The online news portal of TV5
VICTORIAVILLE, Canada -- The government of French-speaking Quebec province and student groups clinched a tentative deal Saturday on controversial tuition hikes that spawned 12 weeks of often violent protests, officials said.
The deal came after some 23 hours of arduous negotiations between Education Minister Line Beauchamp and four major Quebec student groups, and just hours after clashes in Victoriaville that left nine people injured and ended with 106 arrests outside the Quebec Liberal Party's annual convention.
"There is an understanding. And the goal is to allow students to get back to their classrooms and open up a space for dialogue where things can be talked about as they ought to be, the right way... There has been some progress," said Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
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 strike is not over. The (student) assemblies will decide when the conflict is over," said a statement from CLASSE, the movement representing over 170,000 students refusing to go to class until the matter is resolved.
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.
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.
Protesters were in Victoriaville for the second day of Charest's Quebec Liberal Party's convention.
Police spokesman Captain Jean Finet told reporters that the officers had "used the necessary force to ensure citizens' safety."