Budget Protest Heats Up

This is Only the Start, Continue the Fight: Students

The opposition to Quebec’s new austerity budget heated up last week when protesters occupied the Minister of Finance’s office in Montreal as a “warning” to the Charest Liberals.

The protest on March 24, organized by the more activist of Quebec’s two student movements, L’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, has left many unanswered questions and a string of ongoing investigations by the Montreal Police.

A private security guard at the minister’s office is under investigation by the Service de police de la ville de Montréal for allegedly pushing a student headfirst through a glass door.

“There is an investigation ongoing to validate whether the security guard pushed him through the window, whether there were threats from either party or any form of prior altercation,” said SPVM spokesperson Dany Richer. “It’s not clear yet.”

A student was brought to the hospital with injuries due to the breaking glass.

Students were able to reach the minister’s office, on the fifth floor of the Montreal World Commerce Centre, by climbing an emergency escape. The minister and his security detail were in Quebec City at the time of the protest.

During the protest, a receptionist allegedly assaulted a journalist from Rue Frontenac who was taking pictures of the events. After the journalist refused to erase the pictures he had taken of the event, the receptionist took his cell phone out of his hands.

The cell phone was eventually returned.

Despite the protest ending peacefully, SPVM officers used mace on some students exiting the building. As a result of the mace, some students remained inside the centre and unrolled a banner directed towards Finance Minister Raymond Banchand: “Shove your tuition increases up your ass Bachand.”

The SPVM is currently investigating why and when mace was used.

“There were police maneuvers outside the building, but I can’t confirm if or how mace was used by police officers,” said Richer.

The following morning, CEGEP students from across Quebec occupied the offices of Quebec MNAs Jean D’Amour and Emmanuel Duborg, as well as a large government complex in Quebec City.

“For more than a year we have tried to convince the government to stop tuition increases, but they aren’t listening to us. We are passing to a more intense level of action,” said Léo Bureau-Blouin, president of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec. “I hope that they will start to realize that we are serious.”

In the Quebec budget announced two weeks ago, which factored in the current level of ancillary fees, the government committed itself to increasing tuition to nearly $6,000 a year by 2017.

With ASSÉ, FECQ and its university equivalent united against the budget, this is only the start of a long and bitter campaign by Quebec’s government to force higher tuition on Quebec’s students.

“This is only the start, continue the fight,” chanted students outside Bachand’s office.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 28, published March 29, 2011.