Charest calls on student group to condemn vandalism

Premier Jean Charest said the government will not invite the largest student group in Quebec to negotiations with the province's education minister because they refuse to condemn a string of acts of vandalism carried out in Montreal Monday.

Some buildings and sidewalks had painted red squares, a symbol of student tuition protests

Montreal police said five buildings in different areas of the city were hit by vandals early Monday. (Radio-Canada)

Premier Jean Charest said the government will not invite the largest student group in Quebec to negotiations with the province's education minister because they refuse to condemn a string of acts of vandalism carried out in Montreal Monday.  

Vandals armed with suspected Molotov cocktails and red paint hit several buildings in Montreal overnight, in an hour-long spree that left windows damaged and buildings defaced.

Montreal police say there were at least four attempted firebomb attacks at buildings containing provincial government offices after 3 a.m. ET Monday.

The buildings hit include 750 Marcel-Laurin Bvld, 3269 Saint-Jacques Blvd., 7077 Beaubien St. E. and 7171 Beaubien St. E.

A spokesperson for CLASSE, a coalition that says it represents almost half of all students currently boycotting classes in Quebec, said the group had nothing to do with the acts.  

"We have never organized those types of action and we will never organize those types of actions," Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told CBC News.

CLASSE spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois held a press conference in Montreal Monday. (CBC)
"We organized a massive and very enthusiastic protesters last saturday with tens of thousands of citizens. That’s us."

But Nadeau-Dubois said he won't denounce the vandalism because it's not part of the groups mandate to do so.

Montreal police spokesperson Constable Anthony Cantelmi said he can't say if student groups are being investigated.

"It is not clear yet if all or any of the attacks and vandalism are linked to the students or if it a group trying to discredit the movement," said Cantelmi.

"Once police arrived on scene, they found bottles [containing] liquid," said Montreal police Const. Yannick Ouimet, adding that the bottles were tossed through smashed windows. 

Police haven't confirmed what was inside the bottles, but they believe they were meant to be incendiary devices.

None of them ignited, however, and no one was hurt.

At some of the scenes, police found red squares painted on buildings or sidewalks. The red square has become the symbol of the student movement opposing the province's tuition hikes.

Two weeks ago, a similar attack coated the Montreal offices of Quebec's Education Ministry in red paint.

Wrong building likely hit

Police believe that one of Monday's attacks, on a building at 7171 Beaubien, was made in error since it was on an apartment building.

The building "had nothing to do with the Quebec government," Ouimet said. Police believe the vandals realized their error and moved down the street a short time later, where they hit the office of Quebec Labour Minister Lise Thériault.

A fifth attack was also reported at 5450 Côte-des-Neiges Rd., but it involved only paint. No incendiary device was found.

Police are still investigating and haven't identified any suspects.

The attacks come one day after Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp said she's ready to discuss university governance with student groups opposed to the planned tuition hikes.

Many of the province's post-secondary students have been on strike for more than two months in protest of a tuition increase that will see them paying $1,625 more in fees over five years.

Students have been staging near-daily demonstrations in Montreal and across the province since March.

Beauchamp said at a news conference Sunday she is ready to meet with students to discuss the creation of an independent committee to oversee university spending.

But tuition increases, scheduled to take effect in September, aren't up for discussion, Beauchamp said.