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Students jam downtown Montreal to protest against tuition fee hikes

03-23-2012 10:53 BJT

MONTREAL, Canada, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of university students tied up traffic in downtown in Canada' s second-largest city of Montreal Thursday to protest the provincial government' s plan to raise university tuition fees.

Police and city officials in Montreal were still trying to determine the size of the crowd Thursday night, but about 50 city blocks were dammed with students who are angry about plans by the province of Quebec to raise tuition fees by about 325 U.S. dollars a year for each of the next five years.

Tens of thousands of university students attend a demonstration protesting against the
provincial government's plan to raise university tuition fees by 325 Canadian dollars
a year for each of the next five years, in downtown Montreal, Canada, March 22, 2012.
(Xinhua/Andrew Soong)

Quebec has the lowest university tuition in Canada, with most universities charging about 2,500 U.S. dollars. In Ontario, the province just to the west of Quebec, students pay about 7,500 U.S. dollars a year.

Despite the large size of the crowd and the anger shown by many of the protesters, there were no major incidents of violence. Police said they did seize some sticks carried by protesters.

Protesters, however, threatened to escalate the protest if the government did not back down from its plan to raise fees.

Tens of thousands of university students attend a demonstration protesting against the
provincial government's plan to raise university tuition fees by 325 Canadian dollars
a year for each of the next five years, in downtown Montreal, Canada, March 22, 2012.
(Xinhua/Andrew Soong)

"If the government doesn't announce a retreat on the [tuition] hike today the next step will involve actions that disrupt the economy," one of the organizing groups posted on the Internet.

Thursday' s protest snarled traffic and forced busses to be re-routed in the downtown business section and the major tourist districts. Students came from across the province to join in the protest, which was held on a unseasonably warm, sunny day.

On Tuesday, students blocked an important commuter bridge over the St. Lawrence River, trapping thousands of people in their cars as they tried to drive to work. Police arrested about 30 demonstrators, who were each fined about 500 U.S.dollars.

Tens of thousands of university students attend a demonstration protesting against the
provincial government's plan to raise university tuition fees by 325 Canadian dollars
a year for each of the next five years, in downtown Montreal, Canada, March 22, 2012.
(Xinhua/Andrew Soong)

Students started Thursday' s protest by blocking the truck route to the port of Montreal for about a half hour. Port officials said business was not significantly affected.

Students argue that increases will limit price post-secondary education out of the hands of the poor. The government, which issued its budget Tuesday, has refused to compromise. Quebec Premier Jean Charest called the fee hike a "fair policy" .

He said even with the fee hikes, Quebec students will still be paying only about 17 percent of the cost of their education, with provincial taxpayers picking up the rest of the cost of the university system.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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