Two student groups agree to 'truce' with Quebec government
QUEBEC - Two of the three major student groups protesting the tuition hike have agreed to a truce with the Quebec government.
The presidents of student unions FECQ and FEUQ say they will halt all pressure tactics while they negotiate with Education Minister Line Beauchamp.
The Quebec government asked the groups for 48-hour truce Monday before it agrees to any meeting.
"We are ready to accept the truce because it will provide a good climate for discussion," said FECQ President Leo Bureau-Blouin.
The most radical group, CLASSE has not yet agreed to swear off disruptive protest tactics like those that have flared up across Quebec in recent weeks, and would only say the group had no protests planned over the next two days.
The CLASSE group expressed befuddlement over the latest government request.
"We already don't have any disruptions planned over the next 48 hours," the group said on Twitter.
"The minister is out in left field."
The provincial government said Monday that it will finally sit down with the three main protest groups, including the most radical one, if it agreed to halt the measures.
"I'm not asking the student groups to reject their pressure tactics forever... I'm asking for a truce for several hours," said Beauchamp.
"I'm inviting them, I'm waiting for them."
So far, the province and student groups have been unable to agree even on conditions for a meeting, with the presence of the most radical group, called the CLASSE, a main sticking point.
"We will continue our strike because if we go in negotiation without having people in the streets without having people on strike we will have no 'rapport de force.' We will be totally powerless on the negotiation table," said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, president of CLASSE.
The two sides are even farther apart when it comes to the more substantive issue that has inflamed Quebec this spring: tuition hikes.
The government has made it clear that, even if there is a meeting, it won't back down on its plan to hike tuition fees by roughly 75 per cent over five years.
Meanwhile, protesters have been voicing a variety of different demands: some are asking for a tuition freeze, some want tuition scrapped altogether, and some are even voicing a desire for broader social and economic change.
The group also said that if the government remains firm on tuition hikes, it will remain firm on continuing the student "strike." The group plans to hold a news conference late Monday in Quebec City.
There have been almost 160 demonstrations since January by the student.
Marc Parent, Montreal's police chief, said Monday that the tone of the demonstrations has changed in recent weeks to more tension, culminating to Friday's riot.
Violence will not be tolerated, said Parent.
"We will respond to the violent act by use of force, which is very appropriate," he said.
With additional reporting from CTV Montreal.