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Canada students again protest tuition hikes

23 july 2012, 17:54
About 15,000 Canadian students protested in Montreal on Sunday against rising tuition costs, with an eye toward rallying supporters against Quebec Premier Jean Charest in expected provincial polls, AFP reports.

The protest at first was declared illegal under a controversial law enacted in the province to quell months of demonstrations over the tuition issue, as organizers did not make public their planned itinerary, but went ahead.

Yanick Gregoire, the vice president of one of the three main Quebec student groups, the FEUQ, said the protesters planned to head to Charest's offices in Montreal to denounce the fact that the tuition crisis "has not been settled."

The row over the rising costs of university fees in the French-speaking province of eight million people has dragged on since February, and many student groups blame Charest for the failure to resolve it.

The students are calling for the government to annul a decision to increase fees in the province by $1,708 (or 82 percent) over the next seven years, closer to the national average.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the spokesman for CLASSE, the largest and most militant of the main student groups, said the tuition fight was merely a short-term objective of the movement.

In the long run, the students want to combat Charest's "neoliberalism," which Nadeau-Dubois said has resulted in the "privatization of health care and education."

Observers expect Charest to call early elections in August, with the vote then set for September.

Nadeau-Dubois said that even if a party more favorable to the students' demands were to win the election, students would stay mobilized to make sure a new administration abides by its promises.

"It's our responsibility to inform young people about the importance of voting," said FEUQ president Elaine Laberge.

"If the majority of young people of voting age cast their ballots, we'll have a government that is more representative of Quebec's youth."

On Sunday, one man in his 30s was arrested on suspicion of hurling a projectile at police. Another demonstrator in his 50s, wearing a mask, suffered slight injuries when security forces intervened.

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