The first week of classes at universities which suspended their winter semesters due to the student strike movement saw clashes between protesters in opposition of the tuition fee increase and Law 12 with administration, security, and Montreal Police.
Hundreds of classes were cancelled at both Université de Montréal and Université du Québec à Montréal as students blocked access to classes in both French-language universities.
Under Law 12, the emergency legislation passed by the Charest Liberals in May aimed to curb protests and allow students to attend class, the winter semester was cancelled at post-secondary institutions paralyzed by the student movement.
The protests at the universities last week forced classes to be cancelled as students physically blocked access to classrooms where confrontations between demonstrators and security, staff and students wishing to attend class ensued.
On the first day of classes at UQAM, a group of masked students roamed the hallways with lists of departments that voted in favour of the student strike in order to empty the classes where the strike was not respected. The students managed to disrupt many courses resulting in professors ending the class early.
At U de M, Montreal Police detained 19 individuals on Monday, Aug. 27 for allegedly violating provisions of the back-to-school legislation Administration of the university asked Montreal Police to intervene after dozens staged protests within the school where a standoff between students and security occurred.
“These people have been released with no conditions,” police Commander Ian Lafreniere told the press last week.
“They received a paper mentioning they are under investigation with Law 12.”
This is the first time Law 12, or Bill 78, has been applied in Montreal.
On Aug. 10, the Montreal Police announced that enforcement of the emergency legislation would only be applied if universities request it. By Tuesday, Aug. 28, more than 30 arrests had been made with regards to Law 12 or general violations of the criminal code.
At UQAM, administration decided to handle the disruptions without the help of the police, in fear of creating more tension at the university. The school’s spokesperson Jenny Desrochers told The Gazette that UQAM did not want to exacerbate the situation by bringing in police officers.
On Wednesday, Aug. 29, U de M decided to cancel classes for the rest of the week for the six faculties that voted to continue their strike. That same day, approximately 100 demonstrators flooded the downtown core.
Marielle Villeneuve, a first-year student at UQAM slated to start school in October, is not worried that protests will stop her from attending her courses.
“I think everyone is annoyed with the student strike,” said Villeneuve. “I don’t think my department will be on strike but I know my courses will be more intense due to time constraints.”
However Villeneuve says she’s awaiting the outcome of the upcoming provincial election to see how the university is affected.
“It’s UQAM, so you don’t really know what’s going to happen,” explained Villeneuve. “I think if Liberals are still in power, there will surely be protests.”