A day after student riots shook a Liberal Party meeting in Quebec, there are reports of life-threatening injuries to protesters … and a possible resolution to the province’s massive twelve-week student strike.
Students from around Quebec gathered to protest at the Victoriaville meeting of Quebec’s ruling Liberal Party, chartering more than fifty buses from around the region. The students were protesting plans to raise tuition at Quebec’s colleges and universities by some $1,625 over the next five years.
Police erected crowd-control barriers far from the convention center where the meeting was to take place, but the students quickly dismantled them and surged toward the meeting site. Police and media claimed that some among the protesters through billiard balls, rocks, and chunks of concrete at police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets on the crowd.
Two students were said to have been left in comas by the violence yesterday, though it’s not clear how they received their injuries. One, Maxence Valade, is said to have lost an eye. Another, Alex Allard, reportedly has a fractured skull. Tweets from fellow activists in the last hour suggest that each has emerged from his coma.
In the wake of these events, student union leaders and government officials announced that they had reached a tentative agreement to end the strike. The details of the agreement, which would have to be ratified by votes of the groups’ membership, are set to be disclosed tonight at 8 pm.
Update | There’s still quite a bit of ambiguity about the nature of the supposed deal, but here’s what’s been reported so far. First, all of the striking student unions are said to have “signed” the agreement, but their signatures do not appear to constitute an endorsement, as the Vancouver Sun reported that “their representatives said they would not recommend acceptance or rejection of the accord.” Martine Desjardins, president of FEUQ, one of the striking unions, told a reporter that today was “not the end” of the strike, but “the beginning of the end.”
6:50 pm Update | For context, here’s the proposal released Thursday by CLASSE, the largest and most radical of Quebec’s major student unions.
7:05 pm Update | Here’s an excellent glossary of terms connected to the Quebec student strike, including the strike hashtag #GGI, which stands for grève générale illimité, or unlimited general strike.
7:45 pm Update | The student unions will announce the terms of the proposed agreement in a joint press conference scheduled to get underway in 15 minutes. If the province makes significant concessions, this could be a game-changer for student activism in Canada and beyond. Stay tuned…
8:00 pm Update | Livefeed for press conference is here: http://webtele.piczo.com/?cr=4. Select ‘canada français’ & ‘LCN’.
8:40 pm Update | Still following the press conference tweeting and livetweeting my own thoughts. Looks like the offer is a mixed bag for Quebecois students, but with significant concessions from the government. It’ll be interesting to see how the ratification votes play out, and how this qualified victory is received in the rest of Canada and elsewhere, particularly in the US. More soon.