Jacques Villeneuve, the former Formula 1 champion, told students in his native Quebec to stop protesting and get back to school.
Police arrested about 20 demonstrators outside a cocktail party to begin F1 festivities in Montreal on Thursday night, where students have protested since late February against rising tuition.
The 41-year-old Villeneuve – raised in Monaco by his racing-car father, Gilles – said the students are damaging Canada’s international reputation, The Associated Press reported.
“It’s time for people to wake up and stop loafing about,” Villeneuve said, according to the AP. “We heard them. We listened. They should stop. It’s costing the city a fortune. It makes no sense.”
Students threatened to disrupt Sunday’s annual Canadian Grand Prix – which will attract about 300,000 people this weekend – in response to government plans to raise tuition.
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CLASSE, the hardline student group pushing free university education in Quebec, called on students to protest the “capitalist elite” and “sexist” race, QMI news wire reported.
Racing fans inject an estimated $100 million into Quebec’s economy, The Canadian Press said.
This isn’t the first protest this season for F1.
Earlier this year, anti-government demonstrators tried to disrupt the Bahrain GP.
Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said Montreal’s students are amateurs in comparison, and they should be thankful for what they have and where they live.
“I’m not frightened of anything, to be quite honest with you,” he told CP. “I’ve been in Bahrain, where they’re professionals.”
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