Quebec's opposition parties have taken aim at the Charest government for failing to restore order in the streets of Montreal, charging that its controversial emergency law, Bill 78, is not working.
From the national assembly Tuesday, Liberal Premier Jean Charest implored protesters to obey the new law, pleading for peace on the streets.
"The law is fair," said Charest. "The law is there to ensure social peace."
The special law was adopted last Friday, suspending the winter university and college semester and imposing strict limits on student protests. Protest organizers are now required to submit their planned route to authorities in advance, or face heavy fines.
The changes have drawn criticism from many, but Public Safety Minister Robert Dutil pointed out that many other cities in Canada, the U.S. and Europe have equally tough, or even tougher, rules for protest organizers.
Quebec's new law asks for eight hours notice ahead of a planned protest.
But opposition parties expressed frustration Tuesday. The Coalition Avenir Québec supported the government's emergency education law, but after a weekend of increasing violence in Montreal, CAQ leader François Legault said Tuesday it hasn't worked.
"We gave him the tools that he asked for last Friday, and yet, all weekend, we saw what happened," said Legault. "I don't think the people in the streets are against the tuition hikes."
The Parti Québécois, opposed to the emergency law from the start, said the legitimacy of the Charest government is now at stake.
"Quebec is torn apart, divided," said Pauline Marois. "The premier has lost control of the situation."
The opposition politicians' comments came as tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Montreal to mark the 100th day of protests against the planned tuition fee hikes.
Education minister sees no return to talks
Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said she sympathizes with everyone who has to work in Montreal, particularly retailers and restaurant staff.
"I think it's really difficult," Courchese said. "What we want most is social peace,"
Courchesne said Monday night's relatively peaceful demonstration showed protests can take place within the parameters of the new law.
Overnight Sunday and into Monday, at least 300 people were arrested and 20 were injured during protests in Montreal.
She said she is confident that calm will return to Montreal's streets, however Courchesne is less certain about a return to negotiations with student leaders anytime soon — especially with CLASSE openly calling for protesters to defy Bill 78.
"Once they are asking (people) to disobey laws and have that strong attitude regarding the respect of laws, I presuppose that they don't want to come back to the table," said Courchesne.
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