access to campus buildings, individual classrooms, and even parking lots. Protesters are also banned from taking any action that interferes with classes, campus services or meetings.
The school informed students that classes would resume earlier this week, with no more accommodations made for those boycotting their classes or exams, otherwise the semester could not end by June 15.
That date is key because contracts require that teachers have two months off between June 15 and September 1.
In recent weeks judges have granted an injunction banning protests for one anthropology class at l'Universite Laval, and ordering students at CEGEP d'Alma back to class.
Some students expressed irritation at their fellow-students blocking them from attending classes.
"The school's open, people want to go in, basically they are just keeping us from doing that," said Sabastian Predescu of the Socially Responsible Students' Movement.
One of the later disruptions included some vandalism at the Universite de Montreal.
"Students went inside and vandalized parts of Pavilion Jean Brillant and Pavilion Roger Gaudry and when they saw the police they just left by themselves," said Simon Delorme, of the Montreal police.
Man arrested for allegedly threatening politicians
Provincial police announced Thursday that they had arrested a 33-year-old man in Montreal for allegedly uttering death threats on the Internet to a Liberal minister the prior evening.
The police did not specify the nature of the alleged hostile remarks or even whether they were related to the tuition conflict.
The man was released under the promise to appear before a judge.
Overall, about 80,000 of Quebec's 285,000 university students, approximately 28 percent, are not attending classes in protest. The movement also involves 22 of 48 Québec CEGEPs.
Other than the University of Montreal, the others most affected by the protest are the Universites de Quebec. At the Montreal branch (UQAM) 23,000 of 37,000 are out. At the Universite de Quebec en Outaouais, 5,000 out of 6,000 have declared themselves to be on strike. There are 3,000 on the Rimouski campus; Sherbrooke, 6,500 of 37,000 and Laval 5,000 out of 44,000.
"Several universities have already obtained injunctions and most are establishing mechanisms that will safeguard the semester, while maintaining academic standards," said Daniel Zizian of the Conference of Quebec Rectors and Principals (CREPUQ).
UQAM, for example, has rewritten its schedule to allow classes to continue until June 22 and to delay summer school.
The Montreal Music Conservatory also obtained an injunction while UQAM expressed interest in obtaining an injunction but instead accepted the protesters' promise not to interrupt the comings-and-goings of other students.
Other students sought similar injunctions to allow them the right to attend classes, including the Universite Laval and Universte du Quebec en Outaouais.
Meanwhile at the CEGEP level the Quebec CEGEP Federation (FCQ) noted that if classes don't resume by mid-April the semester could be lost.
Those protesters interviewed by CTV Montreal said that they were not ready to give up the battle.
"Apparently this is what we've got to do if we want to be heard," said Jean-Philippe Tittley. "I don't see what else we can do."With files from The Canadian Press