Quebec student unrest spreads 0
MONTREAL - The unrest of Quebec students has spread throughout the province and spilled over into other parts of the country.
Nightly protests in Montreal and Quebec City have led to more than 2,500 arrests so far -- the nearly 700 on Wednesday were the largest mass arrests since the 1970 October Crisis -- as thousands of protesters continued to defy the controversial new special law, Bill 78 passed last week, requiring any protest group of more than 50 people to advise police eight hours in advance.
On Thursday night, according to reports, there were sympathetic protests in several towns and cities, including Longueuil, Chambly, Trois-Rivieres and Abitibi.
Meanwhile, a coalition of student and union activists in Ontario is set to rally Friday in Toronto and announce a plan to back Quebec students and to "build Ontario's movement in the fight to reduce tuition fees and for accessible post-secondary education," the Student Solidarity Network said.
And the University of British Columbia student union has condemned Bill 78 and said it will write to Quebec premier Jean Charest, according to the campus paper The Ubyssey.
About 30% of Quebec students went on strike on Feb. 14 after Charest announced a tuition hike that amounts to $1,800 per year, per student.
The 103-day conflict has been marred by window-smashing rampages and violent clashes between police and protesters.
International media have picked up on the crisis, and two University of Montreal instructors lambasted Charest in Thursday's New York Times.
In an op-ed piece entitled Canada's Not-So-Friendly Neighbour, Laurence Bherer and Pascale Dufour ignored the protests and instead lit into Charest for a special law that has "Orwellian" measures against inciting civil disobedience.
Comparing Charest to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the associate political science professors said the premier runs "one of the most right-wing governments Quebec has had in 40 years."
Charest defended the special law in the legislature on Thursday, saying it's important for the 70% of Quebec students who aren't on strike to have access to their schools.
"We're respecting the laws while respecting the right to protest, but to do so peacefully," said the premier.
Both main opposition parties have demanded Charest dissolve the legislature and call an election, which he doesn't have to do until the end of next year.
He has a four-seat majority, though his lead shrinks to just a single member when three vacant seats are factored in.
--with files from Brian Daly