Quebec student group rejects tuition hike offer

Quebec's most militant student group has voted to reject the Charest government's tuition increase proposal.

CLASSE votes against Charest proposal to spread out tuition increases

Student union leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois has taken on the Liberal government for announcing tuition fee hikes. (Canadian Press)


  • Planned tuition increase: $325/year for 5 years, total: $1625
  • Proposed tuition increase $254/year for 7 years, total: $1778

Quebec's most militant student group CLASSE has voted to reject the Liberal government's tuition increase proposal.

CLASSE delegates voted against the proposal at a weekend meeting in Quebec City, and announced the results on Twitter.

"The offer doesn't really respond to our demands," said CLASSE spokeswoman Jeanne Reynolds, speaking after the delegate meeting.

"The  tuition hike is still there. We are questioning the legitimacy of the increase, and there hasn't been any compromise on that."

Premier Jean Charest offered Friday to spread planned tuition hikes over seven years instead of five and increase the province's bursary program.

The new proposal means that, instead of annual increases of $325 for five years, tuition would rise by $254 for seven straight years, indexed to inflation.

Student groups immediately rejected the Friday offer, but later said they would review the proposal with their members.

Jeanne Reynolds, CLASSE. (CBC)

But leaders with Quebec's college and university students associations (FECQ and FEUQ) said Saturday they doubt their members will accept the offer.

FEUQ and FECQ said they could make a counter offer to the government, and that they are open to possible mediation.

FECQ spokesman Léo Bureau-Blouin said the groups made initial contact with Louise Otis, a mediator and former Quebec Court of Appeals judge.

But CLASSE, the largest and most powerful student group, isn't interested in mediation at this point because "it won't change anything," said spokeswoman Joanne Reynolds.

She said students have already proposed concrete solutions to offset tuition costs, such as reinstating capital gains taxes.

On Sunday the Quebec Liberal Party announced it was relocating its annual convention from Montreal to Victoriaville because of student protests. The party was supposed to meet May 4 - 6 at the Centre Mont-Royal in Montreal, near Charest's offices.

Boycott evolves into larger student unrest

Students have held nightly protests in a bid to pressure the Liberal government to cancel tuition increases.

The Montreal protests have drawn tens of thousands of people for mostly peaceful gatherings, marked by occasional violent clashes with police.

In recent protests, a small group of vandals smashed windows and threw projectiles at authorities.

Police have used pepper spray, chemical irritants and tear gas to disperse the crowds, sparking accusations of excessive use of force.

Another tuition protest is planned in Montreal Sunday night.

About a third of Quebec students are still avoiding their classes, but most have chosen to return to school during the dispute.

Europe, U.S. media report on Quebec tuition conflict

The province-wide class boycott, now in its eleventh week, has transformed into a movement of broader student unrest that has drawn international attention.

In the last week, Quebec's student protests have received coverage in France, through Agence France-Presse, TV5, and a front-page photo in Le Monde.

They also appeared in Australia, New Zealand, on Al Jazeera, and on U.S. news outlets, including CNN.

A New York Times blog suggested tuition fees and student debt could become a key theme in President Barack Obama's bid for re-election as the president tries to energize young voters.

The "French-Canadian students" were cited as an example in the tuition debate, as part of an international outcry against the high price of education.