03/24/2015 05:01 EDT | Updated 05/24/2015 05:59 EDT

Education Minister François Blais says students on strike may lose semester

Quebec’s Education Minister François Blais said Tuesday that students who are on strike protesting against the Liberal government’s austerity measures risk losing their semester if the strike continues much longer.

Blais estimated that  five to seven per cent of Quebec’s college and university students are not attending classes due to the current two-week period of strikes and demonstrations. 

Many student associations have yet to vote on whether to join the strike movement, and the length of strike mandates varies from one association to another.

Financial context 'difficult'

Blais said Tuesday at the National Assembly that the current climate is different from that of spring 2012, when tens of thousands of students were on strike for months.

When that round of strikes ended, the Liberal government allowed students who’d been out of class to resume their suspended winter semester in August, and begin the fall semester in October.

But Blais said Tuesday that came at a cost, and it’s something the government could not afford to do again.

“We know very well the current financial context is extremely difficult and challenging. We can’t imagine there will be enough money to extend the session into the summer or next fall,” said Blais.

“I don’t see I could deprive primary and secondary schools of funds  to finance people who decided themselves not to come to class. I want students to know there could be consequences of this nature,” Blais continued.

Student associations that are currently on strike have not responded so far to Blais’ comments.