Quebec moves to end 14-week mass student strike

Wed May 16, 2012 10:52pm EDT
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By Leila Lemghalef

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Quebec's government moved late on Wednesday to end a sometimes violent 14-week mass student strike in the Canadian province that officials fear could harm the economy and deter tourists.

Premier Jean Charest said his government would shortly unveil legislation to ensure students could freely attend classes, although he did not give details. He did not address speculation that the bill would allow strikers to be fined.

Similar to protests in Europe, the students say the Quebec government's plans are part of a larger austerity campaign and will saddle them with debt upon graduation.

Charest made the announcement about 12 hours after protesting students stormed into a Montreal university in a face-off with those who want to go to class.

"It is time calm was restored ... the current situation has gone on for too long," he said in a late-night statement to reporters.

Some 155,000 people - more than a third of the college and university students in the predominantly French-speaking province - are striking to protest against a steep rise in what are some of the lowest tuition fees in north America.

Charest said he had been forced to act after what he described as a fruitless meeting on Tuesday between officials and students.

"Despite all these weeks of conflict, despite the injured, the vandalism, the violence ... the meeting last night led us to conclude that the student association representatives are not ready to respond to real overtures," he said.   Continued...