College de Maisonneuve, CEGEP de Sherbrooke close in face of protesters
MONTREAL - For the fourth day in a row the administrators of CEGEP de Sherbrooke have backed down in the face of protesters defying a court injunction and cancelled classes.
The principal of College de Maisonneuve in Montreal did the same on Wednesday after 30 masked protesters, some holding sticks, blocked the doors to the school.
They refused to let the principal into the building.
A total of 16 students went to court to oblige the CEGEP to open for class, but classes were cancelled after protesters refuse to give in to the school administration's request to let students in.
The CEGEP said it was forced to cancel class because it could not guarantee the safety and security of students and staff, a position supported by the Quebec Federation of Students.
"It's sometimes very, very difficult to maintain that security," said Jean Beauchesne, president of the group.
In both cases students who have been granted injunctions calling for an end to the protests and demanding they be allowed to attend class stood outside, frustrated.
The students who wanted to go to class say the CEGEP doesn't have enough security, and that police should be keeping protesters away.
Last fall, McGill kept strikers off its property and pickets to a minimum, during the MUNACA workers' strike.
Beauchesne said those same labour code rules do not apply to the student protests.
"It's not possible with students because they have the right to go inside for their courses," he said.
Public Security Minister Robert Dutil said he's not happy about that.
"We have a group who said they have the right to not respect that (injunction). It's not true and we will have to look at that," he said.
Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier also weighed in on the issue.
"It's incredible to see in our society that when there's an order of the court it is possible to consider that you could oppose to it," he said.
Protesters have every right to picket, however, said constitutional law expert Julius Grey.
"An injunction is not an order to agree with the court. It's not an order to stop protesting. It's merely an order to the college - to the college - not to use the strike as a ground for cancelling that class," he explained.
In Sherbrooke, students who won injunctions have taken the next legal step and returned to court to demand that those who violate the injunction be found in contempt of court. They are asking police to enforce the injunction.
However the school's directors said that if police enforced the court order it would only exacerbate the aggressive climate.
Students at College de Maisonneuve have yet to ask police to enforce their injunction.
With a file from The Canadian Press