Student protests force class cancellations, exam delays

The Collège de Valleyfield has backed away from its plans to resume classes after student demonstrators blocked the doors to the CEGEP.

Concordia exams delayed by demonstrations

Students opposed to the tuition hikes block the doors at Collège de Valleyfield Thursday morning. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

The Collège de Valleyfield has backed away from its plans to resume classes after student demonstrators blocked the doors to the CEGEP.

Administration at the school had told students to return to class Thursday morning or they would lose their semester.

Those who tried to go back were met by picket lines.

Hundreds of students, both who attend the CEGEP and others who showed up in support, blocked the entrances to the school.

Just before 8:30 a.m., a number of students walked to the doors wearing green squares pinned to their clothing, in contrast to the red squares that have become the symbol of the student protests.

They said they supported an increase in tuition fees and want to return to class. They were shouted down by demonstrating students and sat down on the steps of the CEGEP and opened their books.

Students who refused to give up the boycott quickly surrounded them.

Not long after, the school’s administration posted a notice on its website advising that classes were cancelled.

Demonstration delays Concordia exams

At Concordia University in Montreal, 75 protesters prevented hundreds of students from entering the Hall Building for 9 a.m. exams Thursday.

Police confront protesters outside Concordia University's Hall Building Thursday morning. (Radio-Canada)
Montreal police had been following the protest since it began earlier in the morning.

The exams started about a half an hour late, but all those scheduled were able to proceed.

Concordia student Alya Koraitem was on her way to an exam Thursday morning and was delayed by protesters.

She said she didn't understand why the demonstration seemed to be aimed at causing disruptions for students, most of whom are supportive of the cause.

"We're in solidarity so I don't see why they're kind of attacking students in that way," she said. "A lot of people were very nervous about getting to their exams so that was mainly the cause of a lot of tension."   The university says it has a responsibility to ensure all students who want to write their exams will be able to do so.  

Orders won't end boycott, students say

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for the student organization CLASSE, warned that injunctions and administrative orders wouldn’t end the boycott and student unrest.

"There is only one way to end the conflict – an open and honest negotiation with the student movement," he said.

Premier Jean Charest spoke out Wednesday against students blocking access to others who want to return to classes.

He likened it to the intimidation on construction sites that was seen during the wildcat strikes last fall.

Many Quebec students have been boycotting classes for nearly two months in opposition of the province’s tuition hikes.

The increases will see students paying $1625 more over five years.

Students say the increases will limit access to university in the province and have planned near-daily protests to put increasing pressure on the government to back down from the plan.

Apart from announcing a new loan plan, which includes an income-based repayment schedule, the government has refused to budge from its plan to increase the fees.