Radical faction to protest arrests; students and government back to talking
MONTREAL - A student group called the Force Etudiante Critique, of which little is known and whose members are not made public, is planning a demonstration Monday morning at 11:30 a.m. at the Montreal courthouse to protest the four arrests related to last Thursday's metro smoke attack bombings.
In a rambling internet post, the group also issued searing attacks on journalists. The post -- which incited over 130 comments, many disapproving -- includes an addendum that notes that it does not plan to physically attack journalists.
No names are attached to the site, which was registered anonymously in November 2010. But the group is reported to be a more radical splinter-group of the CLASSE.
Media sources have reported that Vanessa L'Ecuyer, one of the four facing charges in the smoke bomb attacks, had previously signed in support of the group on the site. If there had been any mention of her on the site, it appeared to have been removed by Sunday afternoon.
The four accused are expected to make their pleas Monday before a judge at the Montreal courthouse.
François-Vivier Gagnon, Geneviève Vaillancourt, Vanessa L'écuyer and Roxanne Bélisle are charged with committing a hoax regarding terrorist activity, conspiracy and mischief over $5,000. The terrorist-hoax charge could land them five years in prison.
The probability of the suspects being convicted on the terrorist hoax charge seemed like a longshot to one Montreal lawyer.
"The idea of a terrorist hoax section is to criminalize people who call up, for example radio stations, or police stations, and make a hoax about a terrorist activity, in this case there are people who would have thrown smoke bombs into the metro, there doesn't seem to be any kind of hoax set up, if anything, they perhaps committed a terrorist activity," said Montreal lawyer Steven Slimovitch.
He thinks there could be an argument that their actions were more grave than just a committing a hoax.
"You're not dealing with a small mischief, it's not spray painting a graffiti on someone's wall, many people may have been hurt, many people could have been killed," he said.
Government back talking to student leaders
The main student associations conducted telephone negotiations with the Education Ministry. Meanwhile a little-known fringe group planned a protest to denounce the incarceration of the alleged metro smoke bombers.
A representative for Education Minister Line Beauchamp reported that the minister was "in telephone discussions with student leaders," Sunday morning. Little else was known about the contents of the discussions and the ministry promised that any emerging breakthroughs would be immediately announced.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesman for the Coalition of the Association for Student Labor Solidarity (CLASSE) told Le Soleil newspaper that his organization welcomed a return to talks.
He also predicted that Friday's multiple court injunctions would fail and that the students who sought to return would not succeed. He added that there's an increasing sense among his members that the semester will not be saved.
The CLASSE leader once again distanced his group from the smoke bombs.
"We are not strike against people who take the metro in the morning, we are on strike against the government, so it's not the kind of act that we put forward."
Green faction rallies for return to class
On Saturday, a group of students opposed to the tuition protests made their voices heard at a pair of rallies in Montreal and another in Quebec City.
The green faction, as it has come to be known, met outside the Papineau metro in the afternoon and the Place des Arts metro later in the evening.
About 150 green demonstrators crossed paths Saturday night with about 400 red (pro-demonstration) protesters but the encounter sparked no conflicts.
With a file from the Canadian Press