Quebec education summit ends without consensus

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has pronounced the summit on higher education a success, even as demonstrators gather for a protest expected to draw thousands this afternoon.

Thousands expected at downtown Montreal protest

Premier Pauline Marois said despite some disagreement, she believes the education summit had a positive impact. (CBC)

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has pronounced her government's summit on higher education a success, even as demonstrators gather in downtown Montreal for a protest expected to draw thousands this afternoon.

As the summit wrapped up on Tuesday, Marois said she believed the conference had a positive impact.

"I am very proud [of] the results of the summit. We had a real dialogue with all the members of the community involved in education," she said.

Over the course of the two-day summit, the Parti Québécois tabled its plan to increase tuition increases by the inflation rate, or about three per cent more per year.

The president of the Quebec University Student Federation (FEUQ,) Martine Desjardins, said she was disappointed with the decision to increase fees.

"We are disappointed to see the government went ahead despite the absence of a consensus, but students aren't leaving empty-handed," she said.

On Tuesday, Marois responded to student outcry about tuition fee increases.

"The responsibility of the government is to decide, and I decided," she said.

Despite some disagreements, Desjardins said she was pleased the PQ's agreed to discuss the mandatory fees charged by all institutions and launch several projects on student aid.

Desjardins is also asking the government to set up a committee to study other options to defray students' costs.

But Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne said the government has made up its mind.

"The decision of the government regarding the tuition fees is the indexation of 3 per cent," he said. 

Despite the protests planned for Tuesday afternoon, Marois said she believed the divisions that arose during last year's so-called "Maple Spring" are in Quebec's past.

"We can turn the page," she said.

Students gear up for demonstration

By 2 p.m., hundreds of people had gathered in Victoria Square in the city's downtown core to take part in a protest organized by the militant student group, ASSÉ, which boycotted the education summit.

Within minutes, Montreal police declared that demonstration illegal, because organizers had failed to give police an advance copy of their planned route.

Police blocked surrounding streets to traffic, in anticipation of a march.

Protesters said they were rallying because the summit yielded no consensus on what solutions to take.

The demonstration is expected to make its way through downtown Montreal to Émilie Gamelin park, next to the Berri-UQÀM metro station.