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Tuition rally draws tens of thousands in Montreal

Student group threatens economy if government doesn't cancel hikes.

Montreal student protestEnlarge
Tens of thousands of students protest today against tuition hikes in Quebec, bringing downtown Montreal to a standstill. Since mid-February, nearly 300,000 students have boycotted classes, blocked bridges and held smaller protests around the province against the government's plan to raise tuition by $1,625 over the next five years. (ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/Getty Images)

Tens of thousands of students clogged downtown Montreal today in the largest protest yet against rising tuition in Quebec, The Globe and Mail reported.

Students have protested regularly for the last 6 weeks, but Quebec Premier Jean Charest said his government has no plans to backtrack on its decision.

“Those who are making the biggest effort are middle-class taxpayers,” he told the Globe.

Tuition is set to increase $325 per year in each of the next 5 years beginning this fall.

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Students have long held Quebec’s low tuition sacred, and threatened more protests if the government doesn’t cancel the hikes, CBC reported.

CLASSE –a student group behind the protests – said it would hit Quebec business owners next.

“If the government doesn’t announce a retreat on the hike today, the next step will involve actions that disrupt the economy,” the group said through Twitter, CBC said.

Unlike many of the previous protests, today’s march remained peaceful.

Other rallies have involved pepper spray, torched police cars and hundreds of arrests.

The march began in the early afternoon and stretched for blocks.

Police suggested commuters take public transit and avoid the downtown core, which has many who do business there upset, Global Montreal said.

Quebec Truckers Association president Marc Cadieux said his members are already dealing with high overhead, and can’t afford delays.

“It’s having a huge impact,” he said. “It causes a loss of revenues and an increase in operating costs when you’re stranded in traffic, as we’ve lived through the last days.”

Despite the hikes, Quebec students still pay the lowest tuition in Canada, and some of the lowest fees in the world.

The average student pays about $2,500 per year in Quebec, less than half of those in Ontario who face the highest in Canada, CBC said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/canada/120323/tuition-rally-draws-tens-thousands-montreal