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Government offers second deal to students

by Kalina Laframboise May 6, 2012

The provincial government extended an official offer to student leaders on Saturday after 22 hours of negotiations in Quebec City, in hopes to put an end to the ongoing student strike.

During a press conference held at 8 p.m. May 5, representatives of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec and the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante presented the details of the offer.

In fall 2012, an increase of $127 per semester or $254 a year would commence but it will be compensated by an equal reduction in ancillary fees, which usually go towards non-academic services. Similar to the first offer made on April 27, the total tuition increase would amount to $1,778 over seven years.

“We’re talking about a theoretical tuition freeze here,” said Leo Bureau-Blouin, President of the FECQ.

The government is also to create a provisional council to oversee the management of post-secondary funds. The council will investigate how universities spend their money regarding advertising and real estate investment trusts. The money that is saved from this council will be pumped into universities to reduce student contribution.

“It’s not the end of the conflict,” explained Martine Desjardins, President of the FEUQ. “It’s the beginning of the end.”

The offer will be presented to members of the major student groups during the upcoming week. General assemblies will be held to discuss the proposal before a decision will be made.

The discussion between student leaders and the government took place at the same time as a massive demonstration was underway in Victoriaville, outside of the Quebec Liberal Party’s general council meeting on Friday, May 4.

The meeting was originally to be held in Montreal but was reportedly moved purposefully to avoid student demonstrations. The protest quickly escalated to a violent confrontation between students and police.

The demonstration resulted in the use of tear gas, throwing rocks, violence and vandalism before it dispersed. Seven protesters and four Sûreté du Quebec police officers were seriously injured. It was confirmed that protester Maxence Valade lost an eye during the riot and currently remains in hospital.

A busload of Concordia University students were arrested shortly after the charter buses departed from Victoriaville. Approximately 106 arrests were made Friday night. Concordia Student Union VP External Chad Walcott was among the students arrested.

“They barricaded the back door [of the bus] and riot police came on the bus to escort us back to Victoriaville,” explained Walcott.“We sung ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, we played beats on the benches and we tried to keep calm,” he said.

According to Walcott, students were detained for nearly nine hours after being charged with participating in an unlawful assembly and rioting.

“They told us we were free to go but we couldn’t leave the bus,” added Walcott. The students were released at 7 a.m. on Saturday after being issued court dates.

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