Quebec’s ten-week student strike, now the longest in the province’s history, is reaching a critical point.
Although government officials continue to reject students’ demand that they reverse a planned tuition increase, Quebec education minister Line Beauchamp said Sunday that she is willing to meet with student leaders to discuss demands for reform in university governance. That concession was echoed the next day by Quebec’s premier, Jean Charest. Both insisted, however, that they would not meet with representatives of CLASSE, the group which represents the largest share of the striking students.
Various acts of vandalism and disruption have taken place in connection with the student strike in recent days, walls spray-painted and windows broken at a government minister’s office and the placing of bags of bricks on subway tracks. There have also been allegations, so far unconfirmed, that unused molotov cocktails were found at one minister’s office during the investigation of an act of vandalism.
Meanwhile, the length of the strike is raising questions as to whether the current semester will be able to be completed. Some Quebec campuses have closed their doors during the strike, while others have continued to hold classes. Students at some closed campuses have requested court injunctions forcing the universities to reopen. At campuses that haven’t closed, activists have asked university officials to make accommodations for striking students.
At McGill University in Montreal, where the final exam period for the current semester began today, activists blocked four campus entrances for an hour this morning.