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Quebec students likely to reject Charest's tuition offer

Protesters are confronted by police as they march against student tuition hikes in downtown Montreal, Quebec April 27, 2012.

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/REUTERS

The leaders of Quebec student groups say they expect their members to reject an offer from the Charest government.

The province's three student groups were meeting this weekend to decide whether to accept a proposal by Premier Jean Charest and return to class.

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.

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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 three in Montreal.

The changes proposed by Mr. 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.

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

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

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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 over the 11-week dispute.

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