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Student riot in Quebec leads to more than 100 arrests

Two riot police officers tackle a demonstrator as the Quebec Liberal Party is meeting Friday, May 4, 2012 Victoriaville, Quebec.

Jacques Boissinot/Jacques Boissinot/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Nine people were injured and 109 arrested after Friday night's violent demonstration in Victoriaville, Que., where police said a group of rioters infiltrated a student protest and confronted the anti-riot squad.

Three people were apprehended in a car filled with equipment police said could be used to provoke a riot. More arrests are possible.

Those arrested face charges that include police obstruction, assault, unlawful assembly and rioting, police said during a news conference Saturday.

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Victoriaville's Mayor Alain Rayes was appalled by the violent confrontations in his city, a quiet rural community of 41,000 residents 120 kilometres west of Quebec City where the provincial Liberals were holding their convention this weekend.

"People were injured while participating in what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration," Mr. Rayes said during a news conference Saturday morning. " A minority of people succeeded in transforming a peaceful and orderly demonstration into a riot."

One young man suffered life-threatening injuries, a local health official said.

Friday's demonstration was gainst the planned tuition-fee hike by Premier Jean Charest's government.

Though there were no student demonstrations planned for Saturday, a small protest against developing the shale gas industry was slated for this afternoon.

Talks to end the 12-week strike against tuition fee hikes were held late into Friday night. Education Minister Line Beauchamp continued discussions with student federations and labour leaders Saturday, with the hope reaching an agreement before the end of the Liberal Party meeting in Victoriaville.

About 500 Liberal delegates are gathered in Victoriaville to debate the party program that will serve as the foundation for the platform in the event of a general election.

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Liberal ministers condemned the riot, blaming it on a few individuals. However, the Parti Québécois placed the blame squarely on Mr. Charest for failing to resolve the dispute with students earlier.

"What is he waiting for? For a student to get killed?" PQ member Marc Laviolette.

PQ leader Pauline Marois said Mr. Charest's "confrontation style" of leadership has inflamed the debate and provoked the violent confrontations that have marked the three-month-long dispute.

"We can be for or against tuition fee hikes but we cannot be against Quebec's youth," Ms. Marois said in a speech before about 400 party members gathered to prepare for the next election campaign. "What we are witnessing is Jean Charest being hard on our children so that we can forget that he is soft on corruption."

With a report from The Canadian Press

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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