Quebec student groups call for calm

After weeks of turbulent public battles and fractured negotiations, Quebec's four major student groups are calling for calm. They will continue talks with the government this weekend in Quebec City.

Meeting will be the first since talks broke down two weeks ago

Leo-Bureau-Blouin, foreground, leader of the Quebec's college student federation FECQ, will meet with the government, along with other student leaders Friday afternoon. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Quebec's four major student groups are calling for calm after weeks of turbulent public battles and fractured negotiations,

During a break from talks with the government in Quebec City on Friday night, representatives from each student group expressed concern over violent images they had seen and asked that both demonstrators and police cease violent action.

The students will continue the talks with the government over the weekend.

The government's chief negotiator, Pierre Pilote, convened the Friday meeting with the province's four major student organizations, including CLASSE.

Debate about whether or not to allow CLASSE, the most radical of the student organizations, at the table has stalled negotiations in the past and led to the breakdown of talks two weeks ago.

That's when the government ejected the group for what it said was a failure to denounce violence seen during some of the student protests in Montreal and other cities in Quebec.

CLASSE said it doesn't condone violence, but it doesn't oppose civil disobedience.

The groups' spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told CBC Friday that CLASSE will be at the table when the sides reconvene.

"We hope it's going to bring some new things on the table and we hope it's going to solve the crisis," he said. "But, for the moment, the exact topic of the meeting is confidential."

Despite the impasse that kept all sides from negotiations during the last two weeks, the government, CLASSE and student federations FECQ and FEUQ have all presented their latest offers to the public through news conferences.

The government offered to add more bursaries, link loan payment to eventual income, and spread out the $1625 tuition increase over seven rather than five years.

The FECQ and THE FEUQ called for the creation of a committee to oversee the management of universities and a plan to analyze the relationship between universities and private enterprise. CLASSE brought forward a two-part plan which includes reducing university spending and taxing banks to eventually provide students with a tuition-free education.

Premier Jean Charest and Education Minister Line Beauchamp met with university rectors Thursday. They were also at Friday's meeting.

The meeting represents a significant development in the tuition hike battle, which has inspired students to hold near-daily protests in the streets of Montreal since February.