The government of the French-speaking province of Quebec andstudent groups clinched a roadmap agreement Saturday to put an end to 12 weeks of often violent protests over tuition hikes, officials said.
The deal came after some 23 hours of arduous negotiations between Education Minister Line Beauchamp and four majorQuebec student groups, and just hours after clashes in Victoriavillethat left nine people injured and ended with 106 arrests outside the Quebec Liberal Party’s annual convention.
Details of the agreement were not immediately available, as student leaders said they wanted to first have group members review the document before final approval.
The Victoriaville protests overnight were among the most violent since mid-February, when students took to the streets to protest the Quebec government’s plans to raise university fees by $1,625 over five years to $3,800 per year as part of an effort to rein in the budget deficit.
Quebec’s main student groups have mobilized some 170,000 students who are refusing to go to class until the matter is resolved.
During the skirmishes in Victoriaville, some 170 kilometers (105 miles) east of Montreal, protesters threw stones and police shot tear gas and fired rubber bullets. The injured included six protesters and three police officers.
Three of the students were rushed to hospital with head injuries, but officials said they were in stable condition.
One protester, identified as a student at Cegep de Saint-Laurent university in Montreal, lost the use of his eye, medical officials said.
The ear of another student was also severely cut, according to witnesses.
“We were on top of the little hill behind the protests and there was a guy with a bloody ear,” said Shania, who attended Friday’s demonstration and would not provide her last name.
People toward the back of the demo were peaceful, a protester who gave her name as Tania told AFP.
“I don’t understand how you can justify police who are supposed to be protecting the convention ending up in an area further away,” Tania said.
But police spokesman Captain Jean Finet told reporters that the officers had “used the necessary force to ensure citizens’ safety.”
In one exchange demonstrators attacked and beat a police officer, according to local media, which said the officer did not suffer serious injuries.
Police attributed the violence to a small group of troublemakers among the protesters.
Provincial police had initially arrested four people during the protest in front of the Victoriaville convention center, where Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s party was holding its annual meeting.
Overnight, officers stopped three buses full of students heading home to Montreal, according to officials.
More protesters were in Victoriaville for the second day of the Quebec Liberal Party’s convention.
This video was published to YouTube on Saturday, May 5, 2012.
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