MONTREAL (CN) – Montreal Superior Court was closed Wednesday afternoon due to a 2-month long student strike against Quebec’s plan to increase tuition fees.
Court doors were locked when security officials decided to block a crowd of student protestors from entering the building.
Tens of thousands of Quebec students, clad in red as a sign of debt, have dropped out of their school year, staging protests throughout Montreal and elsewhere in Quebec to challenge the government’s plans to raise university tuition fees by $325 a year for 5 years.
Even after the tuition increase, post-secondary students in Quebec would continue to pay less for tuition than students in other Canadian provinces: about $3,800 next year. But students say they want equal opportunity for affordable education.
The boycott, now the longest in Quebec history, took a violent turn recently as students clashed with police in the Old Montreal area and stalled traffic downtown. Officers pepper-sprayed crowds and have made dozens of arrests. The offices of several Cabinet members were vandalized.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp said the tuition increases will occur as planned, but says she’s prepared to sit down with the student group Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec to discuss how to manage the tuition hikes and possibly increase loans and grants.
But students said they intend to fight for as long as it takes.
“We want the government to stop reserving post-secondary education for the upper class,” a 21-year old Université de Montréal student told Courthouse News on Tuesday. “The strike is a sacrifice for the higher good and we’re willing to sacrifice our school year.”
Protesting students run the risk of having their school year canceled. There are tensions between protesters and students who wish to complete their term.
In recent weeks Quebec courts have issued three rulings on temporary injunctions for three post-secondary institutions, forcing students to end picket lines and allowing classes to resume.
20-year old Université de Montréal political science major Stephane Viau called the tuition increase “class war.”
Viau compared the lack of education funding with the tens of millions of dollars spent on the construction and mining industries in Quebec.
Paul Gareau, a court runner with a son attending Concordia University, said he pays taxes to fund education, and thinks students should fight for their rights.
“The people in power are making all the decisions, when it should be the civilians, especially when it comes to education,” Gareau said.
With no end to the protests in sight, the Quebec government has not backed down and the student movement is equally unrelenting, with daily protests being organized by student groups.