Quebec striking student leaders appear divided


Canadian students stage a protest against tuition increases on May 25, 2012, in Montreal. The Quebec government invited student groups for talks to end a three-month conflict over a planned hike in tuition.



Quebec’s striking student leadership may be divided on a possible resolution to the four-month long tuition protest, with one saying today his group is ready to make concessions.

“We are ready for a compromise — and if the Quebec government is ready for it too, I think we can come to something,” Leo Bureau-Blouin, outgoing president of Quebec’s College Student Federation (FECQ), told CBC News.

Bureau-Blouin, whose term as FECQ president ends June 1, represents 80,000 community college students in the province.

He said reducing the proposed tuition hike is what his members are requesting.

“If the Quebec government accepted to move on the amount of the tuition fee hike, I think it would be a great step in the right direction,” Bureau-Blouin said.

An estimated 150,000 students are on “strike” over the provincial government’s planned tuition hikes.

Premier Jean Charest proposed a $254 increase in each of the next seven years in an effort to correct ailing budgets.

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That sparked almost daily protests since February; the movement marked 100 days last week, and has gained support from trade unions, teachers, Occupy Wall Street and Quebec separatists.

The demonstrations have often ended in violence, which led Charest to introduce Bill 78’s tough new legislation aimed at cracking down on street protests.

Police have carried out an estimated 2,500 arrests.

Talk of compromise from Bureau-Blouin caught one fellow student leader by surprise.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois leads the more militant CLASSE union, which has long campaigned for free post-secondary education in Quebec on behalf of its 100,000 members.

The third striking union, Quebec’s university student federation, represents about 125,000 students.

Nadeau-Dubois told The Guardian only students can decide on a settlement, and union leaders have no firm offer from the government to show them.

“It’s not true that we are going to begin to compromise even before having an offer from the government,” he said, according to The Guardian. “If a compromise has to be made, it will maybe be made, but by the students, and we are all waiting for a clear offer to consult our members on.”

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