MONTREAL - Not all Quebec students are eager participants in anti-tuition walkouts that have emptied classrooms in the province — and one is actually waging a legal fight against the so-called strikes.
Guillaume Charette says in a court filing that students who have paid for classes should have the right to attend without obstruction or harassment.
The Universite de Montreal law student was in court Thursday seeking injunctions against his student association, his student union, his university and an umbrella group of student groups that is one of the main protest organizers.
Tens of thousands of students from certain university faculties have abandoned their studies in recent weeks; that has drawn threats from the provincial government that participants might either have their semesters extended or cancelled.
Amid the chorus of student outrage, a quieter contingent has spoken out in opposition to the strikes. Some of these students say they have faced threats for opposing the anti-tuition movement.
Charette says he was unable to go to class on two specific days in the past week. He says that the notion of a so-called student "strike" doesn't make sense because students are more like consumers than unionized workers.
Charette argues that individual students have a right to protest but it shouldn't compel everyone to follow suit. He's also asking his university to make up classes cancelled during the protests.
"The present request is aimed at clarifying the rights of students to attend their courses without obstruction, harassment, intimidation or interruption," he wrote in a motion filed in Quebec Superior Court this week.
"They have paid for these courses, the Quebec government has paid the university for them."
Charette, who is graduating this year, has a week left in his semester.
To obtain a preliminary injunction, Charette must demonstrate an urgency in his application and must prove that he suffered irreparable harm.
Justice Luc Lefebvre is to rule on the motion on Friday.
Meanwhile Thursday, there were boisterous protests in Quebec against the tuition hikes, as there have been in the province nearly every day lately. One of those protests saw students temporarily block access to the Montreal courthouse. Another saw students hang and burn an effigy of Premier Jean Charest.
The Charest government wants to nearly double tuition fees over five years, to $3,800 per year. It says that even with the hikes, Quebec would still have among the lowest rates in the country.
But students call the increase too steep, too fast, and warn that it will prevent some people from obtaining an education. Some are now arguing for zero tuition, as exists in some European jurisdictions.
-With file from Sidhartha Banerjee