04/28/2012 10:42 EDT | Updated 06/28/2012 05:12 EDT

Quebec Student Protest: Charest Government Offer Likely To Be Rejected By Student Groups


MONTREAL - The social unrest over tuition hikes in Quebec showed no signs of abating Saturday, with protests scheduled throughout the day and student leaders saying they expect their members to reject an offer from the Charest government.

For the fifth day in a row, protesters planned a late night to march through Montreal's downtown core, while three other demonstrations were scheduled throughout the day around the city and several more across the province.

The latest round of demonstrations came as Quebec's three student groups were meeting this weekend to decide whether to accept a new proposal from Premier Jean Charest .

After weeks of deadlock, the Charest government offered Friday to spread the tuition hikes over seven years instead of five and increase the province's bursary program.

The immediate reaction from students was negative.

Several thousand people marched in a boisterous student protest in Montreal Friday night. More protests were planned across the province Saturday, including four in Montreal.

The changes proposed by Charest would mean that, instead of annual increases of $325 for five years, tuition would rise by $254 for seven straight years.

Martine Desjardins, the president of one student group, said many of her members had already opted against the proposal on Friday, but others were planning to debate its merits Saturday.

"We need to look more closely at the offer, and perhaps submit a counter-offer," she said.

Desjardins said there are some positives in the offer, including improvements to the province's bursary program.

While the protest late Friday was mostly peaceful, a few members of the crowd tossed bottles and other objects at police.

Someone also smashed the window of a Canadian Forces recruitment centre. There were 35 arrests.

Some people in the mostly peaceful crowd also restrained protesters wearing masks, who were looking to stir things up.

The march's theme was: "It’s not an offer, it’s an insult."

About a third of Quebec students are still avoiding their classes, but most have chosen to return to school during the 11-week dispute.

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