Student protesters face fines after blocking Montreal traffic

Students blocked the Highway 132 ramp to the Champlain Bridge for an hour Tuesday morning, preventing access from the South Shore to Montreal during rush hour.

Students blocked access to the Champlain bridge Tuesday morning

About 200 students blocked traffic on a major Montreal bridge on Tuesday morning. (CBC)

Two busloads of students were escorted to a police station in Candiac, Que., Tuesday morning after an hour-long  demonstration blocked an access ramp to the busy Champlain Bridge into Montreal.

The students were expected to face fines of close to $500 for contravening the Highway Safety Act.

Northbound traffic was backed up heavily during the protest.

Quebec provincial police spokesperson Christine Coulombe said it appears the protest was linked to another one on the Jacques Cartier Bridge.  

"It's a possibility that some students tried to make a diversion on the Jacques Cartier Bridge and the others went on the Champlain Bridge to block it," said Coulombe. 

Student actions against planned tuition increases in Quebec have escalated in recent weeks, with daily gatherings occurring across the province.

Law school student Richard-Alexandre Laniel, who was protesting on the Champlain Bridge, told CBC News the students are frustrated with the government and feel they aren't being heard.

"Students are radicalizing their actions because they don't have a choice," Laniel said.

The provincial government says its planned tuition increases – an additional $325 for each of the next five years – would still leave Quebec with some of the lowest rates in the country, at $3,793 per year. Quebec's tuition for in-province students is now the lowest in the country, although students coming from other provinces pay more.

The province says the new rates will help ensure the quality and sustainability of Quebec's universities.

However, students protesting against the hikes say it is a question of values. They say higher fees will discourage some people from going to university, and they argue that money to pay for better schools is available from other sources in Quebec.

Concordia students target president's condo

Students also protested and blocked a major street in front of the residence of Concordia University's president.

More than a year ago, Concordia gave its president, Frederic Lowy, a $1.4 million interest-free loan to keep his condo, and buy another one.

Students have argued that Quebec's universities are mismanaged, not under funded.

Concordia student Liz Colford said the money loaned to Lowy should have been spent on classes and teaching.

"This is just one example of the fact that the university is spending more and more money on the higher administration in proportion to what it's spending on higher learning," said Colford.