NEWS

Quebec MNA Amir Khadir arrested at protest

06/06/2012 12:54 EDT | Updated 08/05/2012 05:12 EDT

A Quebec politician was arrested Tuesday night during a protest over the province's student crisis and its contentious Bill 78.

Amir Khadir, the National Assembly member for the Montreal riding of Mercier, was handcuffed and placed on a bus with other detainees after police surrounded a group of demonstrators in Quebec City's Petit Champlain neighbourhood.

He was given a $494 ticket for violating Quebec's Highway Safety Code and was released that night along with his fellow arrestees, Khadir's spokesperson Christian Dubois said.

Dubois said Khadir was on his way home from work at the National Assembly when he saw a "casserole" protest — one of the regular demonstrations against Bill 78 in which people bang pots and pans — and decided to join.

"The protest was declared illegal. People were walking calmly to the rhythm of the pots and pans," a statement on Khadir's Facebook page said. "Police corralled the demonstrators, they were handcuffed and placed on a bus.... Bizarrely, everyone was handcuffed for a Highway Safety Code infraction even though everything stayed peaceful."

There were about 100 demonstrators in all, Dubois said. About 50 of the demonstrators were surrounded and arrested.

Khadir's Facebook page said he was only doing what he does in Montreal "every night that he has the chance: that is, marching peacefully with other protesters."

"The freedom to protest is quite limited in Quebec," the statement said.

Khadir is the Québec Solidaire party's first and so far only MNA in the Quebec legislature. He was elected in 2008.

Quebec City and Montreal have seen regular public protests over the student crisis and Bill 78, the province's emergency legislation that sets strict rules for demonstrations.

In Montreal on Tuesday, the city's 43rd straight nightly march experienced no incidents as about 100 people took to the streets. The march headed west to downtown from its usual starting point at the Unviersity of Quebec in Montreal campus, then south and back east to Old Montreal.

A concurrent protest in Toronto in solidarity with the Quebec demonstrators had about 300 people clanging on pots and pans and wearing red squares, the symbol of the Quebec protest movement. Ontario university students pay the highest tuition fees in the country.

There have also been solidarity protests in Regina, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Whitehorse, Calgary, Washington, New York, Paris and London.

Student leaders say that because a university or college education has replaced a high-school diploma as the baseline requirement for most new jobs, it should be kept affordable or even free. Despite that, the average undergraduate tuition countrywide has jumped 266 per cent since 1990, far outstripping inflation.

Quebec's Liberal government says it needs to raise revenues for its universities to maintain their quality of education and research.

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