MONTREAL — Quebec student leaders said they reassured the organizer of the Just for Laughs comedy festival on Monday that they never had any plans to disrupt the annual event next month.
The leaders of three of four student groups met with festival president Gilbert Rozon. The hardline group CLASSE, which plans to air their grievances with the government at events such as next week’s Formula 1 auto race, didn’t participate.
Quebec college and university students are fighting the province’s plans to increase tuition fees by up to $1,624 over seven years and have staged 42 consecutive nights of demonstrations through the streets of Montreal, along with other cities.
The head of one of the university groups said students will protest all summer but thought it was “necessary with the approaching festivals” to maintain communications with organizers of these events.
On Sunday, Rozon invited the students to meet in order to discuss the threats against the events that attract thousands of tourists and local residents and generate millions of dollars in revenue that support local jobs. In an interview with The Canadian Press, he called on students to use their “reason” and invited them to adopt a “responsible behaviour.”
Rozon couldn’t be reached for comment, but said on his Twitter page that the meeting was “positive.” He also thanked CLASSE co-spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois for publicly denouncing threats of physical harm or death against himself.
Eliane Laberge, the new president of the college student association, said she told Rozon that the terms he used over the weekend about the students was “paternalistic.” Talks between the province and students broke down late last week.
The students said the government had offered nothing except for a $35 discount on tuition hikes, and was unwilling to rescind a controversial law that sets limits on protests.
That first proposal would have cost students an extra $1,533 over seven years. But Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said a subsequent government offer would have to cut the tuition increase to $100 in the first year before returning to $254 in the following six years for a total increase of $1,624.
Premier Jean Charest accused student groups of “hurting Quebecers” as they take to the streets in protest and may disrupt summer festivals.