Student protesters present 'bottom-line' proposals
Quebec's student leaders resumed talks with the government Thursday, presenting proposals for the "absolute minimum" required to end the crisis over a proposed tuition hike that has brought tens of thousands of protesters to the streets.
AFP - Talks aimed at ending months of protests over a proposed tuition hike resumed Thursday, with students presenting what they called their "bottom line" position to the Quebec government.
Talks had appeared to be moving forward earlier in the week, but a student leader, Martine Desjardins, said during a break in negotiations late Wednesday that she was "disappointed" the government had not responded to student proposals.
"We made some proposals and the government didn't seem to be serious or know where to go from there, and each time we had to return and start over the negotiations," she added, going into Thursday's round.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, another student leader, did not rule out the possibility of breaking off talks.
He said the four student groups had presented the government its "bottom line – the absolute minimum acceptable."
"I believe that it must be accepted or the talks will break down," he said, offering no details of the proposal.
Desjardins, however, said the students "have all the time necessary" to conclude the negotiations and noted that it was the government that seemed pressed to reach a deal.
Since February, hundreds of protesters have been arrested and clashes have erupted sporadically as more than 165,000 students have refused to attend class and tens of thousands took part in demonstrations against the planned increase in school fees.
A tentative deal was reached after marathon talks a month ago but soon fell apart, and nightly protests in Montreal and other cities resumed.
Last week some 1,000 protesters were detained in some of the biggest mass arrests in the province's history, after the local government passed a law requiring that demonstrators notify police eight hours ahead of any protest.
This week's talks between Education Minister Michelle Courchesne and student leaders have been touted as a "last chance" to resolve the conflict before the start of summer.
On Wednesday, the students rejected a government offer to reduce the tuition hike by Can$35 per year, which would bring the total increase to Can$1,533 over seven years instead of Can$1,778.