By Yana Kunichoff.
In the most recent escalation in the battle between a Quebecoise government pushing tuition hikes and striking Canadian students, at least three cities saw mass arrests at demonstrations against a newly minted anti-protest law that activists are calling “absurd.”
The “biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history,” as some groups are calling it, took place in Montreal, where 400 students were arrested after being kettled by police. Quebec City and Sherbrooke also saw mass arrests in what commentators say is a sure sign that the protests are not letting up.
The Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, and his Liberal Party want to raise university fees by 82 percent in the next five years, “a move that would price many students out of an education,” reported Alison Kilkenny.
Tens of thousands of students had been protesting for months when Quebec introduced an “anti-protest law, ” which raises fines for the arrest of those deemed “protest leaders,” doubled fines for repeat offenders and suspended classes at universities with striking students.
On Tuesday, more than 100 students participated in a civil disobedience against Bill 78 that ended in arrests. And on Sunday night, when Bill 78 was passed, more than 300 protesters were arrested when tens of thousands took the street against the legislation. Tuesday was the 100th day of the protest and Wednesday night was the 30th mass demonstration since students took to the streets three months ago.
The protests have also hit on larger issues of economic justice.
“Rich douchebags are going to be disrupted by night demos,” activist Jaggi Singh told a Canadian news agency.
Both the education minister and Premier Charest told students they were open to discussions on Wednesday, but the Chronicle Herald reported that there seems to be little room for compromise.
“It’s unclear what the sides might possibly discuss: the government remains committed to tuition hikes and the student groups remain staunchly opposed to them.”
Yana Kunichoff is an assistant editor at Truthout.