Quebec's Education Minister Calls For Truce

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Education minister Line Beauchamp is appealing to students to "sit down for a few hours" and talk. | PC

Talks between Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp and representatives of four student groups were expected to continue into Tuesday, after striking students agreed — in a fashion — to a 48-hour truce.

Earlier Monday, Beauchamp appealed to the groups leading Quebec's 11-week-old student strike, calling for a truce "for a few hours" to sit down and talk.

By a truce, Beauchamp said that there must be no blocking of classes, no schools will try to reopen their doors if they have been closed, and there should be no further acts of violence or economic disruption.

Beauchamp said after seven days of waiting for a meeting, the time had come to talk — in a "climate of serene discussion."

"I am ready to talk as of this afternoon," she said. "The student groups are aware of my offer. I will take for granted that they denounce violence."

Issue of tuition fees will be raised, students vow

The two main student groups representing university and CÉGEP students — FEUQ and FECQ — accepted Beauchamp's terms immediately. But they warned that the issue of tuition fee increases is certain to be on the negotiating table.

"The education minister must understand that the question of tuition fees has to be raised," said Martine Desjardins, president of FEUQ, the university students' federation. "It will be raised by all the student groups."

"We're not coming to the negotiating table with the expectation we will settle everything in 48 hours," said FECQ president Léo Bureau-Blouin. "However, we think we can set the groundwork — a commitment we're making in good faith to students and to citizens who are listening us."

CLASSE accepts 'de facto' truce

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the leader of CLASSE — the most militant of the three groups, representing nearly half the striking students in the province — refused to either accept or reject Beauchamp's demand for a truce.

"Spokespeople for CLASSE — of which I am one — don't have the power to take a position on a truce, nor to constrain the 180,000 students on strike and order them to stop mobilizing," Nadeau-Dubois said.

However, he said the group had not planned any activities for Monday or Tuesday.

"Therefore we don't need to consult our members on Mme. Beauchamp's demand," he concluded. "So the truce that she has asked for is de facto in effect."

On Sunday, CLASSE members voted to denounce "physical and deliberate acts" of violence, although Nadeau-Dubois said then that the group still reserves the right to carry out acts of civil disobedience and will not condemn acts of self-defense.

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