The ‘city that never sleeps’ label pretty much fits the Canadian city of Montreal for its unrelenting and increasingly noisy student protests, with support from the older generation too.
They are against the Quebec provincial government’s moves to more than double university tuition fees. In spite of the arrest of some 1,000 young people this week,
thousands more went back onto the streets across Quebec late on Thursday in defiance of a new regulation: bill 78.
Although most gatherings have been peaceful, some protests have turned violent.
The rebellion began more than three months ago, in February, when the Liberal government of provincial premier Jean Charest announced a 75 percent increase in tuition at Quebec universities, which have among the lowest fees in North America.
About 155,000 students are striking against plans to increase annual tuition fees to the equivalent of nearly 3,000 euros.
On 18 May, came Charest’s answer to their resistance: bill 78.
This requires activists to notify police for their authorisation ahead of a demonstration.
It limits numbers to a few dozen people, defines where they can and can not go, and pins responsibility on the organisers in case of trouble.
Infractions mean fines, from a thousand or more for individuals to nearly 100,000 euros for organisations.
Constitutional experts, civil libertarians and the government’s political opponents were revolted by bill 78, saying it attacked basic freedoms.
Tuesday this week marked the 100th day of the strike.
Even those who accepted that fees would rise rejected the controversial law.
One protester said: “We’re usually really peaceful, but we’ve hit bottom with this.”
Meanwhile, Charest has a public inquiry into allegations of corruption to deal with.
The Charbonneau commission will look into evidence of kickbacks involving construction firms, party financing and even possible links with organised crime.
Anne-marie Dussault, a journalist for Radio Canada said: “One of our main traits is wanting a fair society, equality between the rich and poor, where access to services, especially health, is universal.”
The students show no sign of giving in, and Quebec’s bad press is spreading. Tourists have also been caught in the police squeeze. Now the sector is worried others might stay away.
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