A 14-week strike by students protesting Quebec’s proposed university tuition hikes took a surprising turn Monday when the Canadian province’s education minister announced she had resigned and was leaving political life.
“I haven’t been able to solve this important conflict and I take responsibility,” Line Beauchamp told a news conference in the provincial capital, Quebec City.
The 49-year-old politician, who also served as Quebec’s deputy premier, explained she was making the “ultimate compromise” by relinquishing her ministerial role and also resigning her Montreal seat in the provincial legislature.
However, Beauchamp stressed that she was “not giving up in the face of vandalism and civil disobedience,” but because she no longer believes she is “part of the solution.”
As late as Monday morning, she met with student leaders to try to resolve the dispute that has generated often-violent demonstrations and garnered international headlines. However, no compromise was reached and Beauchamp said she had lost confidence in students’ willingness to solve the conflict.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest quickly named Michelle Courchesne, the president of Quebec’s treasury board responsible for government expenditures, as the new deputy premier and education minister (a position she held from 2007 to 2010).
She made it clear Monday that Quebec’s Liberal government would not back down from its planned increases on university tuition, which will see them rise by 325 Canadian dollars (about 324 U.S. dollars) annually over five years.
While Courchesne said the door remains open for continued talks, students were out again protesting on Montreal’s streets Monday. Some of the demonstrations prompted police to use pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowds.
Meanwhile, about 150 members of a radical student group protested Monday outside a Montreal courthouse where one of its members, and three other students, appeared facing charges of conspiracy, mischief and inciting fears of terrorism over last Thursday’s smoke-bomb attacks on the city’s subway system.